Poco – The Postcode Elephant
What has a postcode to do with a fluffy pink elephant? Read more about the Post Office's 1980s PR sensation.
In the 1970s, the Post Office was running three major publicity campaigns: mail operations, new stamp issues and postcodes.
The bright idea
Paul Diggins, Head of Public Relations and Media for Eastern Postal Region came up with a novel and long-lasting idea. ‘Poco’ was an elephant with a knot in his trunk so that he would always remember to use the postcode.
Years after his retirement, Paul recalled the successful campaign in an interview in 2014. Listen to the museum’s oral history snippet below.
Poco hitting the road…and sky
Long-suffering costumed characters pranced around travelling exhibitions and ‘Poco’s Postcode Bus’. Poco was a big hit at country shows as well in the 1980s. The Poco Rocket Plane was popular, and the postcode tent could be found by looking for the floating Poco above it. The Young Farmers set the balloon adrift one night, the Public Relations Officer was woken by a telephone call at 2 a.m. – “why is there a pink elephant flying around Stanstead airport?”
So successful was the campaign that a ride on an animatronic elephant was built in 1980. This was taken to Colchester Zoo to meet his ‘real’ mother. No-one minded when the stunt was repeated with another mother at Whipsnade Zoo.
Following one outing, the elephant was being returned to storage, the postal staff transporting it through London were stopped in the aftermath of a recent jewellery robbery. “What have you got in the back?” the Police asked, to be answered with “we’ve got a pink elephant”.
Poco’s treats for fans
Poco themed give-aways were produced in their thousands- badges, pens and stickers.
There was even a Poco’s Postcode Fan Club, new members could join if they sent in six letters addressed to their home address, complete with the postcode.
Remarkably, quite expensive Poco products were also produced as competition prizes. These included Poco pocket calculators, radios, portable televisions and many a ‘cuddly, furry pink Poco elephant’.
As the campaign developed over the years, the slightly manic looking earlier character was refined to become a friendlier looking elephant. In the 1980s he was given a back story:
‘growing up in a circus in the 1970s, he ran away during a storm to hide beneath mail bags in a local sorting office. Discovered by postal staff he was taken to the Public Relations Officer and was asked to help out. Poco’s long trunk, which always got in the way, had a knot tied in it and he was named Poco the Postcode Elephant’
Poco’s musical debut
Many people remember the pink character and The Postal Museum has many objects in our collection depicting this rather special elephant, including give-aways, sweatshirt and even a framed gold disc awarded for having sold a million copies of Poco’s musical debut.
Sung by Kerry, the Post Song was written by Brian Daley, who wrote the music for the original Postman Pat television series. Have a listen!
Poco’s last days
Poco probably made his last appearance in 1988 as other campaigns, such as ‘Post Early for Christmas’ took precedence.
– Julian Stray, Senior Curator