Following the last Canada Post work stoppage in 2011, along with the abundance of new offerings, many advertisers moved budgets to digital. The industry experienced significant volume declines.

Around the same time, the National Association of Major Mail Users (NAMMU) Board come to the conclusion that it needed to set a new course for the industry’s relationship with Canada Post. Up until that point in time, there was more of a focus on issues which at times became confrontational.

The Board recognized that both Canada Post and the industry were striving toward the same goals. There will always be issues where we disagree, such as excessive rate increases, but for the most part we are jointly committed to improving the competitive position of the mail channel.

NAMMU members have engaged with Canada Post and began a series of consultations and discussions to improve mail products and remove the friction points in the mail stream. Consultations have been held on innovation, machinable mail, publication and lettermail simplification. The industry worked with Canada Post to update the approach to product guides, making the language and structure more relevant to mailers. Other consultations included invoicing and billing, NCOA and the partner program. NAMMU works frequently with Canada Post on day-to-day issues such as induction, items going into the wrong mail stream, delivery and damage. A new series of consultations will include the future of bar coding, improving machinable mail specifications and guidelines, improving electronic shipping tools and reducing damage in the mail stream.

Canada Post has worked closely with and been responsive to NAMMU to improve the value proposition of mail by streamlining the product, identifying the unique characteristics of mail and repositioning the product.

Canada Post sponsored extensive neuroscience research, the largest of its kind, to determine what channel was best at driving action. The researchers focused on the two key indicators of media effectiveness—ease of understanding and persuasiveness—and examined the corresponding brain imaging metrics. Through these tests, direct mail proved the most effective advertising media. These findings suggest that while the digital space provides essential platforms for customer interaction, physical media is better suited to close the marketing-sales loop, or the gap between interaction and action.

This research has lead to a new brand and positioning for Canada Post’s direct marketing products. The suite of products is referred to as Smart Mail along with new product names for the traditional addressed and unaddressed products—Personalized and Neighbourhood Mail, respectively.

Across the direct mail value chain we have seen new products, more flexibility and improved processes coming from these consultations.

Hard work paying off

In the last year the National Association of Major Mail Users’ (NAMMU’s) members have spoken optimistically about mail and the growth they are experiencing in mail. In a conversation with one member he reported year over year growth in excess of 30%.

Most members report that growth is coming from multiple sources including a return of advertisers to mail, new advertisers to mail and current mailers increasing their investment with more frequent mailings. Over time advertisers saw a decline in the effectiveness of the digital channel and found that Likes on Facebook didn’t correlate to revenue results.

Looking forward

The coming months are important for the industry to continue to move forward to improve the competitiveness of the physical mail stream and nurture the growth of the past year.

Canada Post is in negotiations with its largest union, CUPW. Traditionally these negotiations are difficult sometimes resulting in work stoppages

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. The risk of labour disruption will cause some marketers to avoid the mail stream reversing the positive momentum the industry has enjoyed. It is important negotiations conclude as quickly as possible without a work stoppage.

NAMMU is looking forward to participating in the postal review task force and parliamentary committee postal review process, ensuring the views, challenges and concerns of business mailers are well understood. The industry encompasses and affects all sectors of the economy. NAMMU includes small and medium-sized businesses as well as large enterprises and multi-national corporations. It is estimated to produce between $74 and $88 billion of economic activity annually and employs more than 800,000 Canadians across the country. The mailing industry served by NAMMU represents more than 80% of Canada Post’s revenue.

This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of Direct Marketing.

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Patrick Bartlett

Patrick Bartlett is the executive director of NAMMU.