Royal Mail brand can elevate but strategy needs work

It has been argued that Royal Mail is a bloated and inefficient organisation that has been shielded from the vagaries of the free market by being a state-backed monopoly. What few would argue, however, is that a brand in its fourth century has the power to resonate like few others.

Russell Parsons

Last decade’s deregulation and the expected part-privatisation means Royal Mail is and will be open to competition in a way that would not have been envisaged for the majority of its existence.

Such competition requires brand management – a definition of the brand’s core values, it’s very reason to be. A message to its customers that it exists to serve.

It appears Royal Mail has recognised this to a degree. In Ben Rhodes, who joined from MasterCard in September 2010, they have a canny marketer who can let the Royal Mail brand breathe in the brave new world it is about to enter.

But much needs to be done. One of its first forays into what Rhodes describes as a “bolder” brand strategy is to include a “delivered by…” mark on the majority of the mail it delivers. As an opener, it has not exactly been an unequivocal success story.

Plans to introduce the mark were pulled last year following criticism there had been no industry consultation over a move that would rob direct mailers of valuable space to stretch their creative wings.

Royal Mail appears to have listened and an amended scheme will be phased in over the next months. It is said the mark is necessary to lay claim to its delivery service. To, errr, mark it out from the pack of mail providers eager, when able, to take on Royal Mail.

Understandable but what it appears to have done is created a vocal band of disgruntled business customers.

“Concerned CRM” manager summed up what I imagine are the thoughts of many in the industry with this post on Marketingweek.co.uk: “The comment [from Rhodes] about the important for Royal Mail to have a strong brand presence just reiterates that it has little or no understanding of it’s business customers and I, along with a large proportion of the direct mail industry, are eagerly awaiting the full deregulation of the industry so we can implement our choice as customers to move wholesale to another supplier.”

The Royal Mail is a powerful brand, and the opportunities to exploit its resonance are many and great, but it also needs to learn a little about one of the key tenants of a successful marcomms strategy: PR. The “delivered by….” will not have the once feared effect now that Royal Mail has listened and learned but its handling has left a bad taste in the mouth’s of many. One that will have to be banished.

A “bold” strategy is planned that will use the Royal Mail brand as a “lever” to build a sustainable commercial strategy, according to Rhodes. In Royal Mail, the organisation has a brand name (not to mention competitive leg-ups) that competitors would die for. It should be a catalyst to success. A little more listening to those that will determine its ultimate success – business customers – is also required.

And finally….Congratulations to Lloydspharmacy for winning the best direct marketing campaign gong at last week’s Marketing Week Engage 2012 awards. Its DM campaign to prompt “at risk” people to visit its stores for a Type 2 diabetes assessment lifted weekly assessment numbers to 7,520 from 524 weekly and generated an additional £4.1m in revenue from diabetes-related products. Well done to agency TDA and LloydsPharmacy.

Learn about the latest developments in loyalty programmes and data driven marketing to help your brand gain a competitive edge at Marketing Week Live. The event is being held on June 27 and 28 at London Olympia and is free to all registrants. Find out more here.

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