Pitney Bowes: how the mail pioneer is transforming its brand at the intersection of digital and physical commerce
Pitney Bowes has launched a new brand identity and communications platform as it evolves into a sophisticated tech vendor. Bill Borrelle, senior vice-president of brand strategy and integrated marketing communications, discusses with Marketing the firm’s marketing evolution and its moves in the Australian market.
From a marketer’s perspective, the transformation of 95-year-old Pitney Bowes from mailing and shipping provider to sophisticated global tech firm is an issue of awareness and one of perception versus reality.
Those that work with Pitney Bowes – it boasts 90% of the Fortune 500 and million and a half small businesses – are obviously aware of its offerings, and its contribution to the early days of mass mail was pioneering, but the company is currently faced with the challenge and opportunity to educate more of the market about it’s new offerings at the intersection of the physical and digital worlds.
As senior VP of integrated marketing communications, Bill Borrelle oversees brand strategy, advertising, demand generation, events, social media, creative services organisation, ecommerce, websites and more, globally.
Marketing: How do you summarise the opportunity and challenge that Pitney Bowes currently faces?
Bill Borrelle: I think of it as an awareness challenge, and a perception versus reality challenge. In terms of the larger business context, we are seeing incredible growth in digital commerce businesses, that enable commerce on the digital end of things, and through acquisition, and through our own innovation, we’re seeing tremendous growth in digital commerce.
In the physical space, we still see great vitalisation in things like mail, and mail communications, and we focus on really re-asserting the value of mail, and also, sitting at the intersection as our clients do, between physical commerce and digital commerce. How do they go together?
We take pride in that intersection and that’s part of our transformation story.
M: Is the ‘Craftsmen of Commerce’ a big change in what you’ve done before in communications strategy? It’s a big, inspirational manifesto.
BB: It is a first, it is a change, it is quite different. It’s the first time in more than 20 years that we’ve undertaken a mass rebranding and mass messaging approach. It’s another step in the transformation of Pitney Bowes. We’re building greater awareness about our solutions in software and in digital commerce, which are growing businesses that the world is not as aware of. These are things like customer information management and software solutions for customer engagement.
We’re kind of a unique company in that we have a heritage in physical commerce, which is mailing and physical communications, and we’re 95 years old, but we have growing businesses in the land of digital commerce, ecommerce. Businesses that help, for example, domestic retailers expand their global footprint by opening up their digital storefront to the world, and cross border commerce.
Many new businesses, a new story to tell, and that is what ‘Craftsmen of Commerce’ is embodying.
M: I don’t think anyone would choose to start an entirely physical mail business today, but at the same time it’s still extremely important – how are you keeping that balance?
BB: I’d say a couple of things. The first point is that physical mail is absolutely vital and the best example of that is your monthly credit card statement and your monthly bank statement and how vital it is to the cycle of commerce that those invoices and statements go out, and those purchases are paid for. It’s the best example of the commerce cycle. The mailing of those statements and invoices, requires incredible sensitivity to data, the compliance and regulatory issues, and we kind of mastered that science. It’s a very large contribution that we have to the world of commerce.
At the same time, with the advent of digital communications and digital technology, mail is actually coming to life in different ways. You might be familiar with augmented reality, or QR Codes, which are in or out, and applied in different ways. We can see that physical mail can drive to a digital purchase more effectively than it used to. So, we’re finding our clients using mail in a very innovative ways by relying on new digital technologies.
The other thing I would say, conversely, is – and this is another interesting intersection point – we’ve launched this year something called EngageOne Video. It’s a personal interactive video. It actually helps our clients create personal video explanation of bills and statements. For the telecommunications companies of the world, the banks and insurance companies of the world, that often have complex statements and other complex documents, EngageOne Video is a digital solution to a paper communication, that brings it to life and makes it personal.
For us, taking advantage of this unique place we are, where digital and physical communications are coming together, that’s where we are, and that’s part of our transformation story.
M: Most electronic bills are PDF versions of what they might print out and send to me previously. In terms of making that sort of content easier to consume for the user, what benefit does that have for a bank or utility company, or credit card company?
BB: For a bank it can reduce call volumes, it can increase on-time payments, it can improve loyalty and retention because the customer is much more satisfied with the information. It has a business value to a bank or an insurance company, while also having a consumer value, in terms of clarity, and getting more relevance to the context and making it more personal.
It’s a good example of an innovation that is unique, and complements physical communication with a digital experience.
M: Talking about Australia for a moment – from what I understand, the ‘Craftsmen of Commerce’ campaign is US only at this point – what are the plans here, is it a growing market?
BB: Australia is a very important market to Pitney Bowes, both on the mailing side of the business and the software side of the business. In fact, the EngageOne Video that I just described is – I can’t really share specific details – seeing great traction and uptake in Australia by some leading companies.
I characterise this ‘Craftsmen of Commerce’ campaign as a global campaign. It is multi-channel, and different channels are being brought to life in different markets. Yes, the television advertising spend and the large volume of mass messaging in digital media, and in targeted media is starting out in the United States, and this gives us an opportunity to get traction, as it’s a big market for us.
At the same time, the content is being shared digitally, globally, including in Australia, and you will see over time, some of our digital assets and digital messaging and certainly our video messaging, make their way here through social media, through branded content, and in client communication where we share video content with our clients.
We do think of ‘Craftsmen of Commerce’ as a global idea, but some of the media that’s more awareness generation, in terms of television, will be focussed initially on the US.
M: Is this less of a campaign and more like a platform to use in terms of creating content and telling stories?
BB: Yes, I would call it a storytelling platform, I would not call it a campaign. It’s not here for a few months, and then going away. We undertook a very large repositioning of our brand Pitney Bowes about a year ago.
Our iconography and our strategic messaging is all very different from where we were, prior to a year ago.
This is the next natural step in that brand transformation where we’re talking about our brand and telling a story about who we are and what we do. I think you’ve categorised it really well by calling it a storytelling platform. That’s what it is. It’s here to stay. It’s not something that we view as coming and then going quickly. We’re committed to it. I think it defines us.
‘Craftsmen of Commerce’ embodies where we are uniquely placed as a company. We work in the complexity of commerce, which is billions of transactions, digital and physical. Commerce has become more complex with data, location intelligence, customs regulations, international regulations. Who better than a craftsman, who is well skilled in a particular area, to master the complexity of this new global marketplace that we live in. That is the message.
M: Can you explain the iconography, is it a finger print?
BB: I can describe the strategy behind the iconography. You’re not the first to say that it looks like a fingerprint, and we like that it has that secondary meaning, because that speaks to personalisation, it speaks to security.
The real intent is to take our founders, Arthur Pitney – the ‘P’ – and Walter Bowes –who is the ‘B’ – and they partnered together, much like you see in the image. Arthur Pitney was a technologist, he was an innovator. He created the Franking Machine back in 1920. Walter Bowes brought that hardware to market by showing the value of the application, first to the United States Postal Service, and then eventually to Australia Post, to Royal Mail, and to Posts around the world.
You may be young, and you may not realise this, but there was a time when stamps were something you had to buy at the post office, you had to lick them, they were pilfered. This was a very early form of commerce solution because the Franking Machine was automating the application of currency onto a piece of mail. That, in turn, drove up mail volumes, and over time, Arthur Pitney and Walter Bowes in essence created the mailing industry.
So the reason you see the P and the B together, is that there was a partnership there which is much like the partnership today between technology and innovation, and the application and value of that technology. We do the same thing today, with new innovation, then the circles are ripple effect, that we have when we get it right.
They had a ripple effect in the creation of the mailing industry, we today have a ripple effect in the world of commerce. That is the essence of the P and the B, and the concentric circles. There’s a bit of a bullseye look about it, which speaks to targeting, there’s a bit of a fingerprint look about it, which speaks to personalisation. But at its core, it’s really about the marriage of technology and innovation, and the application of that innovation and what that can do.