Letters to the president
By Brendan Read
Doug Ettinger became president and CEO of Canada Post Corporation (CPC) in March 2019 after serving nearly three years as its chief commercial officer and as a member of the senior executive team. He has over 30 years experience in the consumer packaged goods industry, including with brands like Coca-Cola, Nestle, Parmalat and Canada’s famous Ganong chocolates, leading sales, marketing and product management.
Here are open letters to Mr. Ettinger from several of our prominent readers.
Congratulations on your appointment to this important and challenging role. For the last couple of CEOs, the successful candidates came from outside the company and, in one case, outside the industry, resulting in a long learning curve. You have spent time at the company and have had an opportunity to learn more about it and the industry, allowing you to hit the ground running. We applaud the Board’s and Government’s choice.
The challenges facing Canada Post are significant and can be all-consuming. There is declining revenue in Lettermail and rising costs. The relationship with CUPW [Canadian Union of Postal Workers] is difficult and, despite the best wishes of the Government, is not easily managed. The Government has also limited the commercial freedom of the corporation through mo
ratoriums on the closing of rural post offices and the conversion of residential delivery to community mailboxes.
Canada Post has been able to benefit from the growth in parcels by effectively leveraging its mail delivery infrastructure. The density that mail provides in delivery routes provides a cost structure that cannot be matched by competitors, including Amazon. An important objective for you has to be finding ways to sustain the mail channel and direct marketing mail provides the best opportunity to achieve this goal. It remains an effective channel with its unique characteristics, providing marketers with a positive return on investment.
However, mail is changing, and must adapt to this omnichannel world. The average size of a mailing is declining as targeting and personalization better define a marketer’s best prospects. Consumer behaviour in digital channels is driving relevant, highly productive mailing campaigns. The industry needs to work together to enhance the technology and processes that allows these types of mailings to occur seamlessly and programmatically.
It is important to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. Canada Post should not be trying to go it alone, but rather look to expanding and strengthening its partnership with the industry. We believe Canada Post can successfully innovate by engaging with the industry and working with us to build the services, technology and processes to enable the changes in marketing and mail. The industry is waiting to engage and brings real value to the table.
Doug, we wish you much success in your new role. NAMMU looks forward to deepening its partnership with Canada Post and working to foster innovation and growth in mail.
Executive Director, National Association of Major Mail Users (NAMMU)
Dear Mr. Ettinger,
Congratulations on your new appointment as President and CEO of Canada Post.
I’m sharing my perspective from the users of the direct marketing side of the business. I’ve earned my entire adult livelihood by producing mail and parcels that travel by the Post. I’m a big fan of the mail. Your printed mail channel provides valuable communications opportunities in many circumstances, despite the erosion of market share due to the wave of digital channels.
But we users and producers of mail have been challenged by two main threats in my view. Firstly, the ongoing uncertainty caused by postal disruption and secondly, the complexity of doing marketing with the mail. If you could focus on these two points, I think we have a much better chance of us being a robust part of the future of the CPC. These are not external forces affecting your business model, but internal ones that need to be addressed to meet your customers’ expectations.
In this era when you can deploy a Facebook or Google AdWords campaign or get an online mortgage approval within minutes, dealing with CPC is a slow and burdensome process. You should address the paperwork, forms and departments that are involved in starting and onboarding new clients. Being a first time or returning client is brutal. It feels like applying for a passport in 1938.
I can imagine a simple online form: “Want to start mailing? Enter your name and e-mail and we will give you an account, postage rates and a list of suppliers in your area who you might call to get your mail rolling”. Compare that with the current 10 days to get set up and mailing for new clients. I’m not sure how many CPC employees or departments are involved but it is too slow and complicated.
I don’t need to say much about the labour disruptions except to mention that both sides, and all the people and organizations downstream who support this industry from printers, trucking, data companies, charities, and to business mailers and advertising mailers, all suffer from the unpredictability. It shouldn’t really surprise you to learn that many direct marketers and mailing companies are choosing other channels or getting out of the business; the Internet does not go down unexpectedly for weeks during the busy season. Digital promotion channels are agile and dependable. Users of your channel don’t want to plan for “potential” disruptions. It takes months to plan a mailing project. Mailers cannot pivot and it’s costly to do so. Mailers choose the dependable route and that is often an online option where they say goodbye to printed mail forever. Let’s try to avoid that.
On behalf of all of us who’s livelihoods, businesses, charities and aspirations for the future depend upon a reliable and client-focused mail service, I wish you all the best in your new role.
President, Prime Data
At the beginning of 2019 my company, Data Direct, attended the Canada Post National Sales Convention. There were many vested marketers in the room. We talked about many concerns and ideas, and I would like to share several of them with you.
As providers of mail to Canada Post we do what is called MOBO (mailed on behalf of). We do this to ensure that the Canada Post sales representative gets the volume related to the client they serve. But we wonder why Canada Post does not MOBO for parcels so that the Canada Post sales representative gets credit for the parcel volume as well? This would ensure a continual working relationship between the Expert Partner and Canada Post; and
We are observing trigger mail and the power of it
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. Trigger mail as it implies triggers an action. This is a trend that will increase. Go online and visit a site and ask for information and trigger an e-mail or a piece of mail.
Whether you are a provider of mail or a user of mail we are concerned with Canada Post heading into more negotiations with the union and the impact that may have on business. We as an industry are still struggling from the impact of the last contract negotiations.
There still remain a lot of companies that are unsure of the value of the data and the power of direct mail. There is an opportunity to continue to take the lead in education regarding this. Canada Post does a great job of educating the marketplace and holding forums to advance direct mail with events such as Think Inside the Box.
It is hard to attract new talent to the vendor side of the equation. Much of the new young talent do not view this as a place to consider working. We look to Canada Post to help in assisting in educating and attracting young people to the vendor side of Direct; and
Collectively as an industry we would like to see the charities and the not-for-profits have their own postage category. Canada Post volumes would increase, and the charities and not-for-profits would garner more donations for the increase volumes of mail.
Sincerely yours, and we look forward to working with you.
President, Data Direct