With the advancement of printing technology, data mining and explosion of social media—Facebook, Twitter and countless other online communities and communications—marketers are discovering that they can have a conversation with their customers. And to succeed, they must make it a great one. An ongoing one.
No doubt about it, social media is here to stay. Businesses large and small are getting on Facebook. They’re Twittering. They’re blogging. They’re talking to customers and finding out—in real time—what they think. And, even more important, customers are talking to each other.
These conversations provide deeper and better information about buyers. Increasingly sophisticated data mining technologies are enabling unprecedented levels of customer insights, segmenting and targeting.
And guess what? Printed communication is as important as ever. New software and variable data printing technologies are leveraging enhanced customer information, enabling printed materials to speak directly to each individual. At the same time, many of the same visionaries who are leading the way into social media are realizing that print is still key to large-scale customer engagement—specifically, reaching a broader age and income demographic, people who do not use the computer or other electronic devices to access information.
Today it’s all about the mix. Social media, the Web page, email, smartphones and, yes, print—are all part of a great conversation.
Ed is going to tell you about it.
Big change. Social media, database development and printing techniques are moving forward at breakneck speed. This is big, ongoing change, and it adds up to big opportunities.
CHANGE IS HERE. IT’S BIG, IT’S FAST, AND IT’S ACCELERATING.
You might say it started with the popularization of the World Wide Web. A huge and growing storehouse of information with a huge and growing population of users. Or maybe it really started with evolution of cell phones into smartphones and the networks that connect them. Or maybe it has barely started at all, based on where it will eventually go.
The fact is, change is here, and it’s moving fast. Very, very fast.
There is a YouTube video clip1 that asks and answers the question, “Is social media a fad?” with a flurry of facts: More than 50 percent of the world’s population are under 30. Social media has become the number-one activity on the Web—currently 96 percent of the millennials (also called Generation Y—children of the Baby Boomers born in the 1980s and 90s) have used social networking technology2.
Facebook now tops Google for weekly traffic in the United States. More than 60 million status updates happen on Facebook daily. If it were a country, Facebook would be the world’s third largest. Ashton Kutcher and Britney Spears have more Twitter followers than the populations of Sweden, Israel, Switzerland, Ireland, Norway and Panama, combined.
Social media is rapidly becoming an important element of a balanced marketing mix.
YouTube is now the second-largest search engine in the world. Wikipedia has more than 15 million articles, and studies have shown that it is as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannica. 78 percent of Wiki articles are non-English.
There are more than 200 million blogs. Currently 34 percent of bloggers post opinions about products and services, and 25 percent of search results are user-generated content.
People care more about how their social peers rank products and services than how Google ranks them. 78 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations; only 14 percent trust advertisements (print, television and other media).
The answer is quite clear: Social media is no fad.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS CHANGING THE FACE OF MARKETING.
More and more businesses are adding social media to their marketing strategies. They’re using Facebook and LinkedIn and numerous other sites. They’re microblogging on sites like Twitter, a social networking service that enables individuals to send short messages called “tweets.”
This trend is just beginning to generate some momentum. Forrester, a major technology and market research company, teamed with MarketingProfs, a leading resource for marketing professionals, to survey business-to-business marketers in January 2010 and gauge growth and investment in social media strategies. The survey1 showed that while businesses were experimenting widely, social media had not yet become a major item in marketing budgets in 2009.
The Forrester survey uncovered some interesting findings. More than two thirds—68 percent—of the businesses Forrester surveyed had opened group pages on social network sites, and 55 percent said they were using Twitter for marketing. Corporate blogging in 2009 was up from the previous year, with 49 percent versus 32 percent using blogs to communicate with the marketplace.
Many companies still see social media as risky. After all, by entering this world, they are often putting their message in the hands of the customer. But the upside is obvious: Social media affords a unique opportunity to talk directly with buyers. And happy customers posting positive product reviews can be a very powerful force for a brand seeking to grow.
BUT WAIT—SURPRISE—DIRECT MAIL IS ALIVE AND WELL.
With the success and increasing use of electronic and online media, there have been rumors of the impending death of direct mail.
So it may surprise you to hear that direct mail is continuing to prove itself as a means for reaching customers and prospects, especially as part of an integrated multichannel strategy.
Direct mail users, including leading e-tailers, point out that not all customers respond the same way to communications and everyone has his or her preferred way to get information. They refer to growing evidence that direct mail is a very effective way to drive people to Web-based marketing.
One study: Websites supported by catalogs generate 163% more revenue than sites that aren’t.
In fact, Deliver magazine says direct mail catalogs are more relevant than ever, citing a Key Catalog/Multichannel Issues Survey conducted by Vovici EFM1 in which 96 percent of respondents agreed that a printed catalog generated online sales. More than 60 percent said catalogs influenced half or more of their online sales, and better than half saw a 20 to 50 percent increase in online sales immediately after a catalog drop.
Research commissioned by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS)2 showed that consumers receiving direct mail and catalogs were more likely to buy online than those who received nothing through the mail, and those shoppers tended to buy and spend more—the study’s results indicated that websites supported by catalogs generated 163 percent more revenue than sites that weren’t.
Zappos.com, one of the world’s leading e-tailers, would concur. A few years ago this popular Web-based seller of shoes and accessories began publishing a glossy catalog, Zappos Life, and were pleasantly surprised to find that the average catalog order amount was double that of the typical online transaction.
Print catalogs are now a highly productive sales channel for leading e-tailer Zappos.
Since that time, Zappos has been steadily expanding the print catalog program with more drops each year and focusing on specific segments such as fashion, skate/surf, running and a number of other possibilities that include bridal, western and housewares.
A USPS study in the financial services industry3 further bolstered the view that there’s a tie between direct mail and Web-based success. When compared with consumers who received only online communications, those receiving both direct mail and online messaging made more than 70 percent more visits to the site; tended to view more pages and spend more time there; were 31 percent more likely to visit the site in the future and were 34 percent more inclined to recommend the site to friends and family.
- David J. Mastervich, Deliver Magazine, Vol. 5, Issue 5 (10/09)
- David J. Mastervich, Deliver Magazine, Vol. 5, Issue 5 (10/09)
- U.S. Postal Service, “Why Financial Web Sites Should Invest in Mail,” 2007
DIRECT MAIL, 2010—MYTHS AND TRENDS.
In these times of new channels and changing communication preferences, it’s important to point out a few misperceptions of direct mail that persist among many.
Myth 1: Forests are being destroyed to produce catalogs and mailers. Readers of Ed #13 know that in the United States and increasingly worldwide, trees are a truly renewable resource. In fact, thanks to sustainable forestry practices, the amount of U.S. forestland has actually increased over the years. There are more forests in the United States today than 50 years ago and roughly the same acreage as 100 years ago1.
Myth 2: Catalogs and direct mail are difficult to recycle. In 2007, direct marketers received approval to include “recycle please” graphics on catalogs and mail pieces. Discarded catalogs, classified as “old magazines,” are valued for their long, strong fiber content and are used widely for recycled content in office paper and newsprint. NewPage uses old magazines to make deinked pulp for groundwood paper used in new magazines and catalogs.
81% of American households open direct mail.
Myth 3: Americans throw away most of the direct mail they receive, unopened. A 2006 USPS Household Diary Study2 found that only 16 percent of American households choose not to open direct mail. The vast majority, 81 percent, open and read or at least glance through the direct mail they receive.
Okay, that gets the myths out of the way. Here are some interesting trends:
A USADATA Special Report3 reflects increased sophistication and technological advances in data mining. Data enhancement is growing, with the addition of deeper demographic information, including age, gender, marital status and lifestyle interests, as well as ethnic background. The result is more detailed data that supports more precise targeting.
Even saturation lists—also known as “occupant” lists—are becoming more targeted. Traditionally used by companies to cover entire cities, counties or zip codes at a reduced rate, this approach now has new selection options that include median home value and household income, or can be focused on specific carrier routes.
The USADATA report also found that companies are increasingly integrating direct mail into other forms of marketing, particularly Web-based—such as a printed marketing piece that provides a personalized Web address (PURL) designed to deliver targeted information.
DMNews points to improved print and production technology as another force in the direct mail environment. The shift to digital printing represents a major change in the production of direct mail campaigns, providing greater flexibility and customization, faster turnaround, less waste and reduced inventory, which reduces both cost and environmental impact.
NEW TECHNOLOGY—TURNING OPPORTUNITY INTO REALITY.
Ever heard of QR codes? These square, pixelated scanable graphics represent a world of possibility in their ability to bridge between the printed and online or virtual worlds.
Today, QR codes (QR stands for “quick response”) are becoming increasingly popular in marketing and communication applications aimed at mobile cameraphone users (basically everyone). QR codes can be placed on virtually anything, from a magazine to a bus, a billboard to a business card. Aim a QR app-equipped cellphone camera at the code and it takes the device’s browser to a URL for specific content.
Which opens the door to linking print to something called augmented reality (AR).
AR joins the real and virtual world, providing a view of reality that is modified by computer to support clarity or add drama. We’ve all seen it in the yellow “first down” lines in National Football League broadcasts. At the 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show, a Japanese automotive manufacturer introduced a new concept car with a brochure containing QR codes that, when held against a webcam, brought views and versions of the car up on the screen.
Perhaps the most visible and ambitious application of QR codes and augmented reality was the December 2009 issue of Esquire magazine. Robert Downey, Jr. is on the cover, sitting on a small box with a QR code on it. After obtaining the software (easily downloaded from the magazine’s website), the viewer can hold the cover up to a camera-equipped computer monitor or a smartphone and Downey pops up on screen, jumping around in a pure-white virtual environment among floating black typography.
QR codes in print media rapidly turn readers into shoppers—and buyers.
“BOO-YAH!! In your face!” he yells before welcoming viewers to Esquire’s augmented reality issue.
QR codes throughout the magazine activate different video sequences. Change the scan angle or rotate the same code and different sequences appear. An outdoorwear fashion spread changes the weather in imagery from windy to winter with a tilt or turn of the magazine. The augmented reality issue knows what time it is, too. A regular feature, “A Joke Told by a Beautiful Woman,” tells a mainstream joke during the day and primetime, but gets decidedly racier after midnight.
Sure, it’s fun, but it’s also about commerce. QR codes printed on photos and advertisements turn readers immediately into shoppers, with links to websites where they can learn more about a product or buy it on the spot.
SOCIAL AND DIGITAL MEDIA GO TO SCHOOL.
Major universities are offering courses in social and digital media. Corporations are sending their people to executive education programs on interactive technology. Says Sarah “Intellagirl” Smith-Robbins, Senior Director of Emerging Technologies, Kelley Executive Partners, Indiana University, “Social media is not a choice now. It’s more how you do it, and if you do it right, it will enhance your corporate image.”
Advice from Intellagirl: “Remember that companies are groups of people. Companies don’t talk. People do. If you Twitter, empower your people to talk. Give them guidelines, but allow them to be individuals. And in all social media strategies, don’t commit to a conversation you’re not prepared to maintain.”
As to educational media, Robbins says, “What’s changed is there are many more choices now. Instead of CD-ROMs, more traditional textbooks are coming with QR codes, that can take students instantly from a paper page to interactive content such as augmented reality technology that can show how a heart pumps in 3-D video.”
PRINTING GETS PERSONAL.
The explosion of social media and the rapid advancement of data mining technology have combined to create deeper, better data on customers and prospective buyers—and printing technology has kept pace.
For businesses who gather robust consumer information, variable data printing (VDP) technology offers the ability to produce highly personalized direct mail communications. One financial services provider created a direct mail program aimed at college savings fund participants. VDP capabilities enabled each piece to include individualized graphs showing how much the targeted fund participant could save by the time his or her child was ready for college. Additional graphs showed how increased contributions would drive higher fund growth. The fund provider reported higher contributions as a result of this targeted approach.1
Variable Data Printing (VDP) is making large-run, one-to-one print communications a reality.
The potential of this technology is huge, because it allows businesses to leverage customer data to create printed communications that speak directly to each individual. OPOWER, a Washington, D.C.-based software developer serving the utility industry, works with a large printer using VDP to produce “Home Energy Reports” for its utility partners.
The reports, mailed regularly to millions of customers, contain simple graphics that chart an individual household’s monthly energy use compared with neighbors and consumers with similar climate conditions, home size and other variables. The result? OPOWER states that for more than 30 utilities so far, 80–85 percent of homeowners have responded by changing behaviors, driving average steady-state energy savings of 2.5 percent per year. This will represent more than 300 GWh in energy savings by the end of 2010—more than one-third the amount of energy generated by the entire solar power industry.
- Chantal Todé, Direct Magazine, Vol. 5, Issue 6 (12/09)
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MIX.
OPOWER utilizes a unique, all-channel platform to deliver Home Energy Reports and other communications. The OPOWER platform reaches utility customers via the mail, the Web, mobile phone and, increasingly, in-home devices that provide real-time information on energy consumption.
OPOWER says paper-based, mailed communication is the dominant channel for achieving large-scale customer engagement and will remain so in the foreseeable future. The company realized early on that the mail reaches everybody equally, regardless of age, income level or access to computers.
For OPOWER, postal mail is the dominant channel for achieving large-scale customer engagement.
Ogi Kavazovic, OPOWER Senior Director of Marketing and Strategy, says, “We’re software developers. So naturally we started with a really cool Web portal. But then one of our executives said, ‘That’s great, but what about the 90 percent of people that will never come to the site?’ We knew that we had to help utilities get the message out to where people are, not just where we’d like them to be.”
Zappos.com has come to the same realization. Aaron Magness, Zappos Chief Marketing Officer, says, “The point is, there is no silver bullet. Where do people enjoy getting information? Different places. That’s why we engage with our customers across all media—through our website, Facebook, Twitter, email and printed catalogs.”
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, rebranded with the much-simpler “Metro” name a few years ago, has used a robust multichannel strategy to increase awareness and ridership in recent years. Brightly painted buses increase visibility on the streets. Drive-time radio spots and billboards reach drivers sitting in traffic. A well-designed website provides information and functionality, such as a trip planning tool. Facebook pages, Twitters and a sponsored blog called The Source reach out through social media.
But like OPOWER and Zappos, Metro sees print as a key to engaging customers on a large scale. From bus cards to “take one” flyers, four-color direct mail brochures to calendars, Metro has used printed communication to build its brand, communicate with riders and get the word out to potential new customers. Through a regular new-resident program, Metro sends out free passes to drive trials among newcomers to the area. Special mailings to targeted corridors inform riders when it opens a new transportation line. Glossy high-end calendars tied to newspaper and outdoor ad campaigns build the Metro brand at private companies, where corporate transportation coordinators use the calendars to help educate employees about public transit options.
Says Michael Lejeune, Creative Director at Metro, “Print is huge for us. We have 10 million customers. Everyone in LA county, whether they ride or not. We have to do everything we can to reach everybody, and print allows us to tell the long story—including residents who may not have easy Web access.”
MARKETING COMES FULL CIRCLE.
Social media represents an exciting opportunity to truly get to know your customers. To reach them wherever they prefer to get their information. To help focus marketing communications on who’s most interested in buying what you sell. To eliminate waste and increase return on investment.
Come to think of it, we have come full circle.Thanks to these new media and technologies, we can get personal again. Generations ago, people bought everything in their local neighborhoods from merchants who knew them on a first-name basis. Sellers then knew each buyer’s preferences. They really cared about what their customers thought because they heard about it on a daily basis.
The jingle of a shop door opening has been replaced by the chime of an arriving email or text message. With a balanced mix of new and traditional media, marketers everywhere are seeing the huge potential to get personal—with millions.
Real life. Social and digital media are real, changing not just how we market but also how we live. And print technology is keeping pace. Real-life examples are everywhere. Here are just a few.