Address Association Proposal
This proposal is circulating in the postal and marketing communities world-wide and is beginning to generate interest as the end of the recession is being perceived. We invite readers to comment on this proposal on this blog or by sending a comment to email@example.com.
PROPOSAL FOR A COMMON PROJECT ON POSTAL DATA
Addresses are the fuel that drives postal delivery, direct mail, and numerous critical economic, political and social elements. Address systems are essential for the delivery of emergency services, for efficient urban planning, for building utility and communication networks, and much else.
Postal addresses are “geo-locators” which permit the easily recognizable and communicable name of a location of a place or individual. For the most part, addresses and address systems are the province of the postal systems world-wide, but their impact and uses are broader than this.
Postal systems, and the businesses which are in the developed world their primary customers, are in crisis, but this crisis will pass. As the crisis is resolved, there will come a realization that one of the traumas that was occurring was the world’s struggling to accommodate a global economic structure in which 1/3rd of the world’s population consumed and spent, while the other 2/3rd’s constructed, sold, and saved. One of the realizations growing in the world is that at least one more third of the world’s population, if not even more, must join the consumer society and spend.
With economic recovery we foresee an enormous global increase in direct mail marketing and home and office delivery of products. The posts will recover and benefit from this change, globally. Along with them will be the other players in this communication path, envelope manufacturers, box makers, express companies, etc. But only if mail and parcels can be delivered to identifiable people in identifiable, that is, geo-locatable, places.
But there is a weakness in much of the developed world and in all of the developing world that will prevent optimization of this recovery and maximization of the opportunity presented. That is the weaknesses of the address, and address systems, including the dearth of such systems.
Direct marketers have frequently remarked on this problem. When they complain of the difficulty of approaching a market, it is often due to the inadequacy of the address system in a country. Mailers generally look to their data management service providers and others to assure that their address data is as accurate and current as possible. These providers in turn deal with the posts, generally on an individual basis, to obtain the appropriate data, to the extent it is available.
There is a great deal of friction and unnecessary expense in that system. The data obtained from posts is:
- Expensive. In some cases it is nearly extortionate.
- Time consuming and work intensive to obtain
- Not universally available
- Non-uniform in its form, make-up, or layout, thus costly to process.
- Non-uniform in coverage of the nation.
- In probably something in excess of 2/3rd’s of the world’s population, non-existent.
As much as these companies may recognize all these issues, there has not been to date enough incentive for them to approach a common solution to this problem. However, to the extent more elements of the postal and express-dependent industrial world understand the opportunities before them, the number of interested parties will increase. Moreover, international development agencies are also coming to the realization that the lack of a postal address system restrains economic growth. After my urging and the UPU’s efforts, the World Bank has concluded that it will include a “postal factor” in its index which measures the climate of business-friendliness of countries known as Doing Business.
It is proposed that a concentrated program of advocacy and education conducted in a professional fashion over the course of 2 years could dramatically change this situation for the benefit of all market participants – manufacturers, mailers, processors, and posts.
The benefits are numerous.
For processors and service providers, faster and more cost-effective data acquisition, in a form that requires less management to become profitable, and perhaps a central mechanism to drive further efficiencies into the acquisition of what is, in essence, a form of commodity that has not yet been standardized.
For mailers, more accurate and uniform data, perhaps faster access to change of address data, better targeting and improved response rates.
For posts, assurance that they are optimizing the revenue potential of the address system asset.
For envelope and paper manufacturers and other vendors in the direct marketing process, more consumers in more places receiving more mail, catalogs and parcels.
The Action Proposal
The action proposed is that a small leadership group be formed drawing from interested industry segments to meet to discuss the possibility of the formation of an industry “Address Data Coalition”. The coalition would set as its goal the formation of work groups with different populations of posts to discuss the common issues and identify ways in which the inefficiencies of getting correct address data to mailers can be eliminated. We would envision one group focused on Western Europe, one on Central and Eastern Europe, and one on Asia. Clearly, it would also be possible to prioritize the regions if necessary.
These work groups would focus first on outreach to posts to articulate as a group the difficulties experienced and the economic importance to all players in removing those difficulties. Second, having built awareness of the problem, the groups would meet to identify hopefully common solutions acceptable to all players, and timeframes for implementation.
The Author’s Credentials.
Charles Prescott, an international lawyer with 10 years’ experience in committee and association management and 20 years’ experience in the direct mail industry, proposes to act as Executive Director of this project and at this point in time seeks indications of interest in this project. Mr. Prescott was until recently the Vice President, International Business Development, of the US Direct Marketing Association. He is now in the private practice of law relating to privacy, marketing, postal issues, and international trade and investment. Mr. Prescott, as a representative of the Global Envelope Alliance, is Chairman of the Consultative Committee of the UPU.
The Role of the UPU and the Wider Industry
It is imperative that this project be pursued in full communication with the UPU and its extremely energetic Address Group, but not specifically within the purview of the UPU. We see a mutually informative and supportive interconnecting set of goals and projects that nevertheless take different approaches at different levels over different time frames. The UPU work program and working procedures are focused on specific postal technical and development projects whose realization will be of major benefit to UPU member posts and ultimately to the mailing customer. Their highly technical, and important, work program is outlined and planned for the next four years and the resources and personnel available for that program will be more than fully-engaged in fulfilling the plans approved by the UPU membership. These projects are undertaken from the viewpoint of postal systems.
This proposed project focuses solely on business needs and goals, and obtaining understanding and operational changes to existing systems, not, at this stage, installing new ones or developing systems in the developing world.
The business world has to begin to get its postal partners ready for the end of the recession in the next two years. In short, this project sets other advocacy and influence goals that aim above the UPU technical development level to the topmost decision levels. This is not to say that the UPU should not be involved as an important and very interested participant and supporter. To the contrary, the UPU is rightly viewed as a critical credentialing partner to the project for the purpose of reaching the proper levels of postal administrations and to access the United Nations and development agencies.
This project should be articulated, planned, managed, and funded by industry, and its thought leadership, working methodology and goals should be shared in a totally transparent fashion with the UPU and other UN agencies.
Does this proposal accurately set out the need to be addressed and the benefits to be obtained?
Is this the optimal way to proceed?
Comments and suggestions are very welcome.
Charles A. Prescott