Could ex-Barclays chief give the Post Office the boost it needs?

Post%20OfficeAlmost eight months into the Post Office’s five-year marketing strategy there is talk that former Barclays marketing chief Andrew Gillespie will be brought in to bolster its firepower (MW last week).

When the Government-owned Royal Mail Group company ditched the animated ant family in its advertising in favour of celebrity-driven campaigns last year, it marked a radical shift in its strategy.

The addition of consultant Gillespie would further boost the marketing department and help drive its focus on customer service, although the official line from the Post Office is that it is not aware of his “imminent arrival”.

Marketing director Gary Hockey-Morley does say that while it is early days since the launch of the campaign in October, created by then newly-appointed ad agency Mother, the level of awareness of its broadband service has risen from 10% to 50%. He adds that people are also taking “strong product messages” out of the ads.

“We’re running a very big campaign for our savings product at the moment and it has performed 40% over target in terms of business levels. I would call that happy days,” he says.

Competing with online

However, many observe that the Post Office’s challenge lies in remaining relevant in the internet era. Continued store closures has meant it has had to rethink its approach, pushing its positioning as the “People’s Post Office” which offers a wide range of services beyond selling stamps. This includes banking, telephony, broadband and financial services.

FutureBrand head of branded environments Paul Bretherton says that while celebrities, such as Joan Collins, who feature in its advertising give it a “nice nostalgic feel”, it is not likely to resonate with the new tech-savvy generation. He believes the Post Office needs to create compelling customer experiences if it is to convince people to walk into its stores.

“What eBay and Amazon have done online is phenomenal. If you go online, your history with them means the page you enter from becomes a morepersonalised and customised experience. So the customer experience online is better and more relevant,” Bretherton says.

Hockey-Morley maintains “the internet is not an enemy”. He says the likes of eBay are boosting demand for the postal service as people need to send items they have sold through the mail. “We’re trialling ‘eBay days’, where experts in the stores help people get set up on eBay. So the internet is not an enemy, it’s a reality and we’re learning to adapt to it.” Hockey-Morley adds that one of its marketing challenges is convincing people that the Post Office is not just a physical place, but is a multifaceted business, including a call centre and a website.

Pragma Consulting retail analyst and director Mike Godliman says that while it is important for the Post Office to invest in advertising and marketing, it is not the key. He says: “I’m not sure we need separate shops. Putting them into retailers such as WH Smith is a good start. The Post Office has some very good financial products, but you don’t need a separate shop to sell them.

Dynamic decision-making

“The Post Office needs to be a bit more dynamic about making decisions around retail strategy. Its role is going to change significantly. It’s about how quickly it manages that change and whether it continues to allow things to happen slowly, or if it is going to make some bold decisions about the future,” says Godliman.

With eight months down and 52 more to go, it will be some time yet before the Post Office manages to prove that it has indeed been bold enough.

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