Print stages a comeback

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Print stages a comeback
Print stages a comeback

Electronics giant Sony turns to print marketing collateral to drive a "wow" factor. During the holiday season, it worked with its direct marketing agency, The Agency Inside Harte-Hanks, to create full-color inserts reminiscent of mini catalogs, which ran in newspapers across the country. The marketing pieces gave recipients information on where to buy the hottest Sony holiday gifts in 
their local stores. 

"We have gotten away from single-page or two-page inserts, and have been going for inserts more like mini-catalogs," says Salvatore Lacorte, a consultant in commercial printing at Sony. "You want to get somebody's attention with an insert. When it all falls out of the newspaper, we want ours to stick out."

Innovative marketers routinely turned to online marketing to showcase their creativity in the last few years, but with the online noise volume reaching a feverish pitch, some have turned their attention back to print. Lucky for them, the production and printing industry has furiously been experimenting with new technologies in order to catch up with their digital-minded peers whom have stolen all the marketing glitz and kudos in recent years.

Sony takes advantage of new innovations in print to personalize and locally target such print campaigns, while also employing digital printing. While the company continues to use a lot of offset printing, it does more inline printing and variable data rate printing. This approach allows them to swap out text and image data to segment the creative. 

"Digital printing is becoming more important as postal prices increase," says Lacorte. "We want to speak directly to the customer, and variable data and inline printing allow us to do this better and helps increase sales. It is going to be even better with new four-color imaging that is coming this year."

Marketers sound off

Marketers sound off on how rising postal, paper costs are impacting strategies. Click to read.

While emerging channels such as social media and mobile will continue to garner headlines, multichannel marketers realize that direct response print campaigns remain a frequent, though perhaps less talked about tool. Marketing spending on direct mail actually 
increased 3.1% in 2010 to $45.2 billion, according to January 2011 figures released by the Winterberry Group, a marketing intelligence consulting firm. Insert media grew 2.4% to $800 million. 

This year those categories will only grow more, says the Winterberry Group. It predicts direct mail to 
increase by 5.8% to $47.8 billion and insert media to jump 9.1% to $900 million. While direct response print suffered a 3.6% decline in 2010 to $15 billion, it is 
expected to nudge up 2% this year.

"Even though companies have widespread interest in digital channels, not all of these channels are 
mature enough and scalable enough for the customer acquisition needs right now," says Jonathan Margulies, a director at Winterberry Group. "By contrast, direct mail and insert media, for example, are proven, well-established media when it comes to delivering the kind of steerable response that many marketers are looking for," adds Margulies. "Print is very reliable in a way that the digital channels aren't yet."

Lacorte agrees. "I am a firm believer in direct mail, because it is not evasive," he says. "I get so much e-mail every hour that it is overwhelming, but when I get my mail, I look at it."

Innovations in print include new approaches to campaign techniques such as quick response (QR) codes on direct mail pieces and free-standing inserts (FSIs) that can be scanned with a mobile phone to interact with digital content, 3-D printed collateral and PURLs (personalized URLs). 

At the same time, new printers and printing processes have helped to create printing that is more personalized and efficient. 

Bar codes extend print shelf life

QR and other 2-D barcodes, in particular, are more frequently showing up on direct mail pieces, inserts, out-of-home billboards and magazine pages. Proctor & Gamble's Gillette brand recently worked with ad agency BBDO on a campaign to promote grooming products to young men that tied a print QR code in a magazine to online video. The "Young Guns" ad starred various athletes — Matt Ryan and Ray Rice of the NFL; Evan Longoria and Carlos González of MLB; and NASCAR drivers Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch. The print ad, which ran as a four-page spread in the January issue of ESPN Next, tied each athlete to their own QR code. Readers were encouraged to snap a photo of the code with their phone to view an exclusive video of the corresponding athlete on their device.

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