This semester, I’m interning for Cincinnati’s leading integrated marketing solutions provider and commercial printer, Graphic Village. So far, I have developed a new appreciation for print and have quickly come to understand that print, as an industry, is far from dead. With this series I plan to document my findings and learnings about the current state of the industry and the future of “print” in our ever-evolving digital world.

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My first learning is the potential of direct mail as an advertising medium. Direct mail is tactile, personal and, most importantly, trusted by consumers. So much so, 76% of consumers trust direct mail when making a purchase decision, ranking direct mail as the 3rd most-trusted marketing channel (Kelly). Additionally, direct mail is effective both in cost and as a communication tool. For example, the cost associated with direct mail is low compared to that of other advertising media. Direct mail is often printed digitally, thus driving down the cost. In a recent article I read, Garrett D. Jennings describes this decreased cost:

“Digital printing improves the overall time it takes a print job to be produced on a press … digital printing is affordable because it does not require any ‘make ready’ costs like sheet-fed and web presses. It also has the ability to produce print jobs with variable data.”

In fact, variable data is the key to the effectiveness of direct mail today as it can drastically change the results of the communicated campaign. When marketing is personalized to consumers, their likes, their dislikes, etc., they are more likely to engage and respond. When using variable data, smaller companies and organizations with tight budgets greatly “benefit from direct mail advertising because the medium allows them to send a targeted, individualized and strong message to the doorsteps of potential customers,” (Jennings) thus leading to the medium becoming more effective.

Technology factors play a major role in influencing the level of effectiveness provided by direct mail and use of variable data. For example, Graphic Village (the marketing solutions provider I work for) recently installed HP’s Indigo 10000/12000 Digital Press, making it the first general commercial printer in the tri-state area (Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana) to install such powerful digital equipment. This digital equipment allows Graphic Village to merge data and print files, streamlining a process that normally would have been done within two or three different areas of the company. Such streamlined processes lead to increased productivity and quality, and shorter lead times for clients.

Another factor that influences the effective use of variable data is proper management of variable data, which can be done by utilizing a Marketing Asset Management (MAM) system. MAM can help companies control their brand, eliminate obsolescence, and reduce their operational costs by providing a full range of services including: job submission (print on demand) and tracking, development of customizable storefronts, personalized direct mail, campaign management, mail list purchasing, and integration with production workflow. (This service is now know as Marketing Asset Portal, or MAP.)

Bringing it all together: Prior to this internship, I knew why personalized direct mail was created and used (specifically thinking back to the high school and college recruiting mail I received), but I never took the time to think about how it was created, and the technology used in the process. After learning this, I’m now interested in knowing more about the role direct mail and variable data play in other companies within different industries.

Does your company utilize direct mail, or a MAM system? Do you agree or disagree that direct mail is effective both in cost and as a communication tool? What are the biggest challenges your company has faced in trying to implement or execute direct mail?

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Kelsey Murphy

Strategic Marketing Associate at Knight Eady

Kelsey previously worked as an intern at Graphic Village. She shared her observations on the printing industry in a series of articles originally posted on LinkedIn Publisher in March and April 2017.

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