Royal Caribbean Postcards Highlight Each Recipient's Preferred Cruise

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Royal Caribbean International reaches out to hand raisers with timely four-color direct mail pieces calling the recipient by name and with a photo of the prospect's dream cruise destination, thanks to print-on-demand technology.

Royal Caribbean, Miami, decided late last year to focus more on print-on-demand technology to send more targeted, customized communications. POD technology, also called variable data printing or digital printing, lets direct mailers print pieces as required from a computer rather than the traditional offset printing process.

To create POD programs, the cruise company and its agency of record, Arnold, began work with Vertis, Baltimore, a provider of targeted advertising, media and marketing services, including direct mail production.

Royal Caribbean and Arnold chose hand raisers, or people who recently opted in to receive information from the cruise line, as a perfect target for POD. Royal Caribbean was collecting information about this key target group from various activities and events but communicating with them via e-mail, not direct mail pieces.

Royal Caribbean began a pilot in January that offered the hand raisers deemed most likely to take a cruise an oversized, heavy-stock postcard with their name emblazoned on the top. It featured an image of a destination that the particular consumer had indicated interest in. Royal Caribbean's destinations include Mexico, Hawaii, the Caribbean, Alaska, Canada/New England, Europe, the Panama Canal, Bermuda and the Bahamas.

"The mail piece was designed to pique interest and get [the hand raisers] to seek out more information," said Sophia Cigliano, management supervisor at Arnold, Boston. "The hand-raising event would happen, and within a short period of time, they would receive the mail piece. We wouldn't be able to do this as frequently or as easily if it weren't for print-on-demand technology."

The back of the mail piece gave a personalized URL to drive people to a Web page that offered more information about the specific itinerary and tracked all of the activity on that Web site. As a result, "we are able to see the results of who has received the postcard and who has gone to the Web page immediately," she said.

A toll-free number and push to contact their agent also were featured.

Cigliano could offer no specifics but said the program "received a very healthy response. The engagement metrics were excellent, and now it is officially part of our marketing program." Some of the messaging and audience segmentation were modified based on the results of the pilot, she said.

In addition, because of POD technology, "during a campaign, we can make changes very quickly, such as changing the 1-800 number or a destination image," she said. "The entire piece is variable, so anything can be switched out or changed at any time."

Cigliano said that Royal Caribbean had used POD before in a few direct communication programs with guests, and "we found the technology was innovative and provided the different values that we were seeking to really take one-to-one marketing to the next step. It delivers the relevancy in a timely manner with customized content."

Prior to employing POD, Royal Caribbean used typical offset print to create self-mailers that were traditional in nature.

"We may have used some plate changes to create some variable between the different segments that we were mailing to, but it was fairly limited and the quality wasn't very good," Cigliano said.

Also, the mail pieces were sent at one time, a few times yearly. With POD, Cigliano said, "we have the flexibility to develop creative and mail it in a much shorter period."

Vertis said these types of print-on-demand success stories are becoming a trend.

"Many of our customers are doing mailings with more and more personalization thanks to digital, print-on-demand printing technologies," said Janice Mayo, senior vice president of marketing at Vertis.

To meet this need, Vertis installed an HP Indigo press 5000, a high-end digital printing press, earlier this year at its Irvine, CA, facility. The press lets Vertis print short-run direct mail, one-to-one marketing, highly personalized communications and point-of-purchase displays in a timely manner. Vertis now has two facilities that offer this type of printing.

Melissa Campanelli covers postal news, CRM and database marketing for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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