By Harvey Hirsch
I had another sleepless night last night. What keeps me up? I suffer from Graphic Schizophrenia. Never heard of it? It is a complication of Legacy Marketing and the limited thinking that it creates. Only a good Variable Data Printing (VDP) treatment can alleviate the symptoms. I'll explain.
That was then…
I've been in marketing for around 30 years, providing creative campaign development, management and content for my clients. My thinking and strategies were based on the marketing programs of the '60s. You know, that's where mass communications theory was coming into its own and we were taught that you had to contact as many people as possible for as little as possible. Keep your CPMs low, and try to generate an average response rate.
This worked for a long time. I made a good living, got to work with great clients, even won a few awards. Over time, however, the response rates started to slip. As more companies got into direct marketing, my universal prospect was bombarded with more messages every day, making me work harder just to keep my responses stable. The cost of generating a lead was increasing faster than that of Kuwaiti Crude.
When the mass communications technologies such as newspapers, trade publications, TV and radio failed to supply enough business, most of these companies developed direct mail programs as the only affordable solution for new business development programs. This thinking stemmed from the case studies of the past. The big agency-type thinking that trickled down from Madison Avenue to regional communications boutique shops and smaller agencies. Nothing earth-shaking, just your basic communications theories of the '60s being applied. And its still controlling over $3 billion every month!
…This is now
This type of thinking affects printers more than they know. It's basic. Nobody gets up in the morning and says "I've got to print 40,000 brochures." They get up in the morning and think "I've got to sell something to somebody!" and maybe I need a brochure/folder/poster/mailer and email campaign to do it.
Only when somebody decides they have something to sell do the wheels of commerce (and printing) spin. Even today, a salesperson needs a graphic support mechanism to help them convert a suspect to a prospect. This powerful, free-enterprise need makes work for writers, graphic designers, platemakers, printers and mailing houses. This is the way it has been since the heyday of the 60s and in most cases it still is the way to go before companies realize it's just too expensive to perpetuate.
But not for me! I drank the 1:1 VDP KoolAid back in 1999 when I started getting involved in the launching of a new printing technology. This system had a straight paper path and could handle a wide variety of card stocks but, more importantly, it could merge data to personalize each piece of paper. Now, that doesn't sound like much today, but in 1999, that was a big technology shift.
In launching this product I got to play with it and became so addicted that I had to purchase one, then two, then 5. Yes, my Jones was so powerful that I needed access to this technology-- badly. This is when I first started exhibiting the early signs of Graphic Schizophrenia.
Graphic Schizophrenia is where you are caught in the dilemma whereby you will do anything you possibly can to help a client generate new business as long as it fits on a 12 x 18-inch sheet of paper. Oh, my God! It took over my conventional thinking and I actually became a digital print provider. Not only did I become a VDP believer, I became a disciple --even an evangelist!
It took over my conventional thinking and I actually became a digital print provider. Not only did I become a VDP believer, I became a disciple --even an evangelist!
Bad enough that I now had to design my own programs for a 12 x 18-inch sheet, my new paradigm was that everything had to be personalized, versioned, and because of my background in direct mail, had to generate attention in nano-seconds.
Why do we push ourselves to extreme pressure? I don't know. I guess that perhaps for whom the gods will destroy, they first make creative. There I was, at a crossroad. One road led to a comfortable retirement where the biggest decision I would make was whether to roll to the right or left in order to get more sun on my back. The other road led to learning how to master this new fangled, data-driven, toner encrusted, green button technology. I never thought that it would make me a VDP addict and a Graphic Schizophrenic. And it's highly contagious!
The other road led to learning how to master this new fangled, data-driven, toner encrusted, green button technology.
The Rx for the Ailment
Treating this disorder involves changing the way you think about communications and solving the client's need for new business. It requires an understanding of the new communications paradigm of relationship building touches instead of a one-way, one-size-fits-all static message that turns most of them off. Learning how to cope with this requires more than just an open mind, a fat wallet and a lot of time on your hands. It requires a commitment to education for yourself, your production team and most importantly, your clients.
Treating this disorder requires a commitment to education for yourself, your production team and most importantly, your clients.
Fighting the long-term effects of Legacy Marketing is not easy and you might need professional assistance. There are many companies still applying this obsolete technology to their new business programs and shifting them to more profitable 21st Century Relationship Building programs is not easy. They've read the white papers. They've attended the On-Demand show. Hell, some have even gone to the VDP Conferences and sat in on classes. But how many have truly embraced this radical new philosophy?
Many print providers --acolytes of VDP who have plunked their sheckles down to install iGens, Indigos and NexPresses-- have barely used them for VDP. Most of the time they're running "I needed it yesterday!" jobs. Some only merge mailing information to avoid ink-jetting or placing a sticker on the product. And, a select few, actually provide versioned, short-run, targeted marketing pieces with internet and mobile support for their discerning, educated clients.
Fighting the long-term effects of Legacy Marketing is not easy and you might need professional assistance.
Yes, this new disease requires constant treatment with injections of distilled data, an IV of Digital Asset Management, and in some extreme cases, a complete marketing lobotomy to remove the vestigial nodes of conventional thinking ensconced in their marketing strategy.
The rewards of this digital kelation will manifest themselves in higher response rates, "green" manufacturing processes and more efficient, cost-effective marketing programs that actually generate a plethora of new business. For those who can swallow this pill, the future is robust and healthy with tons of new "patients," ready to be cured. For those who cling to the ever commoditized and virtually obsolete marketing tactics, a painful drawn out demise will be their breakfast.
Which path will you take? Is it possible for you to wake up tomorrow morning and accept that you will embrace change? Is it possible for an "Old Dog" to learn? Maybe if the "Old Dog" has payroll to meet and wants to keep meeting it he'll roll over and discover he's been laying on the cure all along.