Today’s episode of The Peoples Post explored the issue of modernising the Post Office, looking particularly at the development of postcodes.
In order for the introduction of postcodes to succeed the public needed to be willing to adopt them. Psychological studies showed that the best means of achieving this was for the postcodes to “compromise familiarity and brevity”. Once a system of postcodes encompassing both these virtues was developed and rolled out, the next step was for the Post Office to publicise the new means of addressing the mail.
The Post Office invested heavily in a range of campaigns to increase the use of postcodes. In the late 1970s these campaigns were intended to “remind, not persuade people to use their postcodes”. This recognised that the main reason for not using a postcode was forgetfulness, rather than outright resistance to postcodes.
One character helping promote postcodes in the 1980s was Poco the elephant. Although the use of an elephant in publicity campaigns played on people’s forgetfulness when using postcodes, Poco himself is well remembered by visitors to the Royal Mail Archive. In addition to this poster, we also have a range of other material produced as part of this campaign, including a pen, a sweatshirt, a badge, and a vinyl record (the Postcode Song, with Poco on the cover).
Other campaigns, such as the one below from the 1970s, attempted to use storytelling as a means of increasing the use of postcodes. This style of poster gave more scope to explain why postcodes were important. The storytelling element also helped members of the public relate to familiar situations.
Finally this poster from the 1980s uses the notion of a romantic rendezvous to drive the postcode message home.
This romance echoes attempts in the 1930s to promote the use of London postal districts, as beautifully portrayed in the film N or NW.
– Helen Dafter, Archivist