Special Report - Direct Mail Technology: 3 Important Ways Print Is Transforming Direct Mail
Since the dawn of the Web, people having been finding excuses to declare print dead. One of those has long been that it's not interactive or as flexible as digital communications. But what if your mailpiece could be just as interactive and flexible as any Web page?
Those capabilities exist now; the only challenge is getting your customers to accept them.
Several articles in this issue of Target Marketing were "activated" using augmented reality technology (we used Layar, but Actable and Aurasma provide similar services). This allows our readers to launch digital content directly from the pages of the magazine, essentially the same way you would launch articles or media directly from an e-newsletter or other digital media.
That's not the first time we've used advances in print-related technology to add digital capabilities to this print magazine. Many issues have included QR Codes that launched exclusive Web content. And of course, there are URLs and social media handles scattered throughout just about any magazine today.
QR Codes and augmented reality may or may not catch on with users. But the capabilities they promise have to excite anyone who works in print—we are talking about the ability to literally make text and images jump off the page. And that is only one of the new technologies creating new opportunities for print marketing.
In this special report, two more articles explore how advances in today's printing technology allow marketers to leverage direct mail like never before. And of course, we have links to read more about it online! The conversation begins in print, but it doesn't have to end just because the page does. —Thorin McGee
A Digital Press Printed That? You Might Be Surprised What Today's Technologies Let You Do
From basic wood block printing to advanced industrial processes, the options for creating print using analog or digital techniques provide a plethora of options for designers. But designers are always looking for the next technique they can use for differentiation. Digital print techniques have been on the frontline as new options for toner, liquid toner and varieties of ink-jet have opened the door to high coverage printing on a wider variety of substrates, all supported by innovations in finishing.
How Is Digital Different?
Have you kept up with the times? A surprising number of print designers and print buyers have missed the revolution in digital print, but it's never too late to get educated. Whether you are designing direct mail marketing, billboards, high-value marketing collateral or even floors and wall coverings, there are digital options you should be considering.
The definition of digital printing is a good place to start. Throughout this magazine and across the Internet you can find definitions of digital printing. In its simplest form, digital printing requires a file that is interpreted by a digital front end and turned into printed output. For every type of digital printing, those file formats and digital interpreters will be different, and understanding them, as well as the technologies they control, is what can give a designer an advantage.
Starting with marks on a substrate, electrophotographic (EP) printing technology today provides options for printing white on dark substrates, using metallic colors, and a wide variety of glossy, matte and textured coatings that may be printed in-line or added in post-processing. Don't forget options for printing with custom-formulated colors and extending the color gamut with more than the traditional four-color processes that can include light cyan, light magenta, light yellow and gray variations. If you have never worked with the new generation of digital presses, it's worth investigating these options for your marketing collateral and direct marketing needs.
Moving on to ink-jet technology, the options have grown to include high resolution printing, custom color formulations and the ability to print on more substrates. Need custom flooring? There are companies that can take your designs and turn them into a custom-designed floor. The same is true with wall coverings.
Individualization and Finishing
Both EP and ink-jet technology have attracted packaging designers who see the ability to create completely custom packaging as a path to fraud prevention, as well as customer-directed personalization. When you can print every box of cereal or every label individually, the options are endless.
Just one example of individualized printing is a project called "Share a Coke." The project is in 32 countries, where the common names in the country are added to the bottle labels. Walk into your local store and find your name for that personal experience, brought to you by digital print technology.
Think about how that option might change your next direct mail campaign, or even your in-store marketing.
Another differentiator can be your finishing. Have you checked out Trish Witkowski's Fold Factory website (foldfactory.com) to see all you can do to create unique experiences? FoldFactory has resources and ideas to free you from the idea that marketing has to be a flat postcard and marketing collateral has to be a simple sheet printed front and back.
Beyond folding, the vendors of finishing equipment bring new ideas to every exhibition. They bring kiss cuts to allow zip-open tabs, window cut-outs with plastic windows and lamination to form tear-out cards. These are just some of the ways you can differentiate with finishing.
Your takeaway? If you haven't looked at what digital printing and great finishing can do to differentiate your customer communication, it's time you did!
Pat McGrew, M-EDP, CMP, is an evangelist for the Inkjet High-speed Production Systems division of Palo Alto Ca.-based print products and services provider HP. Reach her at email@example.com.
Variable Data Printing: Not So 'Traditional' Advances Make Mail One-to-One
Contrary to popular belief that online marketing will completely replace offline marketing, direct mail continues to effectively engage customers and plays a valuable role in the overall marketing mix. Just as online capabilities have evolved to better engage target audiences and produce strong returns, offline technologies have also advanced to better serve marketing objectives and achieve business goals.
The primary force driving many of these direct mail technologies is the need to create one-to-one interactions with customers, rather than implementing a one-size-fits-all campaign approach that is often seen with traditional offset printing.
Historically, brands have utilized traditional printing presses, which are used by vendors who print and then personalize (basically adding the recipient name and address). We're now witnessing a migration away from these mass mailings, toward more dynamic personalization—far beyond simple messaging and versioning.
According to eMarketer, 330,000 traditional printing presses have been removed from the market during the last decade. Meanwhile, digital printing is growing dramatically around the globe. In North America, digital color page volumes grew by an estimated 146 billion pages in 2012, while in Western Europe volumes reached 100 billion pages, according to Carlson.
Luckily for brands and consumers alike, variable data printing (VDP) can be leveraged by smart and innovative direct marketers. Variable digital printing enables the creation of relevant communications by leveraging triggers that are based on consumer data.
Designed for Big Data
Effective VDP begins with analytic modeling that identifies customers who are most likely to purchase, along with other triggers in the customer lifestyle. This information is entered into the digital workflow. Then, similar to email marketing, wireframes are developed using a standard composition tool.
The data is then mapped onto the document field-by-field. Conditional processing, meaning logic, is used to drive content based on values in the data. It is used to determine the appropriate messaging and creative content. This means a brand can ultimately produce thousands of versions for the same campaign, all designed with the individual recipient in mind.
For example, if a retailer wants to send an acquisition campaign to those who have recently opted in to receive direct mail offers from them, that printer may utilize data in the digital work flow, such as last item purchased, age, gender, physical location and how the purchase was made (in-store, online or via direct mail catalog). These attributes can determine the copy, creative, offer type and nearest store information to be used for the tailored direct mail piece.
Brands using variable data printing have seen dramatic increases in ROI, revenue, response rates, conversion rates, incremental customer lifetime value and customer engagement, along with notable reductions of paper use and inventory space.
While many direct marketers may be talking about variable data printing, very few are actually utilizing it today. Epsilon's annual "Channel Preference Study" has repeatedly found that direct mail is a preferred channel to receive brand communications across many industry verticals. Knowing direct mail is a trusted and preferred communication channel, and that it allows brands to reach the right customers with the right offers and message at the right time, means now is the optimal time to create a business case for VDP.
Denny Dee is vice president of production services at Chicago-based response and engagement marketing services provider Aspen Marketing, a division of Epsilon. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pat McGrew, M-EDP, CMP is the Director and Evangelist for the Production Workflow Service at InfoTrends. As an analyst and industry educator, McGrew works with InfoTrends customers and its clients to promote workflow effectiveness. She also has a background in data-driven customer communication, and production printing with offset, inkjet, and toner. Co-author of eight industry books, editor of "A Guide to the Electronic Document Body of Knowledge," and regular writer in the industry trade press, McGrew won the 2014 #GirlsWhoPrint Girlie Award for her dedication to education and communication in the industry, and the 2016 Brian Platte Lifetime Achievement Award from Xplor International. Find Pat on Twitter as @PatMcGrew and LinkedIn.