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Commentary & Analysis

Variable Data, Better Tools... Better Techniques

By Barbara Pellow November 17,

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: November 17, 2003

By Barbara Pellow November 17, 2003 -- My definition of marketing is the establishment of a dialogue over time with specific groups of customers—or potential customers—whose needs you understand in depth. Quality marketing results in the development of an offer with a differentiated advantage over the offer of your competitors that either improves customer retention or entices the customer to buy product from you. Effective marketing has three critical requirements: 1. A relevant message —Print service providers hear a lot about personalized marketing campaigns. Personalization only has value if the individuals view the messages contained in the communication as relevant to them. In a recent survey of more than 250 advertising agencies and 200 corporate marketing executives conducted by the Printing Industry Center at RIT, respondents indicated that 50% of their personalization activity was merely a mail merge. A mail merge does not equate to relevance. Consumers need an offer that is directed to them and their specific needs. Creative agency personnel need to understand the technology and how it can be leveraged to build relevant custom communications that differentiate their message. One of the best quotations I have ever heard about targeted messaging is, “When a message is aimed at millions, it rarely moves anyone.” 2. Synergistic use of multiple media channels —Marketing executives have determined that reaching a target market via multiple media options is a force multiplier. Each channel can help promote the other channels. Direct mail and catalogs need to be linked with the Web. Web-based customer interaction centers have the ability to follow up with a blend of e-mails and direct mail to ensure that the customer builds a unique relationship with the supplier. In addition, multi-channel marketing solutions support data gathering. Since Web sites and phone-in mail orders collect information about the customer that a direct sales channel may not, these channels make it possible to develop mailing lists for future promotions and branding campaigns. 3. Efficiency will be a key determinant in the cross media investment criteria. TV may be replaced with Internet advertising or print. Optimizing across media offers great money-saving opportunities. Over the past few weeks, I had the opportunity to interview William Martin, Variable Data Subject Matter Expert from Global Document Solutions, and Jay Cappis, Chief Technology Officer from Brainstream, about XMPie and how this solution helps in the delivery of true marketing campaigns as they are defined above. The XMPie® PersonalEffect™ solution is comprised of a Web-based service and software suite for complete marketing campaign control across multiple media channels. It has three key modules: uPlan™ is a tool for specifying and controlling the business logic (rules), Dynamic objects and database schema for a given campaign. Dynamic Objects link the data base information with the campaign design. uPlan works with most leading data bases including Oracle, SQL, MS Access and IBM DB2. uCreate™ is a plug-in that works with off-the-shelf desktop publishing and Web design tools, allowing drag & drop placement of Dynamic Objects. There are uCreate plug-ins available for Adobe InDesign, Adobe GoLive, and MacroMedia Dreamweaver. The software is designed for ease-of-use so the designer can focus on design and not programming. uProduce™ gives users the ability to publish to all desired media from Web to print. The campaign manager has the ability to adjust the media mix to maximize the return on the campaign investment. The uProduce module includes a Web-based “campaign dashboard” and backend server technology for generating various production formats. Links are provided for variable information printing, e-mail and Web-on-Demand. The proof for new variable data technologies is in the ability to implement. William Martin shared the development of a campaign called a “Snackinar” that was developed by a team from Global Document Solutions, Roberts Communications and Xerox, leveraging XMPie capabilities. Headquartered in lower Manhattan since 1906, Global Document Solutions has its own production facilities in New York and at affiliated sites throughout the world in 18 countries. GDS' broad customer base ranges from well-known financial services organizations to communications companies, to a host of other leading firms in various industries. They have integrated five print service companies in the corporate headquarters locations including: * American Direct Mail - Mailing & Fulfillment (one of the largest facilities in the Northeast) * American Direct Laser - Digital (variable) Printing * Atwater American Graphics - Commercial Printing * Global Digital Prepress - Prepress & Graphic Design (a full-service graphic arts facility) * Xerographic Reproduction Center - Digital On Demand Printing (full-color & b&w using a Xerox iGen3 Digital Press) The Snackinar program was designed to utilize the iGen3 technology in GDS' Digital On Demand operation. The figure below depicts the Snackinar program architecture.   The campaign was designed to drive traffic to the Xerox booth at Graph Expo. Prospects and customers from either the Xerox customer data base or past mailing lists were sent an invitation and poster printed at Global Document Solutions on an iGen3. Recipients were told to go to a personalized Web page to select from a choice of snacks –chips, candy, etc. – and to reserve a time to see the presentation. The program workflow is depicted below. They received a postcard or e-mail confirmation reflecting their selected “snack” and a confirmation of their designated session. In parallel, personalized labels were produced that went on the bags containing their chosen treats. After the event, there was a comprehensive e-mail follow-up for the campaign. According to Martin, “It is absolutely critical for business communications service providers to have the ability to transcend print. This Snackinar program gave us the ability to demonstrate how Global Document Solutions can leverage cross media capability. Going from Web to print to e-mail is critical for our customers.” Martin has multiple customers across an array of different industry segments from government to automotive that want to utilize digital technology for integrated cross platform campaigns. BrainStream was founded during the turbulent time surrounding 9/11. In developing itsbusiness model, BrainStream looked at the printing opportunity as a pie where companies were competing for a slice of business. While they wanted a portion of the pie, they felt that there was also the ability to enlarge the pie beyond printing services. They saw the opportunity for expansion by adding services such as content management and Web-based fulfillment. BrainStream migrated its focus to participation in the more profitable outer circle. Jay Cappis, CTO from BrainStream, indicated that the migration to variable data and multi-channel marketing is critical to BrainStream's strategy. Headquartered in Houston, Texas, BrainStream serves one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country. Being in one of the most diverse cities in the world allows BrainStream to showcase the many facets of its business.  In developing the business, Cappis said there were three fundamental values that served as the base for the company's pyramid of services, depicted below. “We needed to ensure, regardless of the service offering, that we were cost competitive, delivered a quality product and were always on schedule. These principles let you move up the pyramid to higher value solutions.” Today, BrainStream has multiple DocuTech devices, a DocuColor 2060 and 6060 and an iGen3 on order. BrainStream also has three large format ColorSpan devices which Cappis indicates are becoming a growing part of the company's business. BrainStream is focused on developing variable data solutions as part of its value added service offerings. Brainstream selected XMPie to deliver variable data applications. Cappis realized that longer term his customer was looking for more than printed direct mail campaigns. Cappis indicated, ”XMPie's Automatic Dynamic Object Replacement (ADOR™) technology makes document objects database-drivable without complex programming. We developed a campaign for HearthStone CareStone, a firm that manages assisted living facilities, using a base layer. Additional variable data layers were added for various meetings by location for the assisted living facilities. The ease of use software made reuse of the campaign for future mailings simple.” Cappis feels that the XMPie application and the ease of use helped BrainStream accelerate its ability to migrate to higher value applications. Marketers are driving to deliver integrated cross media campaigns with relevant communications and messaging. Printers are looking for tools and techniques to meet these customer requirements. BrainStream and Global Document Solutions are good examples of companies that have done the due diligence and implemented solutions that are delivering results for them and for their customers. They have recognized the value to their customers of utilizing multiple channels of communication as a force multiplier, and view XMPie as the partner that can help them most effectively deliver these personalized multi-channel messages.

 

 

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