Editorial: Royal Mail will regret overkill
A week ago the only people who knew who Roger Annies was were the householders on his postal round in Barry, South Wales. That was before Royal Mail's code of conduct processes took over and Annies was suspended, allegedly for breaching them.
From Royal Mail's perspective, the distribution of a home-spun leaflet telling residents how to put paid to the increasing volume of unaddressed mail appearing on their doormats is not the sort of initiative it expects or encourages from its postmen. Neither was it ever likely to be a career-enhancing move, even assuming the greatest generosity of spirit on the part of Annies' employer.
As we now know, Royal Mail's perspective doesn't matter a damn. Its objection to an incident that may have lost it a localised handful of households has rather been swept away by a consumer protest campaign taken up by the national press and broadcast media, in which Annies has, without exception, been venerated as defender of the nation's letter box.
This is not a tirade against an entirely avoidable PR gaffe by Royal Mail - it is far more serious than that. What the latest 'junk mail' furore has revealed is that Royal Mail is guilty of the worst kind of revenue protection, where the interests of paying customers and householders alike are a hindrance.
Worse than failing to recognise the public mood toward direct mail - of both the addressed and door-to-door varieties - is Royal Mail's apparent willingness to prevent residents from doing anything about it. While a reasonable job has been made of promoting the industry-wide Mailing Preference Service (MPS) for addressed mail, there is no such comprehensive service for unaddressed mail, and a resulting low level of public awareness of how to opt out.
As one of the main operators in the door-drop market, it would not have been that counter-intuitive for Royal Mail to have created competitive advantage by heavily promoting its own easily accessible opt-out service.
In a stroke, laughable as it may now sound, it might have presented itself both as a consumer champion, and the medium of door-to-door, consequently, as low-wastage and highly targeted. Rival traditional mass media will only shake their heads in disbelief at such a wasted opportunity to create a permission-based communications channel.
Those direct-mail avoiders have gone anyway, with a flood of approaches to the MPS and, no doubt, to Royal Mail Opt-Outs - but they have gone with a bitter taste in their mouths toward Royal Mail and its heavy-handed treatment of a solitary Welsh postman.
If, as you should, you have read this issue of Marketing from front to back, you will have noticed the addition of a digital section to our news and comment. Starting with this issue, a dedicated digital news page and an accompanying digital column, by Andrew Walmsley of i-level, become regular weekly features. In addition to our usual quota of digital news, analyses and features, these pages will boost Marketing's coverage of the developments and issues that surround digital marketing.
This article was first published on Marketing
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