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Commentary & Analysis

The Future of Print in Marketing Communications

By Brian Wolfenden Today,

By WhatTheyThink Guest Contributor
Published: July 2, 2008

By Brian Wolfenden

Today, there is much discussion about integrated marketing campaigns, cross-channel communications and multi-channel marketing. These topics are top of mind for most marketers. And, they are very important to the future of our industry. The role of print has changed. However, it still plays a vital role in these campaigns, if leveraged correctly. To capitalize on this opportunity, it is important to understand how print fits into today's integrated marketing campaign.

What is Integrated Marketing Communications?

To start, The American Marketing Association defines Integrated Marketing Communications as "a planning process designed to assure that all brand contacts received by a customer or prospect are relevant to that person and consistent over time."  Integrated marketing campaigns are designed to make all aspects of marketing communications ---such as advertising, sales promotion, public relations, and direct marketing--- work together as a unified force, rather than permitting each to work in isolation. The synergy of these integrated campaigns is designed to achieve two primary objectives:

  1. Establishing brand recognition; and
  2. Getting targeted prospects into the sales cycle and convert them into long-time loyal customers.

In the world of marketing communications, the concept of the "integrated marketing campaign" is not new. It is a practice that has been around for as long as I can remember. The difference today is that there are more choices: additional channels of communication such as email blasts, personalized Web pages, text messages to cell phones---all of which are now being added to the existing channels of print advertising, direct mail, broadcast media including radio and TV, and telemarketing.

Impact on Today's Marketer

Today's marketing professionals have to sort through an array of choices in order to develop an integrated marketing communications campaign. They can no longer wave the band awareness flat to justify massive advertising expenses. They have to make sure that the campaign delivers tangible and quantifiable results quickly. And these results must show a return on investment for the budget they spend on the campaign. So, they are looking for creative ways to communicate with their target markets in a relevant fashion using today's technologies.

The Opportunity

As service providers, this offers an opportunity to partner with the marketer to help them produce effective marketing campaigns that have a fresh approach that stresses targeted, customer-centric communications, measurable results and concrete return on investment. By listening to their business objectives, we can help them with their choices---whether it is to provide one component such as compelling, short-run, fast turnaround printing, or a wide range of services from design through distribution and measurement.

Educate with the Facts

The first step is to help educate the marketer on how print fits into the mix and makes those marketing campaigns even more powerful than electronic communications alone. For instance, a recent Pitney Bowes/International Communications Research study found that 73 percent of consumers prefer to receive product announcements and offers via US mail from companies they do business with. This preference for direct mail is reflected in marketing budgets. According to research conducted by Universal McCann, direct mail budgets in the U.S. grew by 7.5 percent in 2007 to top $64.4 billion, and direct mail is expected to be a growth media for 2008.

And the Direct Marketing Association recently reported that nearly 40 percent of consumers prefer to respond to an advertisement online. Based on these reports, it makes sense for the marketer to combine direct mail with personalized online microsites, known as personalized URLs or pURLs, for a powerful campaign that will reach their targeted audience.

Sharing these facts with the marketer can help them understand the vital new role of print in a fast-paced world. And there are an increasing number of success stories about printers who are experiencing significant business growth by providing these types of campaigns.

Educate with Success Stories

Sharing market research results is one way to educate your clients, however success stories of how you have helped other clients is more powerful. Plus, it gives you the chance to emphasize the capabilities that differentiate your company from your competition. One sure way of differentiating your company is to provide cost-effective campaigns. Let me give you an example of how we, at Presstek, delivered a successful and cost effective multi-channel campaign. Last fall, we ran a campaign to highlight how our DI digital offset presses facilitate low-cost variable data printing (VDP) projects delivered to a large audience.

We initially contacted prospective customers with a customized postcard containing each recipient's name and a personalized URL directing them to a unique personalized Web microsite. Or, if they preferred a different method for responding, we offered them an email address, as well as their sales representative's telephone number. We produced 20,000 of these postcards – printing the high quality color shells on our 52DI digital offset press, and then adding the personalized message and pURL on a digital toner device. Using this hybrid printing technique allowed us to produce the piece at about half the cost incurred with an all-toner workflow.

Phone and e-mail communications with recipients followed. Out of those who responded to the postcard's call-to-action, 40 percent converted into solid leads. In the context of business-to-business lead generation for digital offset presses, this was a good ROI for us. And by incorporating multi-media, we differentiated ourselves while making it more convenient for recipients to respond. We also demonstrated the quality of our DI presses, and that quality differentiated the piece from other mail our recipients received. Printers and marketers both notice quality print, and in conjunction with the personalization, it makes the piece more likely to be read.

Differentiate with Environmentally Friendly Practices

Another aspect to consider is how you can provide campaigns that are produced using environmentally friendly practices. This is an increasingly hot topic in the marketplace, and an important differentiator for your business.

Historically, offset printing has required the use of a number of chemicals, as well as excessive water usage and paper waste. Today, there are printing methods that are environmentally responsible. All of the major providers of print plate technology, including Presstek, offer some sort of chemistry-free platemaking process. This eliminates noxious chemistry, along with the costs and risks associated with purchasing, managing, storing and disposing of those chemicals. In addition, there are waterless presses, which eliminate water consumption and minimize VOCs (volatile organic compound) emissions which contribute to global warming. These presses also offer a faster makeready, shortening the cycle time while dramatically reducing the amount of paper wasted in getting the press up to color.

These are just a few of the things that will make your company more capable, profitable and competitive in these challenging times. Your customers will appreciate that you have taken the necessary steps to solving their business communications needs in an environmentally sustainable manner and can provide printing that dramatically reduces or eliminates hazardous chemistry and waste from the environment.

Print has a Role in the Mix

In my mind, print is still the most economical and efficient way to drive your marketing message. However, to enhance print as part of the overall marketing communications campaign, we must recognize that it is just one of the key components to drive the overall marketing message. It must blend with and facilitate the use with other media; such as radio, television, email and the Web. For instance, people may order their catalog items on the Web; however, they may find it much easier to find what they want to order by perusing a printed catalog.

The message to get across is that print is the igniter for the other media in the integrated marketing campaign. We should not be defensive about the impact of alternative media on print; we should be bullish on the new role print can play in delivering more effective marketing communications, and be bold with sharing that with marketers who need these services.

Brian Wolfenden has 25 years of experience in the printing industry. He is currently director of marketing communications at Presstek, a leading manufacturer and marketer of digital offset printing solutions.



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