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    This is the personal blog of Simon Kendrick and covers my interests in media, technology and popular culture. All opinions expressed are my own and may not be representative of past or present employers
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Matter box’s physical failings

Matter is a joint venture between the Royal Mail and Artomatic. In an increasingly digital world, it is designed to promote the physical through sending people packages of “brands you can hold”.

It is a great example of both permission marketing (click through to a page where you can get the first 4 chapters of Seth Godin’s classic book) and marketing as a service.

Everyone can benefit. Consumers get free gifts. Brands create awareness in a positive, non-intrusive manner. And the Royal Mail reminds people of the simple joy of receiving a mystery package.

One trick I felt the participant brands missed this time was creating something unique of ongoing value – a social object, if you will. This package was primarily free samples, whereas the pilot Matter box contained branded items such as crayons, a keyring and a sweatband. Free samples are obviously a proven method of promotion, but it doesn’t feel like a gift in the way that a specially commissioned item does.

That is a minor gripe. My major gripe is unfortunately with the Royal Mail’s service.

As a society, we appear to be increasingly intolerant of inconvenience. We expect things to work. Because if it doesn’t in this age of choice, we can go elsewhere. Witness the furore of Twitter‘s downtime, and the Fail Whale. Yet according to Royal Pingdom, Twitter still had 98.72% uptime.

The Royal Mail may claim 99.93% reliability, but that is going to vary by package type. I seem to have no trouble receiving bills or junk mail. Packages on the other hand are a different matter.

My local sorting office has a reputation for incompetence, and in my experience that is perfectly justified. Packages have been left outside my flat, recorded delivery mail has been posted through the door, and “Sorry we missed you” messages have both shown up when I’ve had nothing to collect, and not arrived when I have.

So, of course my Matter box didn’t arrive last week. And I wasn’t alone.

I  commend Tim Milne at Artomatic for swiftly despatching replacement boxes. My second box did arrive safe and sound.

Matter is supposed to promote the benefits of physical products. But it is also highlighting the drawbacks. I may not be able to hold digital products, but I can at least be reassured by the reliability, accountability and transparency of transactions.


Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lwr/

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6 Responses

  1. Very true. I hadn’t thought about the irony of having my Matterbox delivered to work because I know from bitter experience that there is no point having parcels sent to my house (where the postman always rings no times)

  2. Hi Graeme, thanks for commenting. I had considered doing the same thing, but I don’t think the mailroom would have appreciated my package in among the Christmas post, no matter how tenuously I could try and claim it was for work purposes.

  3. Hi Simon,

    Sorry to hear you had troubles with delivery. I can honestly say that most people recieved their Matter on time . However, with such a large mailing it was inevitable that a minority would be subjected to human error. I can only apologise and hope that you feel we handled the situation efficiently and professionally – if not, please email us and let us know what we need to consider doing differently next time.

    The only thing I would take issue with is your statement that; “I may not be able to hold digital products, but I can at least be reassured by the reliability, accountability and transparency of transactions”……..We all know that simply is not the case. Now I’m all for everything digital – given my age, I know no different! However, we all know that technology is subject to error the same as humans are – technology breaks, viruses cause havoc, websites crash etc… etc… Just the same as sometimes, mail gets delayed or goes to the wrong place. The thing is, physical items will always have a greater pay-off…..Its akin to saying, I’d rather download an mp3 rather than go to see the live show – the mp3 is quicker, easier and has less risk attached but the live show is worth all the effort.

    Anyway, many thanks for baring with us and many thanks for writing about Matter.

    Kind regards,
    Warren @ Matter

  4. Hi Warren

    Thanks for commenting. As I mentioned, I think Matter is a great initiative and I was impressed with the swift response to my complaint.

    I have no argument about the advantages of events and physical products over purely digital. Looking back at my post, I am conflating digital products with digital purchasing, which isn’t the same thing. The myriad confirmation and tracking options of online purchasing can of course be applied to physical products, to the consumer’s benefit.

    In terms of purely distribution, the pay-off of physical may be greater, but the speed and reliability (in my opinion) of digital does offer a viable alternative. Both have advantages. Both have disadvantages. And choice is good.

    However, I am looking forward to receiving my next box 🙂

  5. Hello!
    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

  6. Hello !! 🙂
    I am Piter Kokoniz. oOnly want to tell, that your blog is really cool
    And want to ask you: will you continue to post in this blog in future?
    Sorry for my bad english:)
    Thank you!

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