Eclectic Thought Samples From Larry Burns

Sample This: “We Are Everywhere, So You Can Go Anywhere”

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The National Postal Forum (NPF) has been held each year for a number of years now,and I’ve gone to a couple of them. The most recent Forum in San Francisco was actually quite exciting in terms of how USPS leadership is attempting to continue to modernize and bring new ideas to the industry.

Although, since I attend conferences across a wide spectrum of marketing arenas, one thing that I couldn’t help noticing was the marked difference in the demography of the NPF compared to other events I participate in. Those of us who make our living in the world of mail really need to work to bring more young folks into our industry! We also need to use new tools of communication. Evidently the tweets emanating from the audience/seminars were not exactly voluminous, yet, in fact, there was terrific content and there were very “tweetable” moments. I did a few myself, but apparently I was not a typical attendee.

The USPS has a new Chief Marketing Officer by the name of Nagisa Manabe. She’s not originally from the postal world, having spent time at Coca-Cola (Japan), Diageo and even Campbell’s. Whatever her background, it is clear that she brings a new perspective and some fascinating ideas with her, in addition to her yoga expertise, which may come in quite handy when managing the stress of leading the transformation of a venerable and still essential institution.

Postal Mail is Still Relevant

I loved a quote Nagisa tossed out in her opening discussion: “The post office is the original social network.”  In many ways, this remains true.

People still have a tactile relationship with mail. They like it. They spend time with it. It has enormous value in this hectic and cluttered – to the point of overwhelming sensory overload –  world we inhabit.

The USPS Leadership team delivered a very solid presentation, announcing the need for tomorrow’s kind of thinking.

The Consumer Experience is Being Fundamentally Altered

The marketing team presented a video to share their vision of how the consumer experience is changing. I hope that it is posted somewhere, but as of now I have yet to find it. Some of the highlights:

  • When you run out of something, it will automatically be ordered. Soon, you’ll have a smart refrigerator – something the Anderson Smart Store touted in the late 90’s as “happening soon” – but we are actually much closer today. (Still, #firstworldproblems, I know!)

  • The way you watch TV will be greatly revolutionized. It will become a far less passive, much more interactive experience.

  • Omni-channel marketing is here – think about a piece of physical mail as having all the benefits of mail AND acting as a gateway for marketing and interactive experiences.

“We Are Everywhere, So You Can Go Anywhere”

No organization is as ubiquitous and trusted as the postal system. Right now, there are 70,000 locations where you can access postal services without even using their online service suite. The idea to make mail services mail as easy as possible for people to use is in fairly good shape.

I think that management is moving the Postal Service in so many of the right directions. They’re re-organizing in ways that will also yield far more transparency than ever. They are slowly, but surely eliminating all of the information gaps in their processes. In the very near future (the next couple of years?), you’ll be able to watch something that you ordered (from anywhere) move all the way through the USPS system, up to and including when it’s on the final truck or in the mailbag of the carrier, on its way to your home.

I greatly enjoyed the Forum, and I am very excited to see all the upcoming changes. Is our Postal System perfect? Of course not – it is saddled with all sorts of challenges, regulations, political insanity and more. But, that is for another day, another topic

[ Since I originally drafted this note, Congress, in their infinite foolishness, once again acted to prevent the USPS from taking proper action based on the reality of their business needs by forcing them to remain open on Saturdays. It displays stunning ignorance coupled with political nonsense and leaves even me close to speechless. How can this be allowed – that anyone could attach an amendment that FORCES the USPS further into unnecessary debt, knowing that it was Congress who saddled them with a ludicrous, preposterous pension funding mandate in the first place (in a 2006 lame duck session). Arguments that we do not need to curtail service “if only congress would rescind the pension funding mandate” fall on deaf ears for me. Since Congress refuses to act prudently, then they should not be permitted to further pile-on and force the USPS to the brink of insolvency. I swear that sometimes the bizarre conspiracy theories floating around about attempts to dismantle the USPS to let private companies enter the postal space seem to be a logical explanation for some of these activities. In the meantime, my industry, which employs over 8 million people, is threatened, and a service relied on by tens of millions of Americans is put further into peril. It’s like a Twilight Zone episode without Rod to bring in a conclusion.]

I just wanted to share a positive message today – that mail is really far from “snail,” and far from “junk,” and it’s in the process of evolving faster than many thought possible. There is LOTS of work left to do, but the progress is real, and that is a good thing to see, hear and experience first hand. The Postmaster General had his remarks posted on YouTube in 5 parts; there are some very good things to see.

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