• on Jan 28th, 2015 in Products & Services | 5 comments

    The sometimes elusive concept of “brand” is very real and useful to businesses and organizations of all kinds and sizes. A brand encompasses an array of tangible and intangible elements, from a company’s name and logo to consumers’ expectations of a particular product or service. For instance, the names and logos of Mercedes Benz and Lexus usually make people think of reliable, well-built, luxury cars. Wal-Mart and Target are most often associated with large inventories of everyday goods at discounted prices.

    The U.S. Postal Service has a brand, too. Its attributes include reliability, convenience, value, and tradition. Where the Postal Service differs from many other businesses and organizations is in the management of its brand: To get the most financial value out of their brands, successful firms treat them like other assets and carefully measure and monitor them. Brand valuation is an important management tool used to do this. But while the Postal Service has worked to enhance some of its brand attributes, it has never conducted a formal brand valuation.

    We worked with Premier Quantitative Consulting (PQC), experts in brand valuation, to develop an estimate of the Postal Service’s brand value. Based on extensive research and analysis detailed in our new white paper, The Value of the U.S. Postal Service Brand, PQC conservatively estimates the Postal Service brand value is $3.6 billion, based on fiscal year 2013 financial data (the most recent available when PQC performed its study). This means the Postal Service would forego at least an additional $3.6 billion in future cash flows if it had no discernable brand. In other words, if the Postal Service were indistinguishable from a generic delivery brand, it would not realize these significant cash flows.

    PQC also suggested some ways the Postal Service could further enhance its brand. For example, the organization could (1) aggressively respond to inaccurate “doomsday” reports and predictions about its future, (2) involve employees – who are truly “the face of the brand” – in implementing brand strategies, and (3) expand licensing activities.

    Do you think the Postal Service brand is important? What could the Postal Service do to enhance its brand? What are some attributes you associate with various brands? 

  • on Dec 1st, 2014 in Products & Services | 4 comments

    The U.S. Postal Service’s 2014 Holiday Playbook has a very modern spin. More than just holiday timetables and stamps, it encourages readers to download the Postal Service’s augmented reality (AR) app, “USPS AR.” The app is available through the Google Play store and Apple App Store.

    AR allows users to scan physical objects and see them with digital graphics, information, and sounds through an app on a mobile device. AR works by connecting to a back-end library of images, allowing the app to “see” those objects and overlay the real-world images with computer-generated animations. Users must have an Internet connection to access the AR component. For example, in this year’s holiday campaign, the Postal Service added the eagle on the side of blue collection boxes to its library. When a mailbox is scanned, it will show a different animation each week followed by an opportunity to visit the Postal Service’s mobile site.

    This leads to one of the biggest challenges of AR – companies must be very clear about how to use the app. They need to indicate what users should scan and what additional functionality the app delivers. Some exasperated postal customers didn’t know what they were supposed to scan or how the app worked.

    Reviews on Google Play and the App Store suggest some users have had other troubles with the app as well. But a number of reviews have applauded the Postal Service for doing “something cool.” These positive reviewers have also expressed interest in seeing where the Postal Service takes this technology.

    The app is different from past Postal Service forays into AR because it could generate revenue by hosting other companies’ advertisements. Companies could create and implement campaigns using AR mailpieces and allow users to access digital content through the USPS AR app. This would let users download one app rather than a different app each time they want to scan something. If all mail goes through one platform, customers might be more likely to use it.

    Have you downloaded the USPS AR app? If so, do you like it? What do you wish it could scan? Do you see an opportunity for the Postal Service to generate revenue with AR? 

  • on Nov 24th, 2014 in Products & Services | 19 comments

    It’s been more than 3 years since the U.S. Postal Service changed its rules on postage stamps, ending its long-standing tradition that people on stamps had to be deceased. At the time of the announcement, the Postal Service said it would consider stamps for acclaimed American musicians, sports stars, writers, artists, and other nationally known figures.

    The policy change led some people to worry that stamps were becoming advertisements, not carefully considered subjects of cultural relevance. Others worried that honoring a living legend could backfire. What if that person went on to do something embarrassing or, worse, illegal later in life? That’s no small concern as recent headlines from the sports pages suggest.

    Yet, 3 years on, none of the major stamp releases have featured any living “celebrities,” unless you consider the fictional character of Harry Potter to be a celebrity. (While the stamps featured the actors from the movie, the stamp honored the films, not the actors.) That release stirred up a good deal of controversy – and publicity – primarily because many philatelists felt it commercialized the stamp program. And, they noted, Harry Potter isn’t even American. Others, however, applauded the move as an attempt to make stamps relevant to a younger generation.

    The large response to our blog on the topic got us wondering: Who would you like to see on a stamp? Would you send more mail if you could buy stamps honoring Bruce Springsteen, Justin Bieber, Michael Jordan, or Julia Roberts? Do you think living celebrities should be allowed? Yes, but with certain criteria? Is it important to you that the featured individual be American?

    You can find out more about the Postal Service’s stamp program by visiting http://uspsstamps.com/ 

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