Canada Post turns post age

Canada Post is a brand? Very much so, although an oft-under recognized one, with multiple business lines such as EPOST and Purolator Courier that aren't even linked to the firm in the minds of consumers.
'Even though people may have heard of some of the services, they didn't attribute those to Canada Post,' says Jeannette Hanna, director of strategic communications for Spencer Francey Peters, a Toronto-based design and branding firm that worked with Canada Post. 'It's the country's favourite whipping boy. It's like 'But what do I get for my 46 cents?''
With its new rebranding initiative, Canada Post is setting out not only to show its 46 cents' worth, but also to literally reinvent itself.

Canada Post is a brand? Very much so, although an oft-under recognized one, with multiple business lines such as EPOST and Purolator Courier that aren’t even linked to the firm in the minds of consumers.

‘Even though people may have heard of some of the services, they didn’t attribute those to Canada Post,’ says Jeannette Hanna, director of strategic communications for Spencer Francey Peters, a Toronto-based design and branding firm that worked with Canada Post. ‘It’s the country’s favourite whipping boy. It’s like ‘But what do I get for my 46 cents?”

With its new rebranding initiative, Canada Post is setting out not only to show its 46 cents’ worth, but also to literally reinvent itself. The 150-year-old business has, to no surprise, found factors such as phone and electronic bill payment and the Internet eating into its bread and butter mail delivery which accounts for approximately 54% of its services. And it intends to defend its existing business as well as stake out new territory through a multimillion-dollar internal turnaround, rebrand and advertising campaign.

A year ago, Canada Post sat down with Spencer Francey Peters to try and fulfill a major initiative set out by André Ouellet, president and CEO of Canada Post: to enhance corporate equity, build the image of the organization and build customer satisfaction. The company’s other major goals included defending the current business, making employees a competitive advantage and building flexible partnerships with unions, goals that would take the company into the future.

‘Our research showed that Canada Post was perceived as a very reliable, friendly and efficient company, offering goods of quality and services for reasonable value,’ says Daniel J. Sawaya, VP of marketing, business development and supply chain business for Ottawa-based Canada Post. ‘That’s nice, but we weren’t perceived as competitive or aggressive or as a company of the future that understands the needs of the business community. So we decided to reinvent ourselves.’

That road to reinvention started with a newly developed internal rallying cry, ‘From postage to post age,’ designed to capture the company’s transformation for its 63,900 employees. After four months though, Canada Post moved the strategy work to its agency of record, BCP in Montreal. (Sandra Sanderson, GM, marketing for

Canada Post, says the work shifted when BCP created a new position,

VP and brand director, to handle

such initiatives.)

‘The ‘post age’ is a moniker for what is going on right now, and is in contrast to simple postage which is what a lot of people feel Canada Post is – just stamps and letters,’ says Ron Perrotta, VP and brand director for BCP.

That started turning the agency toward the goal of encompassing all of Canada Post’s lines of business in an easy-to-understand manner. But it drilled down further into Canada Post’s assets and unearthed an obvious, yet underplayed, discovery: connectivity. Through both electronic and physical channels, Canada Post was ultimately there to deliver.

‘We have a social obligation,’ says Sawaya. ‘We have to deliver to Nunavut as much as we deliver in Toronto.’

As a result, the corp. has dropped it’s ‘In Business to Serve’ tagline and a new one, ‘From anywhere…to anyone’ (‘De partout…jusqu’à vous’ in French) will appear in an advertising campaign through BCP in mid-October.

The fall multi-media campaign will account for the biggest ad spend ever for Canada Post (although it refuses to divulge exactly how much will be spent.) According to Perrotta, the corporate image campaign includes TV spots targeting businesses and consumers, with a female skew. Over the course of the 12- to 18-month rollout, magazine and newspaper advertising is also in the works.

October is a natural time for Canada Post to launch its initiative because it’s gearing up for the biggest mail time of the year – Christmas. (A separate integrated advertising program emphasizing Canada Post’s delivery capabilities will be launched later for the Christmas season.)

The corporate campaign will also focus on other lines of business, including the company’s most recent secure electronic courier addition, PosteCS, although those will more likely be emphasized in the print component of the campaign. So while a business execution might emphasize the business solutions, such as products like PosteCS, the consumer campaign will talk about how Canada Post can deliver Internet purchases to homes.

Both sides will have a similar look and feel because there will be overlap, and Sanderson says both will carry equal weight.

While all these lines of business will be stressed in the advertising, it still comes back to that goal of raising the corporate profile. ‘We’re more focusing on the Canada Post master brand,’ she says. ‘In the past we’ve focused on our individual products and now we’ve put in place this full branding strategy which will take us away from stand-alone brands. We [currently] have a lot of stand-alone brands that don’t have any linkage back to the master brand.’

Branding is an important element to Sawaya’s department, which contains at least two major packaged goods expatriates. Sawaya came to Canada Post three years ago after 12 years with Pepsi, most recently as regional VP for Southern Europe and part of the Middle East. Before that, he worked at Procter & Gamble. Sanderson also has a strong packaged goods branding background, having worked at both Coca-Cola and Kraft.

But Sawaya says Canada Post isn’t the only service-oriented company to play up branding recently. He sees other service-oriented firms, such as Boeing or Virgin Airlines, concentrating on branding rather than simply efficiency and quality of service.

‘Especially in a commodity market like the distribution business, we realize the consumer’s choice is made on brand as well, not only on price,’ he says. ‘It starts with the brand promise and that makes [a company] different than its competitors. Believe me, the postal world is no different. UPS and FedEx are here to stay.’

Ken Wong, a strategic marketing professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., says it’s better late than never that Canada Post has embarked on a rebrand.

‘They’ve been talking about EPOST for probably close to a decade now, but I think in the last few years, they’ve made their most substantive moves in that direction,’ he says. ‘So logically you’ve got to start thinking of Canada Post as something more than just a mail deliverer.’

Wong also points out a potential opportunity for Canada Post, and one it may get into in the future under this new direction. ‘I’m surprised they haven’t made a more deliberate foray into the delivery of grocery products,’ he says. ‘When you think of firms like Grocery Gateway now moving beyond delivering just grocery products…to start delivering all manner of products through their infrastructure, you would have thought Canada Post was already in place to be able to do that.’

New distribution opportunities could be in the works for Canada Post, under its new mandate. ‘We said if there’s one thing we own, it’s really the ability to connect every single Canadian,’ says Sawaya. ‘The telcos can connect Canadians, but there’s no one who owns the business-to-home segment, and who’s at the doors of every Canadian like we are. Not only can we connect them from a physical perspective, but we can all now connect them from a virtual or an Internet perspective.’