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Economics & Research Blog

Dr. Joe Rambles On About the Post Office, Apple, the Economy, and Other Things


By Dr. Joe Webb
Published: July 28, 2010

Isn't it strange that the USPS much-hyped 2009 “summer sale” for large mailers was actually a failure? This was noted in the Marketing Powers Activate blog. They link to the official report there as well. We suspected it was not what it was purported to be from a marketing perspective back in a March column. The program included almost 1,000 customers with only half increasing their volumes, and some of that was probably by shifting mailing dates. That 1,000 was only one quarter of the eligible customers, so that meant that less than 500, or one-eighth of their eligible customers increased volume. This year's program will probably be a repeat. The USPS has convinced itself that it can't run promotions except for its largest customers, nearly all of whom have been shifting budgets to other media for a decade. USPS does nothing of consequence to cultivate new customers and grow them over years. To alter a common phrase, a lobster is a gnat designed by committees and legislators. The USPS is that lobster. * * * If you advise customers about e-mail campaigns, be sure to view the latest e-mail marketing metrics report at MailerMailer. This is important as more companies are relying on online media for sales lead generation. When looking at the MailerMailer report, be sure to think through and use the data to show clients the importance of all media being essential. If an e-mail isn't opened in 48 hours, it's not likely to get opened. That's the equivalent of mail piling up on the kitchen table. The stuff on top gets opened first, and the stuff on the bottom may never get opened. Since you never know when or where or how a prospect or target will access your message, you have to find ways to be everywhere at once in passive and active media. * * * The Media Chart is a good tool to have the “all media” discussion with clients, but also a good way to strategize for your business. The link is easy to remember: tinyurl.com/mediachart. * * * USAToday reports that more small businesses are using Twitter and Facebook. Are we advising them how? New media needs a plan, and can't be haphazard. That plan must be flexible, but just like too many companies never got past issue #1 of their customer print newsletter, there is nothing worse for a business than a website that hasn't been updated since 2006, a blog that has its last post as 2007, or a Facebook page that has as its first entry “Welcome to our Facebook page” and that post is 10 months old. * * * There is a superb summary of economic conditions and why there is no need for more stimulus by economist Frank Shostak. It is a bit econ-geekish, but stick with it. It took me two reads to appreciate it. * * * Be sure to catch the video interview and article of 90-year old ad legend Lester Wunderman at Advertising Age before the stick it behind their paywall. * * * What if a tabletPC cost only $35? PCWorld discusses the prospect. Okay, it would be more of that because you'd have to buy a memory card. The device would rely on a browser for most all it does. Since cloud computing is becoming the all the rage, it is likely to handle most all mobile information needs. It would include a PDF reader (there are numerous open source versions), a word processor (I suspect the quick and light AbiWord, but there are others), and run a version of Linux (which would be transparent to the user if everything is browser-based). Should we believe it? The One Laptop Per Child program that was initiated by digital innovator Nicholas Negroponte has never lived up to expectations and could never achieve its target of the $100 PC. It was waylayed by competition from inexpensive netbook computers that had more power, such as the Asus Eee, for $300. From what I have read recently online, they may actually be close to finally getting there with a $75 PC that runs Google's Android operating system. So we may hear from them again. This article, however, mentions that program and that this $35 tablet, if it comes to fruition, might potentially leapfrog the OLPC program yet again. What's the takeaway? Mobile computing, around the world, will change the way information is shared and constrain the need for print, even in developing countries. Becoming familiar with it now can prepare for actions needed later. * * * The Pew Internet Survey has an interesting report about how young consumers communication habits will change as they grow older. Social networks, whatever they become, will play critical role. * * * Figure out the effects of expiring tax rates and new proposals at MyTaxBurden.org. It's helpful to have last year's 1040 with you when you use the site. * * * Apple is indeed an amazing marketer. I was wandering the Providence Place Mall in Rhode Island the other day. The Sony Style store was usually empty, and is now gone. The Apple store, in on this mid-afternoon in mid-week had more people looking at their products per square foot than the food court at lunchtime, and every other store. The age range of customers was wider than one would have expected a year or so ago. Every display table, whether it was iPods, iPads, notebooks, or laptops, was hard to get to. Sony was a pioneer in mobile music, ebooks, and even notebook computing. Somehow, Apple grabbed every single one of those categories, and it proves yet again that the sacred cow of “first mover” in the marketplace is vastly overrated over the long term. First movers are very creative in building new market positions, but once successful they become so protective and defensive of their categories, they become easy targets for others. Apple beating Nokia in phones? Ten years ago, the idea of Apple even being in the phone business would have been a cocktail party joke. This chart shows Apple's new product mix. All of these things have led to a rise in their desktop computer business, and now the company is making inroads into the corporate environment, and is also starting initiatives in small business. * * * This Friday we get Q2 GDP, then the week-long data cascade begins on Monday with the ISM Manufacturing Index, Tuesday is June printing shipments, and Wednesday is the ISM Non-manufacturing Index. That will let us update our monthly recovery indicators. Finally, Friday will have the release of the unemployment rate. No matter what direction the data take earlier in the week, the focus will always be brought back to that report. I will comment on the data as they are released on Twitter.

Dr. Joe Webb is one of the graphic arts industry's best-known consultants, forecasters, and commentators. He is the director of WhatTheyThink's Economics and Research Center.



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