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!”


  1. Add to the fact that those of us young enough to still visit the Post Office will likely do so after hours (or want to avoid lines). We use the fabulous new APC machines at the post office. And these machines only spit out the awfully bland Lady Liberty stamps. Though the line I'd have to wait through to hand-pick my Simpsons stamps would make a great Instagram, ain't nobody got time for dat!

  2. The issue of The Simpsons stamps being a flop wouldn't have applied if it was now because now all stamps are produced as Forever stamps, which also means they can still be available from post offices and other authorized locations, e.g. supermarkets until sold, whereas in those days stamps had numbers on them, so any stamps of the old rate that post offices and other authorized locations still had after a rate increase would have to be sent back for destruction and a timely replacement of stamps with the new number. (No, there are no longer numbers on stamps anymore.)