Thursday, August 23, 2012

"D’oh!" USPS has to eat $1.2M in unsold Simpson stamps

When it comes to targeting, the post office knows as much as Homer does about nuclear power.

A report filed by the Postal Service inspector general today pointed to a mass overproduction on a run of The Simpsons Commemorative Stamps back in 2009 and 2010 as evidence to the USPS’s sustained failure to operate efficiently.
“If the Postal Service can’t address a simple matter such as determining how many commemorative stamps to produce, it shows they can’t address the larger problems,” Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, said. “Unfortunately, even a small item can create larger problems.”

Commissioned to commemorate the series’ landmark 20th season, the USPS anticipated demand to exceed that of their Elvis Presley promotion 2-fold.

They printed 1B of the collection featuring Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie.

More than two years later, the USPS still holds 682M Simpson stamps in unsold inventory.

Nowhere to go

Marked with a face-value of 44 cents, the unused stamps are now a penny under the rate required to deliver a standard envelope. And with the advent of the Forever Stamp, the USPS no longer produces the 1 cent stamps that used to make up the difference between rate increases.

Who’s Your AOR, Post Office?

We asked the same question of NASA in a post back in February. And we realize government-run organizations aren’t provided the big ad budgets afforded free market entities.

But, come on!

How can you miscalculate anticipated demand by so much that nearly 69% of your stock falls into obsolescence still sitting in inventory?

Now, I’m a HUGE fan of The Simpsons (I’ll take anyone on in a game of Springfield trivia).

I had the stamps. But, only because my grandma sent them to me. And it took me the bulk of a year to use the wallet of 20 she sent – some making their way onto Christmas cards just to deplete my stock.

Do you know your target market at all?

I took it upon myself to draw a Venn diagram comparing fans of The Simpsons with Post Office regulars.
To start, the market for stamps skews much (much) older. Didn’t the rise of online bill pay teach you anything? Only blue-hairs (see ref. 1 and 2) come into the Post Office nowadays (Marge Simpson EXcluded). Although it’s been on TV for 20+ years, The Simpson’s target demo still remains younger by comparison.

Furthermore, I’m guessing that a woman/matriarch calls the shots at the majority of households still in the market for stamps. With a fan base derived of mostly men, another misfire for team Homer and Marge.

So stamps are still popular with older women who like to pay their bills via mail and send cards to the grand kids while The Simpsons is popular among liberal, late 20’s/early 30-something males?

It’s no wonder the Elvis stamps danced right off the shelves while The Simpsons sat collecting dust.

Licensing is great, but only when the demographics of licensee and licensor align.
Otherwise it’s one big “D’oh!”

Thursday, August 16, 2012

New Logo, Hold the ‘Pizza' - Domino’s Continues to Navigate the Sea of Change.

The first step to change is recognizing you have a problem.

Since 2008, the undisputed leader in pizza delivery has been full steam ahead on their campaign to self-improvement. First was menu expansion then an open and honest, fully transparent campaign to reinvent their pizza recipe from the ground up (which we reviewed earlier this year in Embrace Your Haters).

Next stop: enhanced in-store experience.

Consumer behavior has changed. While delivery still makes up the majority of Domino’s business, 30% of customers are now opting for in-store pickup.

With employee-selected music blasting from a corner boom box and little more than a dingy gumball machine boasting sun-faded Skittles and Runts, legacy storefronts are not the most inviting to patrons.

This year more than a dozen test locations have popped up across the US. Boasting new customer-centric features like comfortable seating and big-screen TVs, virtual order kiosks and grab-and-go refrigerators containing soda, salads, yogurt parfaits, cookies, and milk.
"What happened to the gumball machine?!"
The most radical new addition however, is a totally re-imagined open-kitchen concept.

The Pizza Theater

In an effort to exude increased consumer confidence in freshness – Domino’s new kitchen concept forces total transparency into the pizza-making process.

From closed off, dark and dingy to open, bright and cheery – Domino’s is making the final turn in their journey towards total business transformation!

Last stop: an updated logo.

Our favorite part!

No doubt the best way to signal there’s something new on the inside is by changing what’s on the outside.
Nothing revolutionary here. Rather, a logical next-step in the life of an image that has grown tired with time.

We love it.

Preserving the past while setting the tone for the future, Domino’s new badge follows the trend of tried-and-true compromise. Gone is the visual so akin to the look of their delivery box. The next iteration maintains the signature red and blue – now combined onto the face of the domino.

A signal of what’s to come?

We wonder if by dropping “pizza” from their name, the chain is preparing for an even wider menu extension (See the Starbucks Coffee 2011 logo redesign for more info).

The updated logo is also; shall we say, more palatable for social/mobile consumption? Built-in to the simple, crisper look is the ability to scale down without compromising integrity. Whether on the big or small screen, billboard giant or social media avatar, Domino’s new look makes an impact.

But is the logo instantly recognizable the world over?

We’ll soon find out.

Like the Nike “swoosh,” Target bullseye, and Ronald’s Golden Arches, Domino’s intends to use two variations on their new look – one with and one without text.

Regardless, we’ve been a fan since the onset of Domino’s self-induced road to recovery and we’re delighted to see they’re committed to staying the course.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Rogue billboards shock Vegas drivers - advertising's key takeaways...

Two billboards along the Las Vegas stretch of Interstate 15 caused quite a stir during yesterday morning’s commute.
“Hope you’re Happy Wall St.” and “Dying for Work,” the two graffiti-styled messages were not the work of legit advertising, but vandalism.

But can you imagine if one of these caught your eye during rush hour?

Traveling the well-worn routine at 60+ mph, would you have been able to gauge and dismiss the legitimacy of the bodies swinging just below the chaotic message?

Shockingly morbid, regardless.

Luckily, few people saw them.

While no immediate leads on the parties responsible, the billboards were taken down within a few hours of the first frantic call.

Following their quick response, local law enforcement officers were bragging about how “the vandal’s intended message failed,” but did it really?

Shock value helps with message retention.

Helps?! It basically guarantees it.

Sure, the span of time the mannequins were left hanging was brief, but what an impact made on those that saw it! Even those just catching a glimpse on the evening news or next morning’s paper will feel some of the affect.

Why? Because the haunting nature of a hanging body is universal.

Beyond reminding us all of our own mortality, it broaches the tender and somewhat unspeakable subject of suicide. In this particular case, it associates it with the desperation/sense of failure that stems from job loss.

With the highest sustained unemployment of any state and no real hope in sight, the acts will no doubt trigger emotion in the exposed demographic (Nevada/Las Vegas-area residents). 

Now we know these rogue advertisements weren’t produced for any brand or legit cause, but their impact begs the question:

When it comes to securing recall, how far can you take “shock?”

Physical danger, raw emotion and sex – all ok (and highly effective) when applied to advertising.

But what if a movie currently playing in theaters (i.e., Seth MacFarlane’s Ted) elected to promote via mention of Batman and the Aurora, CO theater shooting from last month? Suppose they crack a light joke in hopes of increasing their own patronage?

Too soon? Never OK?

To be effective, shock-value should be ambiguous and vague.

It can’t be tied to a specific event, isolated or universal, or it becomes too real.
Don’t get me wrong – taking shock too far still increases recall (I would argue more so than shock in its mild- to moderate-form) – but often at the detriment of brand equity.

Make no mistake.

The billboards got their message out loud and clear. Had they have been linked to a specific company or association however; the brand would not have received any residual benefit.

In an area plagued with job loss and increased thoughts/instances of suicide, they hit below the belt.

No one likes a bully.

Don’t cross the line with shock. Use sparingly.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Are London's 2012 Logo and Typeface the Worst in Olympic History?

Most def.

I'll admit I haven't watched much of the Olympics this summer.

But thanks to the proliferation of TVs in public spaces, it feels like I have.

At bars, restaurants, and inside taxis; accessing office elevators, curling weights at the gym, and folding whites in the laundry room – the London Games have become the backdrop to my daily routine.

But with even just the corner of my marginally-interested eye, I can see that something is glaringly off. 

What the heck were they thinking with that logo and font?!

How did we forget to mention London with all the fuss we made over the 2020 candidate city logos?!

We discussed the necessity of finding balance between preserving the Olympic legacy and honoring one’s unique culture; that it had to be virtuous and inspirational, possessing a feeling of highest honor.

The logo looks like someone dropped it on the floor, picked up the broken shards and decided to use it anyways.

Or it's prehistoric ruble, better suited for constructing Fred and Wilma’s house than carrying the legacy of the Olympics forward.
And that font! Rigid, casual, and downright cryptic.

This is the Official Games of the XXX Olympiad - not an invite to your son's 6th birthday party.

It doesn’t just fall short on the weight and regality of the games; it reduces them to child’s play.

Missed Memo?

Wikipedia notes public reaction to the logo in June of 2007 was largely negative. More than 80% of voters gave the logo the lowest possible rating.

Why armed with such an overwhelming public opinion to the contrary would the Olympic Committee elect to stay the course? And with a more than 5 year lead time?!

It’s maddening (but what do I know?)

Although I feel Sochi Russia’s 2014 Winter Olympic logo is equally unimaginative and clunky (not to mention, a bit of an 80's throwback) – it received high praise. The first Olympic logo to contain the website URL (, it’s believed the mark will resonate with younger generation viewers.

Whad’ya know, only 28, and yet already out of touch with what’s hip, new and now. :)