The United States Postal Service has a solid brand identity and, up until the advent of e-mail, was the cornerstone of sending and receiving mail. However, snail mail, as it is now referred to by many, fell to the back burner when e-mail took center stage. Many people believed that new media methods of communication could mean the end of the U.S. Postal Service or at the very least a sharp hike in stamp and shipping costs. The former is not a very realistic assumption, but the latter seemed almost imminent. A table posted on the USPS website shows the number (roughly) of each piece of mail processed through the US postal service every year since 1926. According to this table, the use of traditional postal services has declined. In 2001 the US Postal Service hit an all-time high of 103,656 million pieces of first-class mail processed. This was however followed by a sharp decline to just 83,770 million pieces processed in 2009. In just eight years the number dropped to lower than what it was in 1988, thirteen years earlier. (Historian – United State Postal Service, 2010) The USPS may not be processing as many pieces of mail these days, but they are taking the right steps to work themselves into the digital era. Television advertisements boast low shipping costs and accentuate the ease of shipping online. By taking advantage of digital marketing channels, the USPS is stepping up its game. From the website you can buy stamps, pay and price postage, order and get shipping supplies, change your address, and the list goes on. Add in the free package pickup service, and you might never need to physically enter the post office ever again.
As with any quality marketing campaign, this one did not focus solely on digital channels. In an article released on April 9, 2010, the USPS outlined their plans to test a direct-mail product sampling service. (The United States Postal Service, 2010) The genius behind this plan is that in order to ship physical samples of products, traditional shipping methods must be used. By collaborating with different companies the USPS put together the “Samples Showcase” which would be distributed nationally on a limited basis. The companies share in the shipping cost, provide their free samples, and are able to build brand awareness at a fraction of the cost that it would take them to do the same thing on their own. The USPS benefits from this in at least two ways. First, people love free stuff! The Samples Showcase shipped in boxes, branded with the Postal Service logo and the tagline, “A selection of free product samples.” Consumers see this as a free gift from not only the individual companies featured in the showcase, but from the postal service as well. Secondly, the USPS is getting paid by the companies for the shipping involved in the project. Think about this, the US Postal Service figured out a way to get paid for advertising their product! If that’s not marketing genius, I don’t know what is.
This shift into the digital realm brings the post office right into the customer’s home. This means more access to services and a more individualized customer experience. Building a functional website with quality content for its users is one thing, getting them there is another. The USPS uses television ads to inform consumers about the website and its features, giving them information about site features they may not have noticed, even if they had found the site on their own. These two channels of marketing support each other perfectly in attracting and servicing customers, and strengthening the brand.
Historian – United State Postal Service. (2010, June). First-Class Mail Volume Since 1926. Retrieved January 10, 2011, from The USPS: http://www.usps.com/postalhistory/_htm/first-class-mail-since-1926.htm
The United States Postal Service. (2010, April 9). U.S. Postal Service to Test Direct-Mail Product Sampling. Retrieved January 10, 2011, from The USPS: http://www.usps.com/communications/newsroom/2010/pr10_034.htm
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