You’re not going to love this: the USPS screws up Valentine’s Day
BREAKING NEWS: February 2: It’s official! The USPS will make the stamp available for sale to consumers online and in the post offices in time to mail Valentine’s Day cards. Be sure to buy your 2012 Love Ribbons stamps and tell USPS how much you appreciate their decision! Many thanks to USPS for their responsiveness to consumers; details here.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: FEBRUARY 2, 2012 — I have just received information this morning from a confidential source that — for the first time in its history — the USPS will release a stamp for sale in advance of its official dedication. In response to customer demand, the 2012 Love Ribbons Stamp (item 577200) may be sold as soon as post offices receive their shipments. The First Day of Issue Ceremony will take place as scheduled on February 14 in Colorado Springs. An announcement from USPS Corporate Communications is pending. This is wonderful news and I’m so pleased the USPS made this decision!
The original blog post published yesterday (February 1, 2012) is below:
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: all the marketing and public relations in the world won’t help you if you engage in unwise business decisions.
And if there were any organization who could use all the positive publicity and good will they could get, that would be the U.S. Postal Service, the second largest civilian employer in the U.S.,
which laid off tens of thousands of employees last year (this was my error: actually the correct statement is that USPS announced in December of last year that they will eliminate 28,000 jobs) and which will shut down more than half of their mailing centers in a desperate attempt to reduce their budget deficit.
Where’s the Stamp?
I’m not sure who is responsible for this latest decision, but you should know: the Love Stamp, you know the one we all buy to put on our Valentine’s Day cards? Well, that stamp is not going to be available for sale in U.S. post offices until February 14. Valentine’s Day.
Insert Head in Sand: Not a Good PR Approach
Breaking tradition now is a huge mistake. The clerks at my post office are as upset about this as any of us romantic souls who are accustomed to buying these stamps in time to mail our Valentines. And there’s no explanation why on the USPS website, either. I don’t think that’s a very good public relations tactic, especially with first class mail expecting to drop by half by 2020.
Clearly, there was a big mistake, somewhere, but the USPS seems to be treating this situation as if they expect no one will notice, although Love stamps have been an annual February issue since 1973. Believe me, consumers are noticing.
And what a lost revenue opportunity! The Chicago Tribune reported yesterday that American shoppers will spend more on Valentine’s Day than any year previously, an estimated $126 per person. The greeting card industry in the U.S. is valued at more than $7 billion. And according to Hallmark Cards, Valentine’s Day is the second busiest time of the year for mailing greeting cards. Americans typically send more than 150 million cards and packages for Valentine’s Day.
Is not having the Love stamp going to stop them from sending cards? No.
Is realizing the Love stamp is not going to be available until Valentine’s Day going to confuse and annoy postal customers? Yes!
Maybe people will use the Love stamps for wedding invitations or Mother’s Day cards, as they have in the past. I could see that with the 2010 stamp. But this one is bright RED with pink ribbons, and it LOOKS like a Valentine. It was clearly designed to be available in time for mailing Valentines (the week before Valentine’s Day). And it isn’t going to be.
Just Tell Consumers Why! Maybe They’ll Understand (and Forgive)
In the sphere of crises that can befall an organization, perhaps not producing an annual stamp in time for Valentine’s Day sales isn’t that significant. But with no explanation at hand, postal clerks and postal customers are just going to assume the worst — that someone, somewhere at the top, made a colossal screw-up. And allowing consumers to assume the worst is never a good crisis communications strategy.
We’re human, and we have all made mistakes. I think at this point, a straight out, public admission and apology from USPS would do more good than just silence and not addressing the issue. Would it bring on negative publicity to USPS? Perhaps. But it would also confer accountability for next year.
Posted on February 1, 2012, in Marketing Tips and tagged 2012 Love Stamp, Greeting card, Hallmark Cards, Love stamp, Love stamp 2012, mail, U.S. Postal Service, United States Postal Service, USPS, Valentine, Valentines-Day. Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.