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Commentary & Analysis

Letters to ODJ: The Discussion of Print's Future Continues

May 25,

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: May 25, 2005

May 25, 2005 -- Brad Lena brings an important perspective to the discussion. And we have many points of agreement. The point that "Those print providers who survive the ongoing shake out will have less resemblance to their industry forefathers as they will, of necessity, be conversant in all digitally driven communications" makes absolute sense. But, as he also correctly points out, we do have a basic difference which he clearly articulates. He says that "for me, printing. . .exists only to facilitate a transaction. In this instance, a transaction is defined as a sale, a request, a telephone call, a web hit, a reservation/registration, etc." There's no doubt in my mind that organizations that can effectively deliver mail/web integrated programs, especially with personalized URLs, will solve a pressing problem of the direct marketing industry. And as always, practical solutions to practical problems lead to success. But I question the long-term sustainability of the direct marketing industry in its present form. An industry that can call it a success when 97 to 94 percent of its product goes directly into the waste stream is not sustainable in the long run. The exception is transactional printing based marketing. The statements are going out anyway. Everyone looks at their statement. It's the perfect time to make an offer. Even though printed statements and invoices are decreasing, the chances are that very few of them enter the waste stream. To me that's sustainable. Some of the latest buzz in the advertising world seems to be about building communities of interested buyers. And there are some folks out there who are claiming 70 percent response rates to ultra-targeted micro programs of lumpy mail. If those numbers can scale, we might really be on to something. But in general, can even ultra-targeted mailings really compete with the transactional flexibility of the internet? But you consider some non-transactional reasons to print. The future looks bright. Some of the latest buzz in the advertising world seems to be about building communities of interested buyers. In that context, event marketing is getting serious interest and budget. I think the advertising industry is saying that brands are built within communities. And brands become more important, not less, in a world of transparent product information. We all have to do some hard thinking about what print can do better than anything else. What better way to leverage the community building effects of an event than with follow-up personalized print items? Think of the charity dinner. A week after the dinner each participant gets a book, with herself and her friends on the cover. And of course, the personalized URL follow-up for the continuing conversation. Now that's cool and can not be easily replicated in other media. My argument is that we all have to do some hard thinking about what print can do better than anything else. And based on those understandings, give people access to the tools that allow them to fit print into an ever changing communications matrix. Michael Josefowicz Special Projects Director Communication Design Department Parsons School of Design

 

 

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