Digital Advertising Industry News


USPS Debuts Scratch-and-Sniff Stamps: Hit or Miss?

June 19, 2018 Courtney Walsh

From perfume ads in ‘80s magazines to kids’ stickers in the ‘90s, the concept of scratch-and-sniff has always piqued Americans’ interest. Now the United States Postal Service (USPS) is combining our sense of smell with our trusty mail service.

On May 21, USPS announced their first-ever scratch-and-sniff stamps are available for sale starting June 20 in Austin, Texas. They’ll release a detailed description of the stamps’ scents Wednesday as well. Meant to carry the spirit of summer, the forever stamps sport watercolor illustrations of popsicles and ice cream.

Magrikie Berg, the artist behind the brightly colored and smelly stamps, was asked to create the designs in 2015. Berg, originally from South Africa now living in Santa Monica, CA, painted 10 compositions the same year she became an American citizen, making the project “all the more meaningful,” in her words.

The New York Times article discussing these scratch-and-sniff stamps poses many questions:

  • Will applying postmarks accidentally release the smells?
  • Will our mail end up stinking like fruit?
  • Is it wrong to scratch and sniff them yourself before sending a letter? What if it’s just a rent check?
  • Are the stamps safe to eat?

While we can’t determine what scratch-and-sniff stamp etiquette is just yet, we can ponder questions of our own.

Do scents sell? Would you buy scratch-and-sniff stamps? Here’s what our office said:

Reaction to scratch-and-sniff from a woman without children:

If I mailed things regularly, I would totally buy the scratch-and-sniff stamps! They’re so cute.

Reaction to scratch-and-sniff from a woman with children:

They’re cute and fun, but the smell of summer and ice pops won’t connect you with your customer like good marketing does.

Reaction to scratch-and-sniff from a man without children:

If I were throwing a kids’ party or a summer barbeque, I would buy them to mail the invitations. I would probably buy them more for the look than the scratch-and-sniff aspect. But otherwise, it wouldn’t matter to me if I had normal stamps or these scratch-and-sniff ones.

Reaction to scratch-and-sniff from a man with children:

I wouldn’t be deterred from buying them, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy them either. If they’re the same price, why not? But how will the recipient know to scratch and sniff the stamp I use on the envelope? I like gimmicks, but this one’s not really working for me.

No matter their sales success, USPS broke through the noise of the modern marketing minute by incorporating scratch-and-sniff in their business and creating a buzz around stamps.


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About the Author

Courtney Walsh

Courtney Walsh is a Senior Account Executive at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), the fastest-growing independent digital performance marketing company. DMS helps its clients accelerate growth by deploying diversified and data-driven customer acquisition solutions that deliver scalable, sustainable and measurable marketing results. DMS performance marketing solutions connect the right consumers with the right offers at the right time to achieve the marketing objectives of our clients. DMS is continually innovating to provide new and emerging media and technology solutions that minimize waste and maximize results across the most competitive industries. Since its inception, DMS has demonstrated incredible year-over-year growth which has earned recognition on the Inc. 5000 list in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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