Sent: 13-10-2009 11:09:02
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Returning to traditional mail
When email burst upon the scene in the late 90's many were forecasting it would only be a matter of time before paper became out of date and obsolete. I seem to recall when I was growing up being told that it was only a mater of time before the advent of the paperless office. Yeah right. It seems like there is even more paper about that before.
So, when communicating with people, should you think about going back to the tried and trusted paper version? According to some new material form Knowledge@Wharton, yes. This is despite the fact that paper costs are going up along with postage costs and competition from new media continues to grow. However, marketers' use of direct mail and other printed materials is stronger than it's been in a long time.
As Wharton explain, thanks to variable-data printing, companies can now tap purchase-history databases to design, create and print entirely personalized catalogs that cross-sell products and services to individual consumers. They can also combine print with other media in the evolving discipline known as cross-channel marketing.
All a long way from where things where when the end seemed in sight for good old 'snail mail'. In fact it was that long ago it was mocked as a "dead-tree medium". Surprisingly, these days print argues that its core strength is the very flexibility once claimed by digital communications. As we all know, email was hailed as being a cost-effective panacea. I can recall changing our process from broadcast fax transmissions to broadcast emails as it was faster and more efficient, to say nothing of being cheaper.
Sadly, email has a spam-tarnished image that keeps many legitimate marketers away. Traditional broadcast and print media face eroding readerships and struggle to preserve their shrinking advertising base. Digital media such as blogging and instant messaging, whilst potentially paradigm-changing, are yet to be seriously tested.
According to Wharton marketing professor Eric Bradlow, print now offers marketers a clear advantage over digital media, such as email. As he explains, many see email as impersonal and costless to write when what people want is to feel special. According to Bradlow, in marketing terms, email is transactional; paper is relational.
The chief researcher at the Direct Marketing Association disagrees as he believes paper is both relational and transactional. He goes on to argue that print has a flexibility that online doesn't offer to the same degree, and it has the possibility of tremendous personalization.
But, as he so rightly points out, the biggest attraction is likely to be the fact that that people actually read print to a far higher degree then email. He claims that a marketer can include four or five pages of words in print form; with the expectation it will be read. When it comes to email, it needs to be short and punchy as that is all you can expect to be read, if you are lucky.
This is all such a change from the late 1990s when the direction of mass marketing seemed strictly digital. This has happened because commercial printing has gotten its momentum back by facing up to the challenge and doing what digital was supposed to do best, creating and delivering the highly-individualized message. It has done this through
variable-data printing, where marketers create, print and distribute mailers customized around individual profiles. Essentially, one to one marketing.
Knowledge@Wharton gives a very clear example of how these phenomena can work in practice:
Reader's Digest Canada managed to integrate their client's databases with their internal catalog-printing operation, allowing the company to cross-sell by creating individualized catalogs. They tapped each customer's buying history, and then created a personalized catalog that reflected presumed interest in other products and services. Each catalog was designed based on the customer's past purchasing history, affinities and demographic information. In other words, each catalogue was tailored to the needs and habits of each customer. The sort of thing that Amazon seems to do so well electronically, Reader's Digest Canada did in print form.
So, marketing campaigns in the future look like they will be using technology developed for digital communication but will be based in old media.
Sounds a little like 'Back To The Future' to me.
For those interested the Knowledge@Wharton article was entitled:
'Dead-tree Medium' No Longer: For Many Marketers, Print Outperforms Digital
The article can be found at the following web address:
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