Ask someone to give you an example of good marketing, and there's a good chance they'll tell you about a television commercial they watched recently.
But any good marketer can tell you there's a lot more to good marketing than TV ads.
A lot more.
Canada Post isn't normally an organization I'd associate with particularly good marketing, but they surprised me with something in my mailbox yesterday I'm more than happy to admit was very good: "The Canadian Giftbook".
I'd forgive you if right now you're thinking, "Pullara, we're in 2021... and you think a catalogue is an example of good marketing?!?"
But this isn't a catalogue marketing Canada Post's goods and services.
It's a catalogue marketing Canada Post's customers.
This catalogue is 65 pages, and almost every page showcases three different online retailers. Every retailer section features an image, a logo, a brief description of what they sell, a website address, and an offer or incentive to visit the website and buy something.
It doesn't take a marketing genius to understand what's going on here: if you visit the website and buy something, it needs to be shipped to you.
And while I didn't see this explicitly stated anywhere in the catalogue, it's a very safe bet that every retailer featured is a Canada Post customer... that will be paying Canada Post to deliver whatever items you order.
Canada Post is spending its marketing dollars to promote its customers because when those online businesses grow, so does Canada Post's shipping revenue. That's a win-win.
And it's absolutely good marketing... because marketing's ultimate job is to drive sales.
Not to make you laugh while interrupting your favourite show, not to win fancy awards at advertising festivals: marketing's job is to drive sales. Period.
And done well, it does exactly that. If you get this catalogue, flip through it, see a retailer that intrigues you, visit that retailer's website, and end up buying something... that's a direct return on this marketing investment.
Granted, this could have even been great marketing if Canada Post had done just two things differently:
1. They should have included an index at the back of the catalogue. This might seem like a small, nitpicky detail, but it's not: many of the businesses featured are small and medium enterprise (SME) businesses that don't have a lot of brand recognition. And unless I'm motivated enough to flip through 65 pages of retailers -- which I'm probably not -- I'd never know the catalogue was showcasing a unique globe bird-feeder at a great price, because I wouldn't know that this is what "Veseys" sells. The details matter.*
2. They should have framed this guide as a "Small Business Support Guide" instead of as a "Canadian Gift Guide". Why does that matter? Because while the majority of customers featured in this catalogue appear to be SMEs, there are a few very, very large ones that stand out: retail giants like Amazon.ca and Walmart to name just two that don't need Canada Post's promotional assistance.
The frustrating part is that it seems Canada Post started to go down this path... then got lost. On page 16 of the catalogue, instead of showcasing three retailers, there was a headline in both of Canada's official languages: "Discover small businesses doing big things".
And glued to that page was an eight-page mini booklet recognizing 15 small businesses, "who have evolved, thrived, and contributed to their communities".
The entire guide should have been presented in a similar fashion because doing so would have had three major benefits:
1. It would have positioned Canada Post as a hero to SMEs: a company willing to invest its marketing dollars to showcase small brands and help them compete with the Amazons of the world. That would have not only ultimately increased Canada Post's revenues but also strengthened its relationships with SME customers.
2. By creating a Small Business Support Guide, it would have been easy to justify excluding those large customers who might otherwise be upset at not getting their fair share of Canada Post's marketing attention: "Amazon, we would have loved to include you in this catalogue, but this is a guide intended to help SMEs after what's been a really rough two years for them... and you're clearly not an SME." Those large customers might not have been delighted with the rationale, but they likely wouldn't have been furious either.
3. It would have captured the attention of Canadians who would love to actively support small businesses, but often turn to the big ones because that's what they know.
But I digress.
This catalogue is good marketing, and Canada Post should be applauded for using their marketing dollars so strategically.
This initiative probably won't win any Cannes Lions.
But it probably will help drive some new business for a number of SME customers, who will, in turn, spend more with Canada Post.
And that's a much, much bigger win.
* In fairness, the online version of the Gift Guide solves this problem by allowing me to shop by category, but an index would have addressed the problem in the print version too.