Post Office CMO: Mix the emotional and rational to make your brand stand out

In competitive, fast-moving, dynamic markets, the need for differentiation and real stand out for a brand is key.

Vision 100 viewpoints

One growing trend for companies to break away from the pack is to use ‘System 1 and System 2’ thinking, as proposed by Daniel Kahneman in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow.

He describes System 1 as “fast, instinctive and emotional” thinking and System 2 as “slower, more deliberate and logical”. As consumers, we often make immediate connections through System 1 first and foremost, which we back up with System 2 thinking. So emotional first, rational second. This is the case with how we react to communications, and goes against many marketers’ strong desires to get powerful rational propositions and USPs. In short, this attitude challenges many years of reasoning on what makes great marketing and turns a lot of conventional thinking on its head.

The Post Office has great strengths as a brand: it’s highly trusted, accessable and known for the role it plays in the community. But there are areas we are working hard to improve – the business is seen as old fashioned and we have a legacy perception of long queue times. As a result, there are two key measures we are looking to improve: relevance (brand that is on the way up) and effort (company that’s easy to do business with). To this end, we are undertaking a programme of change that includes branch modernisation, a new brand identity and an enhanced digital presence. We understand the importance of getting it right in the ‘moment of truth’ – when System 1 kicks in, when customers are judging by their first impressions and true ‘gut feel’.

That’s why it’s vital to focus on continuing to improve customer experience as it’s the real and defining moment when the reality of the brand comes to life. We have recently opened a concept branch in Kennington Park with options for customers to take different journeys and more digital experiences. It is a chance to test and learn but it also has System 1 and System 2 thinking at its heart.

We also know communications play a critical role in delivering against these two key measures. So, we have deliberately re-shaped our communications to help improve perceptions of relevance and effort – appealing to the System 1 mode of thinking. In our recent travel campaign we looked to address relevance by casting Inbetweeners star Simon Bird as our super customer who is bright, energetic and funny and set it in a bright, optimistic and sunny world. It was an attempt to give the campaign a natural energy without being too frenetic. We have also developed lots of additional content to be spread through social channels.

To help drive a sense of low effort, we have reduced the amount of information we’re trying to get across each time. We also made all communications as simple and understandable as possible. For example, print has been stripped back to give more air and space, so there is nothing that needs to be decoded. Here and in other channels we have provided clear, straightforward calls to action.

All these actions recognise the power of System 1 thinking in the human brain. They are designed to help build an image of a company that has relevance and momentum for the modern world, plus a company that is easy to do business with and requires minimum effort.

It’s an exciting journey with customers and System 1 and System 2 thinking at its heart. My challenge for marketers is to consider whether they truly are incorporating System 1 and System 2 both in their creative work and wider customer experience. There’s a huge opportunity to gain significant competitive advantage for those who look to embrace this thinking and get closer to their customers and my advice is to get out there and grab it.


This is part of a series of columns written by our Vision 100 inductees, who will share their experiences, best practice and thoughts on what makes visionary marketers and organisations. Marketing Week’s Vision 100 in association with Adobe is an exclusive club of the brightest, best and most visionary executives.

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