Pop quiz: name five brands that understand visual storytelling.
I’ll bet your list included a hip brand like Etsy. Perhaps you included a classically visual brand like Disney, or Tiffany, which has successfully employed Instagram. But I’ll bet the U.S. Postal Service didn’t make your list. Maybe it should. The USPS recently unveiled a commemorative Johnny Cash stamp as part of a new “Music Icons” stamp series. And the image, designed to resemble a 45-RPM record sleeve, looks positively badass. The Johnny Cash stamp reminds me that the USPS has been the master of visual storytelling for years. Yeah, the U.S. Post Office is taking brands to school.
As reported by Today.com, the Johnny Cash stamp survived an arduous review process, with the decidedly uncool sounding Postmaster General’s Citizens’ Stamp Advisory vetting 40,000 stamp ideas annually, and the Postmaster General providing final approval. To put things in more hip parlance of the day, the USPS brands itself by crowdsourcing consumer-generated ideas. (For more detail on the process, check out this link courtesy of the USPS.)
And the USPS wisely employs Pinterest to share some of its memorable stamp collections, ranging from Literary Masters to the Wonderful World of Disney. Robert Frost, Miles Davis, and James Dean – they are among the stars who live forever in the world of the USPS. And check out the USPS Facebook page to find out which stamp dominates its Timeline photo.
The USPS is well ahead of its time in appealing to the era of Pinterest and Instagram – even enduring a quixotic attempt by the Society for the Suppression of Speculative Stamps to stop the sale of commemorative stamps way back in 1895. Of course, the USPS is not the only governmental body that has issued hip postage stamps. The British Royal Mail famously unveiled classic album cover stamps in 2010 and is set to release Doctor Who commemorative stamps in March. Years ago, the government of Jamaica honored Bob Marley as well.
The day may come when our digital lifestyle causes the demise of the stamp as a utility. But I suspect the stamp, like the baseball card, will endure for quite some time among collectors. Meantime it’s not too difficult to find great postage stamps captured and posted across the digital world, as this Pinterest stamp fan page demonstrates.
The actual release date for the Johnny Cash stamp is not yet known. According to the USPS, more musicians will be honored as part of the series. And I can’t wait to find out who will make the cut — just like I used to eagerly await new LPs to land in the album era.
What are your favorite stamps?