Donohoe: Mail's a Refuge in a Chaotic Marketing World

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Donohoe: Mail's a Refuge in a Chaotic Marketing World
Donohoe: Mail's a Refuge in a Chaotic Marketing World

Marketers, digital integration, and Spiderman shared the spotlight during Postmaster General Patrick Donohoe's keynote address at the National Postal Forum. The PMG led off his remarks by characterizing the Postal Service as a modern marketing services supplier committed to increasing the fortunes of enterprise-level CMOs, as well as small-town restaurateurs.

“We are constantly thinking about new ways to be a part of the marketing mix,” Donohoe said. “Marketers are dealing with a chaotic world. There are so many new ways to reach customers. It's gotten more complicated and uncertain. As a result, we're seeing a reappraisal of mail as a vehicle of integration. Our long-term prospects are to get the next generation [of marketers] excited about mail.”

Donohoe observed that mail's share of the marketing mix has held steady at about 12% for the past 30 years and he expressed confidence that USPS could seize a larger share, despite the fact that some mailers are planning smaller mailings in the face of this year's 6% rate increase.

The postmaster general laid out a four-point plan for making direct mail a bigger part of the marketing conversation in a marketing world that increasingly speaks digital these days: help marketers leverage analytics to make mailings personally relevant; increase adoption of actionable technology such as one-click mobile purchasing via catalogs; expand functionality of mailing systems; and invest in creativity to spur increased uses of color and irregular mail piece sizes.

During a press briefing following the keynote, Donohoe said that he favors the Carper-Coburn Postal Reform Act measure that would bake the 4.3% exigency increase into the base postal rate and thereafter maintain a rate increase cap based on the CPI alone. His four-point plan to increase the value and targeting of direct mail programs, he said, should enable marketers to swallow the added cost by making mailings more efficient.

“As for the exigent price change, we've done everything we could to avoid it. Our biggest concern has been liquidity. We're running the Postal Service with 10 days of cash,” Donohoe remarked. “The key thing for our industry to thrive in the future is to work together. When you have people sit down and say, ‘I'm OK with everything except for this one item,' well, you've got to give a little bit. It's like some people are against moving to five-day delivery, but the Senate bill keeps six day if volume stays at 145 billiion pieces, so I tell people, ‘If you want to keep six-day, keep mailing.'”

Yet digital reality will most likely prevail over the continuance of Saturday delivery.  Donohoe said that USPS estimates that First Class mail volumes could drop 45% within 10 years, and that Standard Mail will remain relatively flat.

Donohoe expressed hope that the House and Senate would get their reform bills introduced on their floors by early spring. “The most critical thing for the industry is reform,” Donohoe said. “With a new healthcare funding plan we can turn $48 billion in liabilities into $3 billion. But time is of the essence. It's an election year and we have to have action before a June time frame.”

Spiderman made a special guest appearance during the keynote presentation, when USPS Chief Marketing and Sales Officer Nagisa Manabe introduced a new marketing partnership with Marvel timed to the May 2 release of Spiderman 2. Look for Spidey to begin appearing on Mail trucks and Priority Mail boxes in the coming weeks.

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