Monday, October 16, 2006


I had run to the post office for a couple rolls of stamps.

"That's $78," the clerk said. I handed her my credit card. "Oh. Uh would you like anything else? A calendar? A teddy bear?"

"A teddy bear?" I laughed. "No just the stamps."

"They make us do that. Sell other stuff," the clerk explained, embarrassed.

"I know," I said. "I work in marketing. I understand."

I felt bad for the clerk. Selling teddy bears was not a natural extension of her relationship with the customer. It was just an add-on sale and it felt awkward for her and for me. The problem is the post office's self-serving perspective on marketing. And they're not alone.

Marketing, as we define it today, is all about selling stuff.

Unfortunately, if you study marketing, at its deepest level, it's suppose to be customer centered. And although quick-selling gimmicks will help boost sales temporarily, in the end they can erode the brand's relationship with the customer.

I believe good marketing is, to coin a phrase, "nonmarketing". The focus needs to be more about customer-serving products than self-serving profits. It's about service more than selling.

In the post office's case, the problem is unfocused brand extension. Who goes to the post office to buy a plush toy? Can you imagine what Beth would say if I gave her a USPS teddy bear for our anniversary? (Don't think I haven't done worse!)

Wouldn't the post office build more long-term sales by developing services that compete more effectively with FedEx, UPS or DHL? And barring that, what if they more aggressively promoted philately (stamp collections). That's more of a natural brand extension and an exclusive product line only they can market.

By the way, let me know if you'd like to buy "PromOs", the new Sasso Marketing breakfast cereal. (Slogan: "Eat your competition for breakfast".)

- Phil Sasso

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