Consigned to history

4th November 2005 at 00:00
Postman Pat, as parents of small children know, is a really happy man. Bosses of post offices might learn something from his approach.

They might realise the advantages of being an old-fashioned stick-in-the-mud. Trying to drag a postal service into the 21st century is risky. Japan's prime minister had to call an election this autumn in the face of uproar at his plan to privatise the country's post office. He won.

Others have not been so lucky in their attempts to force through change.

In March 2001, the UK's Post Office, a 400-year-old institution that generated affection and debt, changed its name. It wanted a title to reflect that it did much more than deliver letters and keep people waiting in queues. After all, it was an international operation, one that owned call centres and believed in e-business. The bosses also thought rebranding would help get rid of "silo" thinking, where the separate bits of the organisation kept themselves to themselves and the public didn't understand (and maybe didn't care) how they all fitted together.

So the consultants were called in. They discovered that people regarded Postman Pat and his colleagues as trustworthy, honourable and brave. But never mind. Clearly it was more important to assess the Post Office's "brand aims" and study its "three Ps" - not parcels, passports and postboxes, but physique, personality and presentation. Then they did lots of work - they were being paid lots of money - and came up with a pink Venn diagram speckled with words such as ambition, mission and focus, intended to bring together "the hard and soft aspects of brand's desired positioning".

Then, after two years of head-scratching, they came up with the name "Consignia". Group chief executive John Roberts declared the name "modern, meaningful and entirely appropriate". A bemused public declared it, to paraphrase, "mad, meaningless, and, err, isn't he an Italian soccer player?" Fourteen months later, the ridiculed name had gone, in yet another Pounds 1million rebranding exercise. Now Britain has a Royal Mail, and a retired John Roberts is happily serving on the Stamp Advisory Committee.

Now that's the kind of job Postman Pat would understand.

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