Queen’s head to go from stamps in Royal Mail sell-off?
One of the greatest derelictions of brand ownership in the modern age is apparently about to occur at Royal Mail, the UK’s largest publisher of stamps. The draft legislation for the Royal Mail’s disposal, prepared by the previous socialist Labour administration in the UK, failed to guarantee that the production of stamps would carry the monarch’s head. For any brand manager, the failure to protect a brand asset such as this would result in instant dismissal but in the case of this decision, government legislation was “deliberately vague”. Apparently, this was planned.
In an era where successive governments have been selling England by the pound (to quote seventies prog-rock group Genesis), such moves as this hardly come as a surprise any more yet what does it mean for a brand of social cohesion such as the Royal Mail?
In true British fudged style, the current government claims that to remove the monarch’s head would be “commercial suicide” for any new owner of the Royal Mail – but they have not safeguarded the feature in law. Given the role that items such as currency and stamps have in national identity, the greatest dereliction, surely, is that the government itself has failed to safeguard such a fundamental.
It’s almost as if the government, and the civil servants who run the country, have lost sight of their vision, purpose and direction. They don’t know why they exist or who they are working for. They have become self-serving beaurocrats.
Many companies with long-standing legacy brands often fall victim to similar “whimsies of a cracked imagination”, to paraphrase Seventeenth Century antiquarian William Stukeley. When staff become over-familiar with brand assets they then come to lose an understanding of the emotional link between consumer and company. Indeed, we see this phenomenon today as e-books and e-readers become the new brand drivers of the publishing industry rather than publishers themselves.
But in the Royal Mail’s case, this singular approach to a core asset is an act of wanton depravity: an assumption that no-one cares. Of course, like any state-run business, contempt for customers is a given. But the only result of this curious decision will surely be a further decline in customer loyalty, lower sales, and one more reason for people to believe that individualism is far more preferable than social cohesion. We move ever-closer to those nightmare visions of the future where mega corporations take control of social mores as highlighted so famously in films such as Robocop and Blade Runner.
There is still time to reverse this crackpot brand decision. But somehow (given the fact that this development leaked into the national news on a Sunday) I doubt it. Someone’s head surely must roll for this. Alas, in an era of crass stupidity, it looks likely to be the monarch’s.
Sic transit gloria mundi, we must say.