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.

“QR codes seemed like a natural opportunity for fans to engage with the Gillette Young Guns beyond the magazine page,” says Kristen Gugliotta, external relations manager at P&G Grooming, over e-mail. “The Gillette Young Guns print ad drives consumers to both the Gillette YouTube channel, as well as the Gillette Facebook page.” The Gillette print component of the campaign will be extended to point-of-sale materials and promotional materials handed out at sporting events later this year.?

When it comes to printing successful QR codes, Andy Bear, director of business development at commercial printing conglomerate Quad/Graphics, recommends keeping it simple. “The trick is to get the code as small as possible and as readable as possible, so that it is easy to scan,” he says. “The more data in a QR code, the harder it is for cell phones to read, so the trick is to make the URL short and you can use a redirect if you want to lead to a more complicated website.”?

Tying a print campaign to digital allows marketers to make their print more dynamic, even after it is printed. For example, marketers can create various QR codes that connect to different landing pages. Incorporating digital elements to a print marketing campaign also ?allows the marketer to take advantage of the strengths of both channels — impact in print and speed online.?

“If a marketer created a campaign with four QR codes, each with a unique landing code page, and then discovered that one or two were performing better than the others, they can redirect all of the QR codes to the most successful landing page,” says Ron Myers, director of multichannel marketing at Quad/Graphics. “The same goes for a coupon. The life of the QR code can go on as long as the printed materials are floating around.” ?

Magazine industry pushes change

A US Postal Service update to its periodical content rules last July gave marketers a new route to send creative print materials at a discount. Click here to read.

“We have heard talk about the multichannel approach for a long time, but now we are really doing it,” adds Lori Andresen, VP of production services at The Agency Inside Harte-Hanks. “The good thing about print is it is so tactile. As the digital world gets busier, print can offer an alternative that stands out.”?

Multichannel ties it all together?

Cablevision Systems Corp. launched a multichannel campaign in January to promote its Optimum Triple Play service, where consumers can receive a bundled pricing rate by signing up for digital TV, online and phone services. Its print effort stood out as it printed 300,000 3-D glasses and then distributed them through direct mail and FSIs in newspapers. The 3-D glasses supported the company’s 3-D direct response commercial, which aired at 25 New York-area Clearview Cinemas, as well as online. Another 2-D version of the ad ran on broadcast TV as well. ?

The Cablevision microsite for the campaign included the ads and a 1-800 number to call to sign up for the cable service. In addition, visitors could enter a sweepstakes to win prizes such as 3-D TV sets, tablets and digital phones, by opting in to receive marketing communications through e-mail and mail. The site ?also included behind-the-scenes footage from the making of the 3D spot. ?

“One of the most significant aspects of these kinds of multichannel campaigns is the ability to track a consumer from a print piece through the website, and then be able to continue the conversation in different media,” comments Shelley Sweeney, VP and general manager for the Data Center Service Bureau Segment at Xerox Worldwide Graphic Communications Business. ?

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie, PA, which manages about 100 churches in Pennsylvania, learned the importance of building an ongoing conversation across channels in a recent campaign. It worked with direct marketing agency Cathedral Corp. on a campaign that put print and PURLs at the core of the retention and fundraising goals. It sent a series of three ?direct mail postcards to 5,000 lapsed donating members of the diocese. These members had previously given money to the church but not in the last four years. ?

The postcards asked members, “What does being Catholic mean to me?” with a different response on each side. The first read, “It means I belong.” The second reminded them who their local priest was with the text, “It means I have a caring pastor.” The third connected them to the larger picture with the answer, “It means I am a part of something bigger than myself.”?

Each postcard contained a PURL that drove recipients to personalized landing pages with individualized marketing messages based on the patron’s demographics and local parish. For example, the landing page might include the recipient’s name and a photo of their local priest, with information about church events in their community. About 7% of those who received the postcard went online to visit their personalized page.?

“What helps people feel more connected with their faith is feeling like they belong to a community,” says Joseph Hoag, director of stewardship and annual ?appeals at the Diocese of Erie. “By using PURLs to reach out to these lapsed members, we could connect to them in a personal way and remind them what it means to be a Catholic and connect them to the local priests and members of their faith community. Your faith community should tell you that you are important because of who you are, and make you want to connect with your local parish.”?

An annual fundraising piece of direct mail followed after the postcard campaign, and the Diocese saw ?impressive results. It gathered more than 600 contributions from recipients of the PURL campaign, a 14% conversion rate that brought in $125,000. ?

“As the cost of paper and postage goes up, nonprofits have to be more targeted and use their data more ?efficiently to make sure they are getting a better return on investment,” notes James Kopp, national director of diocesan accounts at Cathedral Corp.?

Cost considerations?

Miami University in Ohio found that its cost of production actually went down when it deployed a PURL campaign. The University worked with Xerox on a campaign that included a personalized direct mail postcard for honors students, which drove recipients to a personalized landing page. It sent a more general mail piece to other students. ?

Variable data rate printing helped to tailor the ?direct mail pieces to the students’ individual interest in major, gender and whether or not they had visited the campus. Images and text were aligned to these specific categories and each postcard included the name of the recipient. The university reported a 32% increase in student enrollment in 2010 over the prior year and 91% of those who registered were recipients of the PURL campaign. By using such a focused mailer, the university also reduced its overall mail volume for a cost savings in printing of 29%. ?

With both postal rates and paper prices, expect to see more marketers taking a targeted approach to print pieces to keep their budgets in check. “It is all about making it relevant versus having high volume,” Sweeney says. “The data is going to be the driver ?behind print campaigns going forward, and I think we’ll see more marketers reducing volume and focusing on a more targeted approach, so that their mail ?costs go down.”?

Personalized print campaigns are getting easier, as well as tools like variable data printing, which allow marketers to swap out images in a print piece as easily as they do in an e-mail. Like Miami University, the Diocese of Erie also used variable data printing in its PURL campaign to personalize the postcards with the recipient’s name. While the personalized postcards cost more to print than the Diocese’s normal offset mailing, they also showed a higher return on investment. According to Hoag, the parish invested $10,000 in the campaign, more than its traditional $6,000 to $7,000 investment. “This is a little bit more expensive, but it drove more conversions,” says Hoag. “In a ?normal mailing, we probably would have seen 2% to 3% of the people donate, and 14% is a much higher donation rate in terms of ROI.”?

Marketers also say the quality of digital printing is improving — an obstacle that has held off its growth in the past. “Digital quality is 98% there,” says Andresen. “The trend is towards more efficiency and figuring out a multichannel approach with a much more layered cadence of communications.”?

A new development expected for this year is the roll out of four-color process digital printing. This process, which uses a hybrid of inline and digital printing to print four-color pieces, has the pricing and turnaround closer to that of traditional offset printing. Specialty Print Communications is currently working on a new four-color printing process with partner Western Michigan University in a beta testing mode that will be available this spring. ?

“Hybrid allows printers to make very personalized mailings and swap out tons of different data variables in an amazingly quick window of time,” says Dustin LeFebvre, EVP of marketing at Specialty Print Communications. While LeFebvre could not quote how much more this would cost compared to traditional offset printing, he says it “is not substantially more expensive than regular color.” “It depends on the data and image library,” he adds. “If we are working with a retailer and they are swapping out 1,000 different ?images, versus a grocery store that is only swapping out 10 images, the grocery store job would be less.”?

The cost factors also include the number of images, how much data is applied and the number of pieces.As the saturation of online marketing increases and ?innovations in printing and production make this field, once left for dead, attractive once again, it’s no surprise that direct marketers are once again opting for traditional channels to drive multichannel efforts.

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