Archive for the ‘Print Markets’ Category

Printing Is Easy, Marketing Is Hard

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read. —Groucho Marx

It has been said, by whom, I’m not entirely sure, that everyone has a book inside them (insert your own “Marxist” joke here), or at least everyone thinks they do. I am regularly asked by friends and colleagues, both inside and especially outside the printing industry, about how to self-publish a book. Almost universally, the questions are about the physical production and printing process (“how many pages/words do I need I need to write?” “How expensive is it?”, etc.) or how ebooks work. However, from my experience, the questions one asks about self-publishing should focus less on production and more on marketing—and even whether there is an audience at all for the book you want to write.

There are success stories, of course. The 50 Shades of Gray franchise (to my horror, I discovered too late that it had nothing to do with color management) is perhaps the emblematic example of the self-publishing experiment that was enough of a hit to lead to mainstream publishing success. (Imagine, erotica being a saleable commodity. Who’d’a thunk it?)

Regular WhatTheyThink readers may know (or be in denial about the fact that) that Dr. Joe Webb and I have co-written and self-published almost half a dozen books (see in particular here, as well as here, here, here, and here), and the half-dozenth is on the drawing board—and, no, will not be called 128 Levels of Gray and will not chronicle the erotic adventures of a prepress department manager. The one thing that we have learned in our self-publishing adventures is that production, printing, and even writing all comprise the easy part of the self-publishing process. Today’s digital and on-demand printing technologies make it easy and inexpensive to publish your own books, and services like Amazon and Lulu, to name two that we have used, handle both the physical production and offer an online storefront for a book. But that is, again, only the smallest of first steps.

Some serious questions and considerations to ponder before even setting finger to keyboard include:

  • What is the real market for the book? Be honest. What is the competition like? Do your due diligence. Search Amazon, Barnes & Noble—even venture to the nearest physical bookstore to see what books may exist on your topic. You may very well be entering a very crowded or even saturated market—even if you have a unique take on a well-trodden topic—and being self-published is one major strike against you if your closest competition is from an established publishing company.
  • Is there a lot of free competition? Our recent book is The Home Office That Works!, about setting up a productive home office, and while there are few published titles (that we found) that cover the topic the way we did (most are about launching a specific home business), but we discovered after the fact that there are a lot of blogs and online articles about various aspects of running a home office. It’s strewn piecemeal all over the Internet, but a challenge is getting people to buy something they can probably search out and get for free. If I were to write a book offering tips for prospective self-publishers, I would be in trouble because of blogposts like this one.
  • Do you have a promotional/marketing apparatus already in place? That is, are you a fairly well-known speaker in your industry and can use speaking gigs as marketing tools for the book (and/or vice versa)? When we published Disrupting the Future in 2010, it hit enough of a nerve in the industry that it led to Joe and I getting speaking gigs that, in turn, promoted the book. It helped that we were known quantities (for better or worse) in the industry.
  • How popular are you on social media? I’ll get in trouble for saying this, but I think social media has become vastly overrated as a marketing and publicity tool, but that’s not to say it is not without value. Are you active enough in these areas or do you—like me, I hasten to add—have to be dragged kicking and screaming into social media? If you are like me (and my thoughts and prayers go out to you), do you know someone who can do your social media stuff for you?

Self-publishing is not as looked down upon as the old vanity publishers of yore, but there is still a stigma attached to it, as in “you couldn’t get a real publisher, could you”—even though all the questions you should ask yourself before self-publishing are the same as you should ask before seeking out any publisher.

Digital printing technology has truly enabled the small, independent, or self-publisher—but that really is only the beginning of the process.

Why Your Clients Should Be Offering Email Couponing

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

If you’re a printer, you want clients to spend more money on print. So why should you encourage them to offer email coupons? Because email coupons are trackable, and they tell your clients what their customers are buying. That tells your clients a lot about those customers they can use for higher value print personalization later.

Experian Marketing Services’ 2013 4th Quarter email trends and analysis found a 50% year-over-year increase in the number of email campaigns offering coupons. As reported by MediaPost, whether the coupons were redeemable in-store, online, or both, email blasts with coupons outperformed other promotional mailings on open, click, and transaction rates. They also had 48% higher revenue per email ($0.10 for coupon mailings compared to $0.07 for other promotional mailings) in Q4 2013.

That’s a very active, engaged audience that can feed you a lot of information. Let’s say your customer is a specialty retailer offering a variety of pet products. It doesn’t have a loyalty program and isn’t large enough to track data at the point of sale. But you start sending email campaigns with coupons. The coupons that get printed, clicked through, or downloaded tell that customer which households have what types of pets. This allows you to help the store craft targeted campaigns directed at their specific pet needs.

Over time, it can alert the store to changes in pet ownership, too. Suddenly, the Smith, Jones, and Gordon families are downloading coupons for puppy chow. It’s a pretty good bet they just purchased a puppy. This can prompt mailings for grooming services, puppy beds, crates, and a variety of other products they are likely to need. In six to eight months, puppies grow into nearly full sized dogs, and those families will need larger beds, larger crates, training classes, flea and tick control for larger dogs, and so on.

One of the big hurdles to detailed targeting for small and mid-sized businesses is the lack of tracking at the point of sale. It’s great to talk about targeting and personalizing based on past purchase behavior, but most small and mid-sized marketers don’t know what their customers are buying. Email couponing gives insight into those behaviors in a way that’s realistic and affordable even for small businesses.

Are in-plants up to speed on offering cross-media marketing services?

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Although cross-media marketing services are becoming more prevalent amongst print and communications partner providers, we in the print industry have yet to discuss how this evolution affects in-house, or in-plant, offerings. Last week, Canon Solutions America sponsored an InPlantGraphics webinar surrounding the question at hand: How are in-plants making the cross-media connection? Barbara Pellow, Group Director at InfoTrends, offers key background information on how in-plants are moving up the value chain and provides a breakdown of planned market investments for 2014. This overview could not have been more appropriately complemented by the examples of leading edge solutions from one of the industry’s most progressive in-plants at The World Bank. Both David Leonard, Manager of Printing & Multimedia Services, and Jimmy Vainstein, Printing Facility Manager, pose important questions and review a business model in transforming a print-focused in-plant to a full service, cross-media solutions provider.

We know having a broad range of services and capabilities, price point, and speedy turnaround time are at the top of everyone’s vendor criteria wish list. But the kicker surrounds what types of services are provided to connect with the 2014 target audience. In an InfoTrends survey, mobile marketing, multi-channel integrated marketing, web hosting, and web design services trump that wish list. This by no means comes as a surprise given the direction of communications trends and increased digital access. Barbara drives home the point: “This market is in transition. It’s an evolution, not a revolution.” The winners in this evolving market are going to figure out how to make paper interactive, how to extend value of media, and how to create solutions that are easily measurable.

That might sound like a complicated process, but really it boils down to first understanding what options are out there. For example, four ways to make print interactive include:

  1. Mobile codes – example: QR code, which links to web address
  2. Mobile messaging – example: text message containing discount receipt instructions
  3. NFC Tags – example: printed poster containing tag, which links to mobile web offer
  4. Augmented Reality – example: printed brochure, which links to digital expanded version

Knowing these channels, understanding a client’s needs, and investing in the proper software and print solutions will make for a seamless transition.

There is tremendous room for growth in most in-plants. InfoTrends highlights that the majority of in-plants foresee a stable or increase in overall revenue thanks to strategic software purchases and a re-vamped business model. As Dave and Jim explain, these investments strengthen the goal of knowledge sharing while delivering cutting edge, multi-channel communications solutions. Their business model explanation and examples successful communications pieces drive home the fact that in-plants can provide equally—if not more-so—competitive solutions.

For more insight and key questions to consider from Dave and Jim, be sure to check out the full webinar:

 

Your News Now

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

In the great 1990s sci-fi series Babylon 5, set in the late 2250s, print newspapers still exist 200+ years in the future, but with a (to us) familiar twist. In one particular episode, the captain of the titular space station walks up to a kiosk and requests specific newspaper sections and topics. When he’s done, the kiosk spits out an instantly—presumably digitally—printed, customized newspaper.

A bit of science-fiction futuriana, to be sure, but that’s not far removed from the idea of digitally printed on-demand newspapers that the industry has been talking about since at least the 1990s. Or, in other words, using technology to deliver us the news we want, not what some editor thinks we want. (Yes, this is also the idea of the Google News Alert.)

I bring this up because I happened across an interesting experiment conducted by a social media aggregation site called NewsWhip which thought it would be interesting to see what major newspapers’ front pages would look like if they included the top stories from those publications that were trending on social media. That is, what stories were readers sharing vs. what was on the front page of the print edition?

What if front pages were selected by newspapers’ readers instead of their editors?  At NewsWhip, we’re always interested in the news stories people are choosing to share – and how those stories differ from the normal news stories editors put on the front pages of big newspapers. So we ran a little experiment.

A little work at our end, and we used those most shared stories to make new “people powered” front pages for each newspaper – giving the most shared story the most prominence, the second most shared the second most prominence, etc.

We replaced headlines and pictures, though did not get into replacing story text and bylines. The results are pretty neat – maybe even thought provoking.

Actually, the “people power” papers are not as frivolous as one would be inclined to think, and actually aren’t a million miles removed from what the papers chose for their actual front-page stories. The only real differences were less foreign policy (i.e., few Ukraine stories) and more diet and health, especially in the British papers.

Now, mind you, focusing on the stories that are most shared via social media doesn’t necessarily give the best sense of what is being read, or even what readers find personally important. For example, there is a lot of food being shared on social media, but seldom is it one’s everyday humdrum breakfasts and dinners, but is instead some remarkable feast out at a restaurant or slaved over at home for a special occasion. So focusing on the meals one shares on social media doesn’t necessarily give the best sense of what people typically eat on a daily basis. Otherwise, get thee to a gym!

Back to the news, though. Speaking for myself, what I read for my own edification of what is going on the world is very different from what I would tend to share on Twitter or Facebook—I tend to pass along more whimsical, humorous, absurd technology kinds of things, rather than the more prosaic news stories one needs to function in a democratic society. I dare say most people are pretty much the same.

Back in 1993, I took several courses at NYU on the emerging “multimedia technology” (remember the “interactive CD-ROM” and how it was gong to be a billion-dollar industry? Ha!) just as the Internet was ramping up in earnest, and friends of mine and I would sit around—as college students are wont to do—anticipating and solving all the problems of the world. One of us had remarked that there was a real danger in a media landscape in which we could all pick and choose our own news, having it served up to us exactly as we like it, as if it were a restaurant serving us the food we now post on Facebook. The last 20 years, and the fact that a disturbing number of people seem to get their news solely from e-mails forwarded from their crazy uncle, suggests that perhaps the danger was not entirely overstated.

There is also a danger in relying too much on having the “crowd” decide the editorial content of newspapers, magazines, or other news sources. What people want to know and what they need to know can often be two different things.

Perhaps it’s the journalistic equivalent of being made to eat our vegetables, but I’m perfectly happy to have the “media elite”—editors and publishers—decide what’s important, or what they think is important. Could they do a better job sometimes? Of course. But there is still a great value in having an objective “curator” of the news—and I say this having been a printing industry writer for 20 years and worked very closely with—and even been—those curators.

Personalization technology—be it newspapers or anything else—has given us the unprecedented ability to only seek out and receive the content we want whenever we want it. However, we need to be certain that it’s what we really want.

Stay Ahead of the Curve with Automated Web-to-Print Solutions

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Want to learn how to keep your print services on top within the fast-paced marketing community? If so, InfoTrends’ Kate Dunn offers insight and recommendations on how to adapt and automate print services for your clients. Sponsored by the PressGo program of Canon Solutions America, this webinar gives you the information needed to bolster your online business.

You might be asking, “What are some of the web-based market models out there?” For starters, there is the standard Ad-hoc Send-and-Print, which most printers already have in place. This allows the customer to upload a single file, receive a cost estimate, and send the file to print. The Catalog and Template based models mainly surround business communications, sales and marketing collateral, and direct mail, which are customizable to certain degrees. The holy grail of models is Process Automation, which integrates an enhanced supply chain with fully customizable print ordering.

OK, let’s apply a model to a real-life scenario. With an automated template process system, a realtor can sign-in online, choose a business card template, select copy that pertains to his property sales pitch, send the card to print, as well as have the business cards packaged, postmarked, and mailed to recipients. Accomplished all in a series of clicks without having to juggle communications with a number of service providers.

Let’s review: why are automated print services so important? Well, InfoTrends predicts that 40% of all printed materials will be procured over the Internet in the coming year. Customers are asking for automation services in order to streamline their supply-chain and maximize profits. In short, web-based automation adds value for both you and your clients. Today’s marketing supply chain consists of multiple, interconnected suppliers that an organization relies on to produce materials (print, promotional, and point-of-sale) to market their products and services. It’s astonishing, however, that 70% of businesses surveyed have no way to track or predict obsolescence within their supply chain. The last thing any client wants is a loss of control over their brand! That’s where a web-based approach is applied to fix the gap. Some of the benefits include: customer access 24/7, increased print accuracy, reduced customer service workloads, and enhanced volume production. Sounds like a nicely packaged offer to me.

If you want the complete list of benefits, the stats, and further insight into web-to-print solutions, view the webinar here:

New Tech Takes Print Books Into New Directions

Monday, January 13th, 2014

For the second year in a row, a critical mass of friends and colleagues reported that they received a Kindle or the like for Christmas. (My policy for the past couple of years has been to only give people print books as gifts.) Still, recent trends in ebook sales show a slowdown, which is actually being greeted as somewhat good news by an industry that never was all that enthused by ebooks to begin with. And Forbes tells us that last year hardcover sales rebounded and outpaced ebook sales.

So it doesn’t appear that books need anything in particular to breathe new life into them. Still, new printing technologies—or creative approaches to printing—can make books exciting in new ways. Two recent titles show that you don’t really need electronic media to make books interactive. One was a bestseller last fall, a novel conceived by J.J. Abrams, creator of Lost, Fringe, and the Star Trek reboots (don’t get me started…), among many other projects for screens both large and small, and written by Doug Dorst. The result of their collaboration, S., is an elaborate “story within a story” that masquerades as a well-thumbed old library book, a surreal literary novel called Ship of Theseus, ostensibly authored by the fictional V.M. Straka and purportedly published in 1949. The plot of Ship of Theseus is somewhat beside the point, as the real story of S. is told in the margins—literally—as two avid Straka readers meet within the pages of the book and strike up a relationship that starts off intellectual and soon becomes romantic. The colors of the ink they use become an important means of following their timeline. A seemingly low-tech effect, but not that long ago having color throughout a book for such a “prosaic” (pun intended) purpose would have been prohibitively expensive and impractical.

In addition to the marginal notes, the two characters also pass other items back and forth to each other—maps, letters, postcards, photographs, a kind of code wheel, even a page from their school newspaper—that are physically inserted at relevant points in the book. As a result, the book has become loathed by librarians: it’s easy for these items to fall out of the book and get lost or damaged. (Actually, at times reading S. brought back memories of reading magazines and having blow-in cards fall out in my lap. Annoying at the time but rather quaint these days.)

Another recent title is what is said to have the first 3D-printed book cover—or, more correctly, slipcover. Chang-rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea, published by Riverhead Books, is available in two print editions: the everyday hardcover, which retails for $27.95, and one featuring the 3D-printed slipcase, which is a steal at $150.

The idea is to turn books into “art objects”—or objets d’art, if you want to sound pretentious about it—which is not a new concept; actually it predates the printed book; remember all those illuminated manuscripts from the Middle Ages? Admittedly, both these strategies seem like gimmicks, and they are, but the gimmick used in S. functions as part of the narrative itself, offering a unique way to tell a story. The 3D cover is really just plumage. Plumage is fine, of course; after all, book covers have long boasted spot varnishes, embossing, foil stamping and other effects to stand out on a crowded bookshelf. Even a hardcover itself (vs. a paperback) is more art than necessity. But these days maybe we could all use a bit more art in our lives.

I contrast these titles with an elaborate graphic novel that the publisher sent a while ago called Anomaly, which implemented the latest in augmented reality (AR) to bring some of the pages alive. I was more impressed with the print edition—it’s an all-full-color, hardcover, coffee-table-esque book—than the AR components, which required downloading an iPhone app, going to a Web page to find out what pages had AR content, and adjusting the ambient lighting and camera angle meticulously to get the AR to work. I like the idea but, like QR codes, I await a more elegant, seamless solution (which already exists).

Intermingling print with electronic content can enhance the reading experience, and it really doesn’t need to be anything especially exotic. As a Christopher Moore fan, I found the author’s blog posts (delivered via a smartphone app) that complemented his last novel, Sacre Bleu, provided interesting behind-the-scenes info and added content that would have bogged down the book’s narrative, but functioned rather like those “deleted scenes” or “making of” features on movie DVDs.

Still, I find the best “bonus features” of books to be those that are self-contained within the book itself. And that means “print.” And it means unleashing the imaginations of authors, designers, publishers, and printers—and even equipment manufacturers. And that’s always a good thing.

Looking forward to 2014!

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Every year, I like to think of my trip to PRINT/Graph Expo as a preview of what the coming year will bring. This year, we asked Madison Advisors to jot down their notes about what PRINT indicates will be big in 2014. Here is what they offered:

According to Madison Advisors, expect to see growth in digital color continuing through 2014. The firm’s recent engagements have shown an increase in production color printers in both in-plants and service bureaus. Outsourced print providers without high volume color capabilities are reviewing the market for the best solution to meet the needs of existing and new client opportunities. Most understand the need to have the color devices in place when bidding on color jobs as the learning curve is too great to take an “if they come, we’ll build it” approach. Creative sales approaches are needed to get these placements so the service bureaus can control their capital expenses while building volume.

Madison Advisors is also forecasting growth for outsourced customer communications platforms. As the IT department at more than one large company has observed, it is increasingly difficult to hire, train, motivate, and retain skilled IT professionals in the area of document composition. When the guy next to you is working on a cool mobile application, it’s tough to get excited about putting dots on paper. As a result, we see an increasing number of companies outsourcing their document implementations and ongoing operation to external vendors.

Custom packaging and product labeling is a growth area for commercial printers and there were a number of products at PRINT 13 geared toward this, again, many inkjet-based. The opportunity here is two-fold. For the printer, digital packaging printing allows them to respond quickly to changes in labeling from their clients. Short runs can now be profitable as you can print fully customized single units. For the marketing manager, digital printing of packaging and product labeling allows them to customize the messaging on each product to a specific micro market or respond to an outside event with special packaging.

The message from PRINT 13 was that color digital print is the future and the industry is prepared to deliver solutions to streamline the production process. Printer vendors are investing in new print technology, software providers are taking what they have learned over the years and investing in new solutions that are more user-friendly and easier to support. 2014 will be an interesting year as these new print solutions get into the hands of users and we can see if they deliver on the hype.

Convergence to Digital Inkjet Shifts to Hamburg Facility

Monday, December 16th, 2013

This morning we announced the expansion of our digital platform with the installation of an Océ ColorStream® 3900 at our Hamburg, Pa. facility. As the news release referenced, and as Joe Morrison noted in a recent post, the next 12 months will mark a period of aggressive investment in digital inkjet technology. This strategy will capitalize on the convergence to digital that is reshaping the direct mail industry.

Our customers have experienced eye-opening results using highly targeted and personalized campaigns that only digital print technology can produce. In some cases this equates to double or triple-digit lift in response rates. But that’s not the only benefit they’re experiencing. Using the single-stream optimization that digital technology allows also lowers their postage cost. We will expand on how our digital technology impacts postage in an upcoming article. Digital print technology also powers cross-channel campaigns by making it easier for print communication to connect consumers to online channels.

Harnessing the power of digital print technology does require an adjustment from marketers and their design team, however. If you’d like more background on what we mean, please read some of the content we’ve developed that relates specifically to digital printing.

We will be making more investments in the coming months, as we’re intensely focused on having the best digital platform in the direct marketing industry. If you have any questions about our digital capabilities or designing for digital, please feel free to contact our Sales or Creative Services teams.

Post by Jim Anderson of IWCO Direct. Chief Executive Officer and graduate of American University in Washington D.C. Bringing the “we versus me” philosophy to IWCO Direct for nearly 15 years. 2010 Harry V. Quadracci VISION award winner from the Printing Industries of America and 2008 Printing Impressions/RIT Printing Industry Hall of Fame inductee. Avid golfer and NY Football Giants fanatic. 

To see more, visit http://www.iwco.com/blog/

How Do You Sell Web-to-Print?

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Whatever you call it — Web-to-print, branded customer portals, print commerce — Web-to-print is now operated by 40% of U.S.-based print shops [1] and 25% of European ones [2].  We’re used to thinking about the cost savings from these solutions from a printer standpoint, but there are big ones from the client’s standpoint, too. Here are some I have listed in “State of Web-to-Print (2013).” Can you add to them?

1. Time savings.

Template-based design (or ability to customize pre-designed documents) saves time, period.

2. Reduction in fulfillment errors.

Errors cost money. Fixing them once they are out in the field costs even more. When large companies switch from manual fulfillment to Web-to-print fulfillment, the cost savings from error reduction can be substantial.

3. Reduction in duplication and errors in design.

How many of the same document are being tweaked and customized individually by different agencies, distributors, and agents, each at their own cost? What can be saved by creating one template and reducing the duplication in effort? By centralizing templates and design, MFS Investment Management, for example, saved $350,000 within the first few months of implementing W2P for its 401(k) sales proposal kits, even though its fulfillment volume rose by 58%.

4. Savings in production costs.

When Tiffin University switched its student inquiry packets from 9×12-inch folders with four to six preprinted inserts to slim, highly personalized booklets printed on demand from a W2P interface, its printing and postage costs dropped by 50%. Jobs also can be ganged, creating another path to efficiencies.

5. Savings in postage.

Printers are often able to co-mingle jobs, including those of multiple clients, achieving greater postal discounts.

6. Faster response times.

The faster follow-ups get into customers’ hands, the greater likelihood of conversion. It’s a soft savings, but an important one. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas used to take weeks to produce its fundraising materials. By developing its own a Web-to-print solution, its fundraising campaign directors now produce its donor literature (including personalizing down to the donor level) in less than 30 minutes.

7. Administrative cost savings.

One telecom and wireless services provider deployed the same solution and saved 7,500 man-hours per month and $750,000 in monthly order administrative costs.

What areas of cost savings do your customers receive?


[1] “U.S. Production Software Investment Outlook,” InfoTrends 2012

[2] “European Production Software Investment Outlook,” InfoTrends, 2012

10 Trends to Define Marketing for 2014 – 10 Experts Weigh in

Monday, November 4th, 2013

As we approach 2014, and all of the marketing challenges that come with it, SourceLink is rolling out our “Ten Trends to Define Marketing” series again, with a twist. This year, we sat down with ten industry experts and asked them what trends they anticipate in 2014 and the years to come. We will be rolling out these articles over the next six weeks – Here are the experts that we sat down with, and a brief synopsis of what they had to say:

1. Ginger Conlon, Editor-in-Chief, Direct Marketing News – “The Virtuous Cycle of Customer Centricity” – Oct 29

Into 2014, consumers will wield the power to dictate how they are marketing to, and marketers are tasked with creating content that is driven by consumer preference. Understanding customer behaviors and preferences will lead to sophisticated micro-marketing campaigns, and marketers will then be tasked with modeling content creation and communications strategies based on how content is being utilized.

2. Judith Hemmel, Vice President of Customer Intelligence, SourceLink -  “Moving From Creepy to Credible” – Oct 31

An overarching theme through several of the interviews is was the extreme importance of mobile marketing. Consumers now have the ultimate choice of whether to engage with a brand, cultivating an environment of permission. This phenomenon will further strengthen the move from push to pull marketing, and messaging must move from “Creepy to Credible.”

3. Skip Henk, President and CEO, Xplor International – “Sitting on the Sidelines or Taking the Leap of Faith” – Nov 5

Human behavior is the true game changer in 2014, and there is tremendous value in how customers allocate their time to take in new information.  Augmented Reality, a still-emerging technology, very well could lead to a print revival. Marketers will fall into two categories in embracing these new technologies, those taking the leap and those sitting on the sidelines waiting for more proof; which Skip sees as the “winners and the losers” in the fight for customer attention.

4. Bryan Yeager, Financial Services and Mobile Payments Analyst for eMarketer–“Social Media and Mobile Craft a Path to Purchase” – Nov 7

Mobile penetration reached a tipping point in 2013, and looking into 2014, past trends converge because of the smartphone and its ability to enhance the customer experience. Marketers using social media up until now have merely been laying the groundwork for the real opportunities for engagement and conversion. Wearable technologies bring flashy new avenues to truly connect with customers.

5. Roehl Sanchez, VP and Chief Creative Officer, BIMM Direct & Digital - “Data Drives The Creative Process, and the Modular Builder Emerges” - Nov 12

Data begins to drive creative decisions, and creative decisions facilitate the use of data. We are entering age of real time marketing, and the definition of marketing and advertising “Creative” is shifting, especially when it comes to mobile design. Marketers must familiarize themselves withmicrocampaigns and start thinking mobile first. The creative professional must start to be a “modular builder,” and embrace a shift toward strong creative rooted as much in functionality as in design.

6. Rich Brown, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, SourceLink –SOLOMO and the Evolution of Location Based Engagement” – Nov 14

Social plus location plus mobile (SOLOMO) will a gamechanger in 2014, as marketers truly perfect geofencing technologies and make actionable use out of location data using offer-based engines. Data use concerns and privacy legislation gain lots of attention in 2014, and marketing organizations rally to support the responsible use of data. Marketers start to effectively link return on investment between offline transactions and social engagement.

7. John Foley, CEO Grow Socially and CMO InterlinkOne– “The Amazing Powers of Personalization” – Nov 19

2014 will see BIG advancements in mobile technology, which will allow for in-store personalization and other amazing interactions. A surprising amount of companies are still behind the content and social engagement curve in 2013, and will evolve into more social businesses in 2014, with more content being distributed than ever. Personalization sees a surge in the depth and relevancy, paralleling advancements in marketing automation.

8. Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs – “Organizing your Company Around Content and the Emergence of Short-form Media” - Nov 21

Marketers have been making content creation a priority, but next year will see a need to allocate resources to dedicated personnel. Next year’s trend will be a wider adoption and need to understand short-form content. Social media engagement leads to emotional connection and a better brand experience. Print remains a crucial part of marketing spend, and continues to claim significant portion of marketing budget.

9. Cindy Randazzo, Vice President Strategy and Insight, SourceLink – “A World Where IT and Marketing make each other Stronger” and  “Multisource Attribution in an Omnichannel world” – Nov 26 and Dec 3

Cindy had so much to say that we will be covering her thoughts over two articles.  First, 2014 brings the realization that IT and Marketing cannot be siloed, as their strengths will make each other stronger and will account for the weaknesses in the other, as the “right and left brain” come together. Big Data becomes relevant for all industries, as it is mined for interests, and used for multiple forms of variable advertising. Consumers start to ask the question “How is it possible that you don’t know who I am?”

10. David Burstein, Fast Company contributor and author, “Fast Future: How Millennials are Shaping our World.” – “The Marketer’s Role to the Millennial” – Dec 5

Companies must make consistent strides towards social responsibility and innovation as core tenets to developing as an organization. “Millennials” (those born in the second baby boom years of 1980 to the early 2000s) have become the most messaged-to generation ever, and marketers embrace emerging technologies and develop new means to stand out. Deep customization stands as central to the communications experience between marketers and Millennials.

To read the entire series, keep checking back to the SourceLink blog here.

CVS: Don’t Tease Me Like That

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

This morning, my heartbeat skipped a little when I read the headline: “CVS Unveils Personalized Circulars.”

Anything I read that reflects growth in print personalization is exciting to me, but especially outside direct mail, transpromotional, and marketing collateral. Could it be that CVS is going to start mailing coupon books the way my grocery store does, except personalized to my shopping habits gleaned from my loyalty card?

What would it look like? Stapled with the three perforated coupons per page? I get one from the grocery store, and I love it. Even though it’s not personalized, I use it too. What would it be like to get one that is user-friendly and personalized? I couldn’t wait.

But alas, CVS was to disappoint me. When they said “circular,” what they meant was circulated via email and mobile. I don’t love that.

I belong to the company’s loyalty program, but it hasn’t provided me with any benefits so far. I either get coupons on the bottom of my receipts that expire too quickly for them to be of any use or I get rewards by email that send me onto a wild goose chase and require me to input information I don’t want to input to download an email-back coupon. If I’m a rewards member, why can’t they just send me the coupon outright?

You know what I want? I want hard copy coupons from CVS the way I get them from the grocery store. But personalized. Not like the email offers. No, no tricks. No gimmicks. No online switcheroos. Just value in perforated form in my mailbox.

The value of coupons is well documented. The value of personalization is, too. When are retailers going to begin to combine them on a regular basis?

 

Printing in Spook Country

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Spook Country,” the 2007 novel by William Gibson, introduced the concept of “locative art” to the reading public. Gibson’s character Hollis Henry is constantly searching for works of art with her smartphone; art that Gibson describes as akin to techno graffiti.  His descriptions of art tied to a particular GPS location and viewable with a smart phone or VR glasses include a virtual image of  F. Scott Fitzgerald dying at the very spot in Hollywood where he had a fatal heart attack, and Archie – a 90 foot giant squid (Architeuthis for those in the know.) In the book, Archie was designed as a display for a Tokyo department store with “an endless rush of digital imagery along Archie’s distal surface.”

The Museum of Vancouver took a page from Gibson’s book this month by launching their augmented reality museum app “The Visible City.” Truly a work of locative art, Visible City enables a walking tour augmented by your smart device in which the tourist sees the streets of Vancouver as they were in their “neon era.” The application overlays pictures and interviews with local personalities to create an immersive experience.

VisibleCity - Webheaderimage

However, augmented reality today is as much about commerce as it is about art. Like the Tokyo department store in Gibson’s novel, retail is the main early adopter. Major brands realize that the opportunity for consumers to interact with products in retail locations can drive sales. There are many examples of AR used for product marketing including LEGO toys, Heinz Ketchup, Budweiser and Audi. While the first three involve interactions at the point of sale, Audi used Metaio to develop an AR enhanced brochure and a virtual users guide (it’s in German – but it’s so clear it doesn’t matter.) There are also numerous examples of catalogs enhanced with augmented reality apps to deliver 3D product views as the reader directs their smart device at a specific item.

While the early adopters were in retail, other brands are getting on board, most recently PNC bank with their Finder AR-based bank locator app. It’s really not anything that couldn’t be accomplished with a Google search or asking “Siri, where’s the nearest PNC Bank?” Nonetheless, it demonstrates the conservative banking industry’s interest in embracing the new cool thing.

Finder by PNC landing page image

Direct Marketing is a natural fit for augmented reality; just ask Omni Hotels and Resorts. Omni-live, their AR app was released in June and is part of a multi-media campaign tailored to meeting and events planners. It includes print, social media, online video and web advertising in concert with augmented reality. In addition to making the campaign more interesting and interactive, AR also makes the campaign more measurable. As soon as the consumer launches the app, the marketer knows that the campaign is being read and how much time the consumer is interacting with the contents. With a really well done virtually reality application, consumers will return again and again.

There is also potential for AR with transaction printing from mundane explanations to incredibly creative advertising. With AR, a financial institution or wireless/internet/cable provider could virtually welcome new customers on board walking them through their statement or invoice and offering detailed instructions (like the Audi user manual above.)

There are plenty of agencies and AR developers out there ready to partner with you to bring new services to your clients. All it takes is a creative vision of how your current print products can deliver more value. Adding a virtual layer between the reality of print and a virtual world revealed through smart apps is the next step in business communications – are you ready to take that step?

For a nice primer on Augmented Reality (written well before AR was on the tip of people’s tongues) visit Common Craft’s Youtube presentation (sorry, there is advertising on the site.)

Elizabeth Gooding Elizabeth Gooding is the President of Gooding Communications Group and editor of the Insight Forums blog. She writes, presents and provides training on trends and opportunities for business communications professionals within regulated vertical industries.

Crystal Ball, Anyone??

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

“It is not the strongest or most intelligent species that survive, but the ones who are most willing to adapt.”  ~Charles Darwin

I like this quote because it removes the idea that survival and success are based on natural selection, but are based on intelligence and strategy and looking at how to adapt for future circumstances – an idea that seems especially relevant for the print industry today. At one time in history, we could have said that “print changed the world” and most would agree. But recent technological innovations, shifts towards digital communications and away from paper communications, have many printers working to keep up with the rapidly transforming industry. I suspect this is where Darwin’s idea of adaptation comes into play. Printers need to anticipate the future and prepare themselves accordingly. The same way of doing business will not stand, but you don’t need me to tell you this.

Lucky for printers, they don’t have to anticipate the future on their own. A group of young, bright, and well-educated students from RIT have already done the heavy lifting. Together they researched, wrote, and published a book entitled “Print changed the world – now the world is changing print.” They imagine the print industry landscape all the way to 2022 and address a number of sectors including books, packaging, signage, technical documents, direct mail, and more.

Here are the cliff notes…

Good News for:

  • Mobile devices which enable digital distribution
  • Packaging
  • Industrial printing
  • Signage

Bad News for:

  • The Postal Service
  • Circulars and inserts
  • Periodicals

Aside from the above, there are a number of categories in which the future is mixed – certain aspects will decline while some will rise. For example, authors suspect that self-publishing and yearbook printing will be the primary mode of book printing while traditional novels and textbooks will decline. The Security sector is another mixed bag.

If you read my last blog post, you’ll see that some predictions and research contradict what is in this report. I suppose no one owns a crystal ball so predicting the future is never easy. But nonetheless, it’s best to be informed and anticipate how expected trends will impact your business. So check out the full booklet here! (Made available by Printing Impressions)

NFC: The Future is Here

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

What is NFC?

NFC stands for Near Field Communication and the short answer would be that NFC identifies us. It allows smartphones to be identified and it establishes a radio communication. Think short range NFC Tagwireless RFID technology.

You may have heard of NFC and its ability to make mobile payments easy. Account information is stored on the smartphone and when in close contact with the payment receiving technology, it passes along that account information, enabling a payment to be made.

However, NFC can be a great marketing tool for mobile marketing. And there is also talk of how NFC will help in terms of rewarding customer loyalty. The bonus is that NFC is more interactive and engaging than your typical marketing message. It’s not a “look at me” marketing strategy. It’s more of a “hey, look what we’ve got for you, are you interested?” kind of connection with the audience.

How does NFC work?

NFC is like your short and skinny pal. He can’t reach very far. And he can’t throw a weighty punch. But he’s scrappy and useful in certain situations.  This low power and short-range wireless link allows for information to be passed between a smartphone and another device. While it is short range (think inches), it does not require contact. But most importantly, it allows for the information to relay back and forth between two devices instead of that relay being a one way street.

Not only is it short-range, NFC is slow. Especially when you compare it to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. But the perk is that NFC consumes very little power. It won’t strain a smartphone battery and suck it dry.

Android NFC Phone in UseA smartphone enabled with NFC can share and interact with another NFC device, or with a “passive” NFC tag. No app needed. And the NFC tag is like a tiny chip that may be embedded (in a poster, a business card and so on) somewhere and has data ready to transfer to a NFC enabled device. The tag doesn’t even need power. Instead, the radio frequency field generated by the NFC device (like your smartphone) does the work, and the data from the tag is transferred to the device.

 

  • What’s so awesome about NFC?
  • How is NFC used in the real world?
  • How can you put NFC to work for your business?

Get the answers to these questions and more in:

NFC_ultimate_guide

Desperately Seeking… A Utility Bill

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

As a utility consumer, I have needs. I need to be asked how I’m doing. I need to feel needed. I need to be understood. I desire warmth from more than just my HVAC unit.

I want to know where my money is going and why I owe as much as I do. Once I come to terms with the hard fact that I indeed do need to part with my hard-earned money, I want it to be as convenient and easy to decipher as possible. I want to be able to check my bill from my phone or computer and have the option to pay from my mobile phone.

I don’t want to call a customer service line, and I don’t want to navigate through a series of voice prompts. Parting with my hard earned money isn’t an intrinsically fun thing to do, so when I have an experience with my utility company, I’m already on the defensive. I need my utility company to open a communication with me, not just a one-way message. I don’t at all mind the utility company sharing a third-party deal with me, as long as it applies to me, and isn’t a hassle to read through.

What I can’t deal with is poor design that lacks graphics to clarify my statement. I’m a visual learner, so I need to see where my money is going. I want to see the crucial information front and center. If I have to call customer service, I want to easily find my account number and all other pertinent information in one place. I want an e-statement that looks like my bill. I find it helpful to see why I’m using so much energy, and I like to see if I was demonstrated better or worse habits in the prior year (or better than my neighbors!). I want to see actual meter readings and I want to know how to lower my consumption. I also don’t like getting a water bill, a sewer bill and a waste collection bill separately, when all three are paid with the same invoice!

Also, I need reminders. A printed bill in the mail is a great reminder, but for some bills, I prefer e-presentment and mobile solutions. When I use e-statements, it really helps to get a reminder in my email or a text to my phone. If there’s one thing I hate more than having to pay bills, is paying late fees. A simple reminder and an easy to use payment portal help me make late fees a thing of the past. I have some bills on autopay from my bank, some I pay monthly with my credit card and some I send a check for- so I count on my utility provider to make it easy on me with a reminder. The worst is getting hassled by customer service or risking a service interruption from a late payment when literally, “The check is in the mail!” Please track your remittance efforts as well, and save us all some time!

I understand that some providers have an outdated legacy system in place, but that is no excuse to not get with the times. Work with a provider to transform your legacy system into a more modern system, and begin a statement archival system for easy access in the future. Offer me online and offline options for my statement. Offer an electronic bill pay system.

Is that too much to ask?