Author Archives: Bob Makofsky

Hall of Shame #11: Reach Out and Touch Someone

I have been a loyal AT&T Wireless customer since 1996, long before mobile phones were not the mandatory business tools they are today.  I have watched the Company re-brand itself more times than Madonna.  Ah the memorable slogans – More bars in more places, Your World. Delivered, and their latest, Rethink Possible. The Company spends billions on fancy marketing campaigns to remind you that they have a great product and terrific service.

I had a recent episode with AT&T that left me scratching my head.  My Blackberry Bold 9000 was overheating and killing the battery.  After 2+ hours of pulling the battery, re-booting, updating and re-installing, tech support  “granted” me a new battery.

I thought this would be a great opportunity for the smart marketers at AT&T Wireless to do some damage control and rebuild my confidence in their service.  Instead, AT&T determined it was in their better interests to use free packaging from FedEx.

AT&T Marketing

Unexpected delivery from FedEx. Must be important.

Tiny battery, BIG landfill packaging
Tiny battery, BIG landfill packaging

This package lands in our Conformer Hall of Shame for a number of infractions –

1 – AT&T totally blew a great chance to Reach out and touch someone. They had a great branding opportunity but opted to cut corners and promote the brand of FedEx instead of their own.

2 – Not only does AT&T not care about their branding, they don’t care about the environment.  The FedEx Padded Pak is both grossly over-sized and is not recyclable.  Does a battery really require bubble padding?  I wouldn’t think so.

3 – AT&T is paying double what they should be to ship this package.  I did a quick price check.  FedEx Express Saver, delivered in 2 – 3 days costs roughly $11, though I am sure they have a lower negotiated rate.  Had AT&T used USPS Priority Mail, they could have used a recyclable, AT&T branded Conformer Paperboard Mailer made from post consumer content, and paid $5.35.

It’s time for AT&T marketing to Rethink Possible. With the $5.65 they could have saved in postage, AT&T could buy some pretty snappy eco-conscious, brand enforcing packaging.

-Bob Makofsky at bmakofsky@conformerinc.com

New Video – How Conformer Products Work!

I published a new video on the Conformer YouTube channel, How Conformer Products Work! Written, directed, shot and edited by yours truly.

So, how did I do?

-Bob Makofsky at bmakofsky@conformerinc.com

Postmaster General Abruptly Announces Retirement

Postmaster General Jack Potter, after serving nine years in that role, announced his retirement today, effective next month.  Patrick Donahoe, current Deputy Postmaster General, will take over as the new PMG.

I have had the pleasure of meeting Patrick Donahoe several times.  While I found him genuine and approachable, I do not envy his newfound responsibility.  He is taking control of a ship in the midst of a massive storm.

During his tenure, PMG Jack Potter has seen highs and lows.  US mail volume hit its all-time high in 2006, processing 212 billion mailpieces, only to see a steep decline three years later to 177 billion units; 2010 is forecasted for 150 billion units.

There is no shortage of excuses for the rapid decline.  The Great Recession coupled with the rapid shift to electronic communications certainly top the list.  Combine mail volume decline with the congressional requirements for healthcare pre-funding, and it is no wonder that the USPS lost about $6 billion for its 2010 fiscal year.

The USPS needs to make significant changes to correct its rapidly declining business.  The Washington Post’s profile of Donahoe leads one to question whether we will in fact see that change:

“Donahoe’s career path mirrored Potter’s for much of the last three decades. They both rose through the ranks from entry-level positions to mid-level managers to occupants of the best offices at the Postal Service’s L’Enfant Plaza headquarters. They graduated from the same management training program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology… And much like Potter, Donahoe eagerly wants Congress to back off and let postal executives manage USPS in a more nimble way.”

Time will tell if Mr. Donahoe can bring about the level of change needed to correct the USPS path.  To paraphrase one high-level executive closely associated with the U.S. Post Office, this organization is the only one he can think of that has three products and 10,000 prices.

Donahoe, along with his 700,000 employees, have a formidable job ahead of them.

-Bob Makofsky at bmakofsky@conformerinc.com

Hall of Fame #1: Leading by Example

After nine Hall of Shame blog posts where we have poked holes in corporations’ missed marketing opportunities, postal blunders, and environmental lapses, I received a mailing today worth highlighting for its excellent execution.

Dupli Metallic Envelope with PURL

Dupli, a Syracuse, NY-based envelope and marketing collateral printer, did a great job bridging the offline and online worlds with a recent promotional mailing. Besides the… integrated a personalized URL, a QR code, and custom message, along with an intriguing offer to win an iPad for completing a web survey.

Dupli envelope and offer

Separating themselves from the clutter of everyday mail, Dupli used the envelope to promote their marketing message.  They proved that envelopes are more than simple message carriers, but vehicles for interactive communications.

-Bob Makofsky at bmakofsky@conformerinc.com

Breaking News: PRC Denies USPS Exigent Rate Case

With a surprising and unanimous decision, the Postal Regulatory Commission has thrown out the USPS request to increase postal rates by 5.4%.

What does this mean for businesses dependent on the USPS?  It means no postal rate increases at all until May of next year.  I suspect there will be no changes to the DMM (Domestic Mail Manual) and that NFMs are not going away so quickly.

http://www.prc.gov/prc-docs/home/whatsnew/Chairman%27s%20Statement%20R2010-4%20decision_1391.pdf

The Postal Regulatory Commission, an independent agency responsible for regulatory oversight of the USPS, painted a crystal-clear picture of why they have denied the rate hike. “…The Postal Service has made significant strides over the past few years to contain its costs in response to falling mail volumes caused by the recession and the ongoing electronic diversion of the mail. The Postal Service achieved over $6 billion in cost reductions in 2009. These results indicate that the Price Cap is working and providing the right signals for the Postal Service to reduce costs and improve efficiency.”

The briefing states that the primary cause of the liquidity crisis is directly tied to its onerous requirement for the Postal Service to pre-fund its future retiree health benefit premiums.

This dramatic update certainly brings up many additional questions.  We will see what comes in the next few days, and we’ll post answers to these questions as fast as we can get them.  Stay tuned.

-Bob Makofsky at bmakofsky@conformerinc.com

USPS Innovation: A Closed-Door Affair

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of attending National Postal Customer Council Day at Gotham Hall in NYC.  If USPS matters are important to your business, this is a must-attend annual event.

Similar to last year’s simulcast, this year’s presentation included USPS top sales and marketing brass: Steve Kearney, Susan Plonkey, Pat Donahoe, and Postmaster General Jack Potter.  You can view the video presentation here.  Not surprisingly, the focus of the presentation was on the continual decline in mail volume and what the USPS is doing to address this problem.  The keyword repeated over and over was “innovation.”  I heard lots of talk of new rate categories, summer sales, and the Intelligent Mail Barcode.

Why is the USPS taking on all of the “Innovation” work themselves?  When are they going to realize that declining mail volume is not their problem alone?

The USPS needs to figure out how to invite their biggest clients and the vendors serving those clients to join the party.  I can tell you from extensive experience that developing, testing, and launching new mail products, while following the USPS playbook, is nothing short of an epic challenge.

The USPS could take some guidance from the technology world and embrace an open-source mentality.  The technology sector learned a dozen years ago that if you hold on to your trade secrets and defend your source code by building a brick wall around it, the only thing you will accomplish is making sure no one advances and broadens what you have created.

The folks at the USPS need to break down the brick walls and allow customers and vendors in to develop new products and services.  Stop creating complicated rules and regulations that keep us at arm’s length.  Allow us access so that we can develop products that grow the business, creating win-win business opportunities for the USPS, their customers, and the vendors who serve those customers.

Bob Makofsky at bmakofsky@conformerinc.com

MTAC Conference on Vendor Innovation Within USPS

For the first time, Conformer has been invited to attend next weeks USPS Mailers’ Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) meeting by Susan Plonkey, President of Mailing and Shipping Services. Susan, along with Jack Potter, USPS Postmaster General will be leading a conversation around innovation, a topic we take quite seriously.

We’re pleased to be invited to the table for these important discussions about industry innovation. Marvin Makofsky will be carrying the torch on behalf of Conformer, and if you know him, you know he will weigh in on this topic early and often.  Marv is the master innovator.

More on this topic next week.

-Bob Makofsky at bmakofsky@conformerinc.com