A little celebration is in order
It was 150 years ago in 1872 that Montgomery Ward’s first mail-order catalogue was produced. This pioneered what we now call e-commerce – selling remotely to people using direct marketing tactics. Back then people wrote their order using a pen, now they type their order using a keyboard.
The technology in the ensuing first one hundred years of direct marketing, meant the only way to personalise printed communications was via name, address and past purchase data. This was mostly in letters, cover sheets, envelopes and order forms to help deliver an easier buying process – also known as customer experience – or these days as CX or UX.
Personalisation from data is not new…
In the early 1980’s computers started using Variable Data Printing (VDP) to customise marketing communications using contact details, text, images, graphs/charts and more. Magazines tailored editorial content based on subscriber data. For example, in Farmers Journal, a pig farmer’s content was different to a corn farmer’s content – for obvious reasons.
Here in Australia my agency personalised both covers of Marketing magazine using creative fonts with variable data. The front cover had the subscriber’s name in the headline, while the rear cover had an advertisement personalised to the subscriber. We produced a number of covers – you can see more examples here.
The development of digital printing and Personalised URLs (PURLs) early this century started the integration between print and digital channels that created a more authentic personalised customer experience. Individuals could link to a personalised landing page via a PURL, populated with content developed from the data marketers held about them. Now QR codes are the common response device.
So, as we celebrate 150 years of personalised customer experiences using data and direct marketing techniques, let’s look at what’s possible when integrating print and pixels.
My agency created this example more than a decade ago, but I use it in training courses and it would work just as well today. i2Media (with technology partner PMG Solutions), wanted to demonstrate its new digital colour press to its client Qantas, as they only printed B&W work for Qantas at the time. So, the Qantas marketing team was invited to a demonstration. They would be picked up by mini-bus and driven ten minutes to i2Media’s showroom for a presentation.
Here is the personalised cover of the tent-card invitation printed in B&W and mailed to Qantas marketers:
Inside the invitation was a sample of what’s possible with colour VDP – the recipient’s name is printed as a tattoo on the big bloke’s arm. The event details were printed in the invitation with the call to action being a PURL:
The PURL opened a landing page that was pre-populated with contact data and captured additional data about the recipient, for use at the event. This included:
- Favourite colour of these five colours – red, green, blue, yellow, black
- What choice of three drinks and three snacks recipients would like on the bus trip
- What colour wine they preferred – red or white
- What colour iPod mini they would like to win in the competition
This data was then used to print all the personalised items for the event including: label for the snack pack bag on the bus; name tags; A4 colour credentials booklet; wine labels; gift bag labels for each delegate and to select the food and drink placed in each snack pack.
Here are some of the personalised snack pack labels, each combining favourite colour and preferred snack/drink:
Here is the name tag using the tattoo font:
Here is the personalised A4 book demonstrating the power of colour using VDP. The cover is printed in the favourite colour, while the spreads are personalised and printed in five colours.
Here are the spreads:
This spread was personalised and sold the benefits of VDP, PURLs and integrating print and pixels.
Here are the gift pack labels for the bags that held the personalised booklets and wine bottles:
And here are the personalised wine labels.
As you can see from these examples, personalising customer experiences by integrating print and pixels is not new, but is very effective. But for no legitimate reason, many marketers ignore the power of print in their communications. It’s time to rethink your marketing mix if you want to succeed in a digital world.
The marketing practice of selling remotely is now 150 years young – and it deserves celebrating. Selling online is simply the latest evolution in the long history of direct marketing – the only thing that has changed is technology. Consumers still buy emotionally and justify rationally, and about 18% of the time, they use digital order forms.
If you really want to excel with digital marketing, read one of the classic direct marketing textbooks – you’ll find everything you need to do well.