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USPS is reinventing Mr. ZIP for a new generation

April 22, 2024

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Mr. ZIP is back.

The Postal Service is giving the beloved character new life through children’s products that aim to expand the appeal of the USPS brand.

“Our vision is that Mr. ZIP becomes a beloved character to today’s children, and they grow up remembering him and having an affinity for mail and the Postal Service,” said Amity Kirby, the organization’s licensing and creative manager.

USPS isn’t producing the Mr. ZIP products itself.

Instead, the organization is licensing Mr. ZIP to companies that pay the Postal Service a fee to use the character.

This has allowed USPS to enter the world of licensed entertainment characters, the most lucrative segment of the licensing market.

Retail sales from products featuring licensed characters — such as T-shirts bearing Barbie’s likeness or toys based on the M&M mascots — generated $129.9 billion in 2021, according to Licensing International, the industry’s largest trade group.

The Postal Service has successfully licensed its brand for other products, including Vans sneakers and the Great American Mail Race board game. Revenue from licensing has grown almost 500 percent during the past seven years.

So far, Mr. ZIP’s reinvention as a licensed character is off to a good start.

The first new product featuring the character — a children’s book called “Mr. ZIP’s Windy Day” — was published last fall and proved so successful, four more books are in the works.

Sales were also strong for a series of licensed plush toys featuring Mr. ZIP and his new cast of supporting characters, including B. Franklin — an eagle named for Benjamin Franklin.

Additional licensed Mr. ZIP products are planned — and Kirby and her team are taking care to ensure the character remains true to his essence.

The Post Office Department adopted Mr. ZIP as a mascot in the 1960s to help introduce the nation to the ZIP Code.

In his new iteration, Mr. ZIP remains a teacher of sorts, helping kids learn how to be good members of their community.

He’s also been given a bit of a makeover, including a modern postal uniform and a more relaxed smile.

“We asked ourselves: How do we make him more relatable for audiences in 2024?” said Alicia Marlatt, the Postal Service’s creative art manager.

USPS is carefully choosing the companies it works with, including top publishers and toymakers in the children’s market.

Kirby and her team are also taking care to ensure Mr. ZIP reflects well on the Postal Service.

In “Mr. ZIP’s Windy Day,” for example, some mail gets blown out of the character’s hand but he steadfastly collects each piece so he can resume his deliveries.

“We are the first line of defense for brand protection, so that is a huge component of licensing and it’s very important to us,” Kirby said.

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