Why Print Personalization Is (Still) Great

By | September 23, 2011

In the world of personalization, the big gorilla is print’s ability to compete with online.  Online personalization is instant. On a per-eyeball basis, online personalization is less expensive. Online personalization is the ubiquitous marketer, continually monitoring and adjusting content based on the unique needs of each person. How much better could it get?

In my mind? A lot.

This past weekend, I attended the PSDA Small Distributors Summit and enjoyed listening to Julie Shaffer (vp digital technologies for PIA)’s presentation titled “Integrated Printing.” In it she talked about search personalization and how Google looks at 57 “signals” to determine what it shows you on a search and how Facebook filters what you see in your news feed based on your clicks and likes.

In these instances, what you see is determined by some invisible algorithm, and search results come through what Shaffer termed “filter bubbles.” What happens if you want to search outside your bubble? The information is hidden from you or buried so deep in the search that it may as well not be there. In fact, as scary as it may seem, there may come a day that you can’t see anything online that Google, Facebook, or other online filter doesn’t allow you to see. You’re lost in the bubble. Gee, can’t wait.

I have been experiencing this frustration when doing searches on my iPhone. Most of the time, I’m looking for the most obvious search results. Other times, I’m not. On an increasingly regular basis, I get frustrated by the fact that my phone seems to be thinking for me. No, I don’t want to do this. I want to do that.  Sure, perhaps the vast majority of Americans want someone else to do their thinking for them, but I’m not one of them.

It just continues to remind me that online media have limitations—pretty significant ones sometimes. Sure, online personalization occurs on the fly. But print personalization can be carefully managed and controlled to accomplish the marketer’s goal. There is no sort of capriciousness that occurs in the online world. You know what you’re getting because you, the marketing company, the print provider, or the marketer, set the parameters and control the result. Imagine that.

So if you’ve been tempted to let your print personalization slide in favor of online or other digital media, maybe it’s time to rethink it. Particularly if you’ve become over-emphasized on the digital side, it might be time to dig into that marketing mix. If it’s digital heavy, fetch it up!

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