I originally posted this in December 2007. At the time I was Director of Digital Operations for Transcontinental and posted this relational marketing piece on my blog at the time. I came across it today, and it’s still relevant…
It’s interesting to see how my perception of agencies has changed now that I work in one, and how I was wrong, or accurate on my assumptions.
Print industry publications in North America have been talking non stop about digital printing, variable printing, 1:1 marketing, but aside from motivating printers to buy digital equipment, it doesn’t seem to have had the huge impact in the adoption rate, at least in Quebec, that many of us thought it would.
Why is that?
I think one of the reasons is that designers simply aren’t up to date on what’s possible.
Marketers know about the power of addressing everyone differently. Most of them are also accomplished salespeople who will tailor their sales pitch to the audience to achieve results.
The questions to ask them are “What if you could speak to every prospect individually? What would you say to each one? Would you address women differently? Men? Elderly couples? Professionals?
We already do this to some extent on-line, although in many cases we are still light years away from implementing one to one variability even on the Internet.
Through variable printing, relational marketing brings the same promise and potential to the print medium, a medium which, until recently, was not able to cope with multiple possibilities at all, never mind cost-effectively.
Digital print is a new vehicle, with its own advantages and drawbacks, and most professionals in the market space will agree that it’s the way of the future.
It’s a convenient bridge between the on-line up to the minute personal information and traditional print where, if you’re lucky, your name and address is on your piece, added on a crude inkjet, glue-on label or, best case scenario, laser printed.
There is a gap however. Graphic designers in general aren’t catching up to the production world of possibilities that digital printing offers.
I think we need to be more proactive in training the next generation of graphic designers and educating established ones on the new opportunities of the digital medium, so they can start giving at least as much thought to the design as to the recipient.
Give a designer or a marketer a new vehicle and he’ll use it, but the early adopters are in for a shift they may not be expecting.
Recently, I had a meeting with an award winning agency in Montreal, and they’ve gotten the message. They want to seize the power of the new medium, they understand the effort required, understand that the database takes on a far more important role in the process, that they need to dedicate resources to analyze the data.
They know what they want to say to each segment, how they want to say it, and they know that we can produce the variable pieces.
They’re way ahead of the game.
The next stumbling block? Price, of course.
In an attempt, sometimes deliberate, sometimes motivated by inertia, to commoditize the variable printing technology to a lowest bidder scenario, some agencies and large clients will position a large contract as possible only if the price comes down. Trouble is, the price can’t come down easily. A previously unimaginable level of high technology, expertise, data manipulation, sheer data volume come into play in these types of campaigns, and the result is high production cost that’s passed on to the client.
When you compare that with the relatively simple proposition of burning a plate and then rotating it 60,000 times it’s incomprehensible to someone who doesn’t understand the processes involved.
And here again, we, as relational marketing professionals have a responsibility to provide the information decision makers need to stop comparing the traditional offset process and the data-driven variable print process.
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