USPS to promote mail through major advertising campaign

The US Postal Service will launch a major advertising campaign in September seeking to promote use of the mail as a marketing tool by American businesses. Postmaster General Pat Donahoe announced to the National Postal Forum this morning in San Diego that the campaign will target the sizable 75% chunk of US businesses that currently do not use the mail for advertising purposes.

The push to get advertisers on board comes as part of a USPS priority to boost the business-to-consumer channel to help counter a general decline in mail volumes.

The business-to-consumer channel is currently responsible for around 70% of its revenues and 80% of mail volume, but with three quarters of businesses not using the mail for advertising, Donahoe said there was a “major opportunity” for the Postal Service.

The campaign will include television spots and direct mail, building on the lessons learned from the USPS package delivery advertising campaign, “If it fits it ships”, which has so far seen 25m extra flat-rate boxes mailed in the US so far this year alone, a 35% increase year-on-year.

“We are ready to apply the lessons from our package marketing and develop a major advertising campaign to support mail,” he said.

Donahoe said the Postal Service hadn’t focused on promoting mail through significant advertising in 10 years. The new campaign would be “a little unusual, but it could be very powerful”, he added.

Industry input

The Postal Service looks likely to use its existing advertising agency Campbell-Ewald on the campaign, and Donahoe said that as well as involving mailers in the campaign, the USPS would seek to share insights from the campaign with customers, and feed their thoughts into September’s message.

“This won’t be just a Postal Service campaign,” he said.  “If our industry aligns around the same marketing insights about mail, the potential exists to multiply that advertising effect,” he said.

Donahoe told Post&Parcel this morning that his team would look to discuss the campaign’s initial research with members of its industry advisory group MTAC – the Mailers’ Technical Advisory Committee – as well as with key members of the advertising industry.

“We’re trying to get some advertising people together, to run some ideas by them,” he said. “A lot of decisions are taken by large advertisers as to what their clients will use – and if they are not thinking about the mail, there’s not a lot we can do.”

Rough cuts of television spots that could feed into a possible campaign have featured representatives of the public speaking about their relationships with the mail and why they could not do with out it.

The Postmaster General is keen to promote the “tremendous value of the mail” to American businesses, particularly competing against the digital and television advertising.

“We’re saying to them: you can go on a website, and you’ve got to compete with millions of other website, and get people to go visit that website,” he said. “With the mail you’re just competing with whatever else is in the person’s mailbox that morning.”

Among the 75% of businesses that do not currently use the mail for their advertising, Donahoe told reporters this morning that the pharmaceutical industry could be a key target for this kind of campaign. The Postal Service researched America’s top advertisers ahead of a market trial to offer major advertisers a “money-back guarantee” this summer to promote the use of direct mail, and the research revealed that major pharmaceuticals are doing “zero” advertising through the mail.

“It’s shocking how little they use the mail,” Donahoe said. “For pharmaceuticals it’s zero through the mail, and yet they’re all running these television ads that make you afraid to buy anything they’re selling.”

The concept of working closely with its customers on the advertising campaign fits with a theme at this year’s National Postal Forum of “seamlessly aligning with your business”. Around 4,000 delegates – mailing companies, equipment and suppliers as well as Postal Service staff – are expected at this year’s event, which runs until Wednesday.

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