Marketing philately is different

I have collected stamps for the past 45 years and I have been trading (buying & selling) for the last 35 years.  During this time I have witnessed stamps dropping from one of the biggest hobbies in Ireland to being a minority interest – with no young collectors and only a handful of elderly gentlemen.

  • According to Facebook’s data, there are less than 100 stamp collectors in Ireland !

Our national stamp exhibition has turned into a coin fair – with only 4 stamp dealers present and no juvenile exhibits.  Philately is dying in Ireland and is probably doing likewise elsewhere in the world.  This has nothing to do with recessionary times – prices are still high at auction but this is due to the activity at the top of the pyramid.  The base of the pyramid has been steadily eroding since the early 1990s and nothing is being done by the philatelic societies or the dealers to halt this trend.

philatelic pyramid 2014

The numbers of advanced collectors remains stable as the layers below diminish and, ultimately, disappear.  There are no junior collectors, improvers are almost gone, and the top layer will collapse soon (as old collectors die and there are no new advanced collectors to replace them.

I have also seen many very costly marketing initiatives (aimed at junior collectors) by a variety of philatelic administrations fail.

  • Some of the ideas, materials and content were of the highest quality but they still failed.
  • Seasoned marketing professionals executed these plans but they still failed.
  • They understood traditional marketing funnels.
    • And the current crop understand the modern digital marketing funnel.
  • They all fully understood their respective sales funnels.
    • And the current crop understand the modern digital sales funnel.
  • So, why did they fail?

The answer is quite simple – none of them fully understood the developmental stages of stamp collectors

This, in marketing terms, is the ‘customer journey’ and it is not a short trip !

Over the past year, Salesforce Marketing Cloud has conducted a number of original research studies, benchmark reports, and marketing leadership surveys.  The ones relevant to this article include the following :-

  • 86% of senior-level marketers agree that it’s important to create a cohesive ‘customer journey’ across all touch points and channels – The State of Marketing Leadership
    • Only 29% of enterprise companies rate themselves as effective at creating a cohesive customer journey
    • How many Philatelic Bureaux have done this?

Philatelic marketers can makes excuses about “competition from other, more modern hobbies” + better TV + computer games … but the fundamental fact is nowadays very few young children collect stamps, or have ever collected stamps.

  • An Post’s Philatelic Bureau seem to be completely ignoring social media
  • Their content is good (but could be a lot better)
  • And they are not using social media to disseminate their content

Up until recently, philatelic bureaux have been moderately successful in attracting subscriptions from parents and grandparents because these people themselves used to collect stamps and are advocates of how educational and entertaining the hobby is.  Not any more – the number of parents with philatelic experience is diminishing and the fortunes of philatelic marketing is diminishing with them.

At this late stage, nothing short of a completely new approach to marketing philately will succeed.

We have a huge PR opportunity coming up this month, i.e. the rarest and most valuable stamp in the world is about to be sold and it is expected that a new world record will be set at auction.  This stamp has a wonderful background (found by a schoolboy in a bundle of family letters), sold via quick succession of deals to one of the world’s wealthiest and foremost collectors of the time – Count Philippe la Renotiere von Ferrary.  See my previous blog post re this stamp.

1856 British Guiana one cent magenta

The famous 1856 British Guiana one cent magenta is expected to make between $15m and $20m at auction this month.

In my considered opinion, the only way to develop a new generation of collectors is to do so via primary school teachers and content/materials aimed at the most junior of collectors – up to intermediate collectors.  Intermediate collectors and advanced collectors are the people who subscribe to philatelic bureau and continue to do so for the rest of their lives but they HAVE to become junior collectors first.

We, as philatelic marketers, have to “re-create” the junior collector and their marketplace.

This is difficult because

  • for obvious reasons, it is not a good idea for adults to interact with juveniles via the internet
  • it is also difficult to organise for third parties to visit primary schools uninvited

My marketing plan involves

  • interacting with trainee primary school teachers in their teacher training colleges
    • communicate the educational benefits of philately
    • communicate the career benefits of setting up a popular educational hobby
  • motivating the ‘newly qualified’ primary school teachers to introduce philately as a project within their curriculum
    • encourage them to organise inter-school competitions with neighbouring schools
    • help them set up a primary schools philatelic organisation run by primary school teachers
      • free start-up materials, teaching aids and a set of competition guidelines would be provided
      • ultimately, it would be up to the teachers to develop the initiative further

For children (and parents) that wish to pursue the hobby further, there would be additional information and downloads (printable stamp albums and beginners’ guides) available via specialist website.  For example,

  • downloadable stamp album (current countries of the world)
  • downloadable stamp album (obsolete countries of the world)
  • downloadable country stamp identifier

For any philatelic bureau out there wishing to find out more about my ideas …

  • My name is James O’Brien
  • I have recently qualified for a Graduate Certificate in Management (Digital Marketing) and hope to progress this to an MSc (Digital Marketing) in the coming year
    • Dublin City University (NVQ, Level 9)
  • I have 45 years’ experience in stamp collecting and philately
    • I know how philatelic interest develops as a hobby
    • I fully understand how a stamp collector progresses from junior to advanced stage
  • I have 35 years’ trading experience at fairs, markets and auctions in Ireland, the UK and mainland Europe
    • I know what stamp collectors want, what they don’t want, and what they dislike
    • I know why they start buying from a bureau and why they cancel their annual subscriptions

If you found this article useful, please connect with me and endorse some of my skills on Linkedin

or follow me on Twitter

or follow me on Pinterest

Thank you.

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