• Publishing & printing

Ed #14 Getting Personal

Ed™ knows how to get personal. Marketing has become a conversation, and print is still vital to reaching key audiences to have that conversation.

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.

Ed will never grow old, but some of the information in this issue is out of date.

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.

Virtual water cooler.

Social media sites like Facebook and MySpace have become global, virtual water coolers, places where people stop, connect and exchange news and views. Just like the office water cooler, this is where reputations are made—and tarnished. Companies must learn the unique social media culture or risk looking silly.


Regime change?

Rapid growth of social media signals a new battlefield for the hearts and minds of consumers. Traditional media take note: According to the Nielsen Co. research firm, social media use grew by 24 percent between April 2009 and April 2010, with about 75 percent of all Internet users visiting a social network or blog. Leading the way is Facebook. Membership of the popular site has grown from fewer than 200 million to nearly 500 million in a year’s time, possibly signaling a change in the most-used online search brands.

Sources: Social Media Examiner


Generation differences

Ed #14 shows us some of the major differences between generations and how technology has changed the popular trends in marketing. In the printed Ed, each generation has its own scratch and sniff smell.


The Cloud is growing, but it’s not green

Don’t pursue social media because you think it’s green. Use of the Cloud (a network of resources, software and information that resides on the Internet rather than the user’s computer or server) and other Web-based networks is exploding because they represent highly efficient ways to reach audiences and manage information. But not without a cost to the planet—exponential growth in these networks leaves a significant carbon footprint.

Greenpeace, Make IT Green—Cloud Computing and its Contribution to Climate Change


Keep an eye on the big picture

The trends in social media and Web-based communication are fascinating, and the pace of change is dizzying. Getting the right media mix for best results requires knowing the facts, including environmental impact.


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.

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.

1 http://bit.ly/dwp682
2 http://bit.ly/9HFb68

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 survey3 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.

3 http://bit.ly/aUbFiV

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.

In fact, Deliver magazine says direct mail catalogs are more relevant than ever, citing a Key Catalog/Multichannel Issues Survey conducted by Vovici EFM4 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)5 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.

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 industry6 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.

4 David J. Mastervich, Deliver Magazine, Vol. 5, Issue 5 (10/09)
5 David J. Mastervich, Deliver Magazine, Vol. 5, Issue 5 (10/09)
6 U.S. Postal Service, “Why Financial Web Sites Should Invest in Mail,” 2007

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 ago7.

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.

Myth 3: Americans throw away most of the direct mail they receive, unopened. A 2006 USPS Household Diary Study8 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 Report9 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.

7 http://bit.ly/byjBZE
8 Ibid
9 http://bit.ly/ddNBKw

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 camera phone 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.

“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 outdoor wear 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.

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.”

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.10

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.

10 Chantal Todé, Direct Magazine,Vol. 5, Issue 6 (12/09)

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.

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.”

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.

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.

Virtual jetpack

QR codes are the jetpacks of modern communication. Scan one of these pixelated square barcodes with your smartphone and WHOOSH! You’re transported instantly to a Web page or an augmented reality (AR) site.


QR Codes: giving “jumping off the page” a new meaning.

You’re probably starting to see them in magazines—small pixelated symbols printed in the corner of articles, feature spreads and advertisements. They’re called QR codes, and they’re becoming a part of more and more marketing and communications strategies as an instant, high-technology bridge between print and Web-based content.

See a great item in a magazine advertisement? Pull out your QR app-equipped smartphone, scan the code and be taken instantly to a website where you can get more information, see more views or even purchase the item. Or maybe it will take you to an augmented reality site, where an interactive mix of sound, video and computer graphics introduce you to a brand, product or topic.

QR codes are incredibly versatile, able to work not just from a magazine advertisement or article, but also from a brochure, billboard, bus advertisement or business card. code technology can turn a reader into a shopper, and a shopper into a buyer, in seconds—turning traditional printing into a gateway to a whole new experience.


Variable data printing motivates millions to save energy, one home at a time.

A company called OPOWER is helping utilities achieve big energy savings by motivating their customers to make simple changes in how they live.

Central to OPOWER’s solution: the Home Energy Report, an individualized monthly summary that allows utilities to brand and present energy consumption information graphically to customers in comparison with peer households, along with simple suggestions for improvement. Studies have shown that establishing a norm and showing how an individual compares drives lasting behavioral change more effectively than any other motivation, including economic or environmental benefit.

The OPOWER platform reaches customers through all channels, including telephone, Web and, increasingly, in-home Smart Grid displays. Print is the primary medium because it reaches everyone, regardless of age, income or access to technology.

Variable data printing technology provides individualized information and insights to millions. And between 80 and 90 percent of them respond with energy-saving action, which is projected to drive total energy savings in excess of 300 GWh hours by the end of 2010, more than one-third the amount of energy generated by the entire solar power industry.


One size does not fit all: e-tailer Zappos’ print catalog doubles its Web per-transaction sales.

Yes, it’s a shocker to some. Average per-transaction sales from Zappos.com’s print catalog, Zappos Life, is consistently twice what it achieves online. Pretty amazing news from one of the world’s leading e-tailers of shoes and accessories.

Of course, stellar telephone-based customer service is Zappos’ biggest driver of sales. And make no mistake, the Web is the company’s main channel. Not surprisingly, Zappos also is a leader in engaging customers through social media, including Twitter and Facebook. But it has become clear to everyone at Zappos: Print is very, very relevant.

Why? Because so many people still use catalogs. It’s true of the core Zappos customer segment, 40-year-old women, as well as many other demographic groups: They enjoy leafing through, dog-earing the pages, asking the opinion of others—it’s a pleasant and familiar way to shop. Many feel that the catalog medium allows the shopper to see more merchandise more easily than the online channel, which very well might explain the higher per-transaction sales.

Zappos Life is here to stay. Zappos is expanding its print catalogs into new vertical markets, including fashion, running, bridal, skate/surf and more.


A powerful mass-transit brand gets on the bus in Los Angeles.

It was a tall order: Improve awareness and increase mass-transportation ridership in Los Angeles, where freeways and individual drivers rule. The solution: a smart multichannel marketing strategy.

The first step was to simplify the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s popular name, changing it to “Metro.” Then buses and trains got a colorful facelift to make them more noticeable and appealing.

Since then, Metro has been using all channels to get the word out. Drive-time radio spots and outdoor advertising target drivers stuck in traffic. A well-designed website provides information and tools like a trip planner and online rideshare matching. And a Metro iPhone app has just been released. Social media plays a part as well, with Facebook pages, Twitters and The Source, a sponsored blog.

Print continues to have a huge role in reaching a broad audience without easy access to the Web. Bus and rail posters and “take one” flyers engage current riders. A robust, targeted direct mail program reaches out regularly to where people live to raise awareness and drive trials. Glossy calendars carry the Metro brand to corporate employees and other audiences. Print advertising creates presence for Metro in nearly 100 local newspapers, using multiple languages.

It’s working. Although ridership and revenues are affected by the ebb and flow of the economy, awareness of Metro hovers at 92 percent and positive perception remains strong.


Personalized printing makes move-ins simpler at Loyola University Chicago.

Two campuses in a congested urban area. 19 residence halls. 4,100 students, all moving in during the span of a week and a half. Nightmare? Not at all.

A variable-data-printed, 12-page, passport-sized move-in manual takes a lot of the pain out of the process for everyone, from students and parents to school officials. Nearly every page is customized to the individual student—name, room assignment, move-in date and time, roommate information, residence hall-specific move-in details and map, move-in/parking pass—and presented in a simple, easy to read, attractive format.

The smaller size stands apart from other materials, is easier to keep and carry, and tends to get lost less often. The highly customized nature of the booklet contributes to a warm sense of welcome and, just as important, order.

Variable data printing technology allows the school to merge multiple fields, including the housing, student and sign-in slot databases, to create a useful tool, a high-quality impression—and, with a little luck, a great experience to start the year at Loyola.


It’s a puzzle.

There are more channels available than ever through which to communicate to key constituencies, market products and services, and build brands. It’s an interesting puzzle of interlocking media—figure it out! 

Have some fun!


A very big menu to choose from.

Media mix is more critical than ever for companies striving to get the word out and connect to the marketplace. On average, more than three-quarters of all consumers are now using two or more channels to shop for and purchase products.


It’s a postcard. No…it’s a camera!

Augmented reality puts a virtual camera in potential buyers’ hands.

Working with Mullen, a Boston-based integrated advertising agency, and Total Immersion, an augmented-reality (AR) software developer, Olympus used AR to promote its new PEN E-PL1 digital camera. The result was part of an integrated campaign that included TV, online, and print advertising and was as innovative as the camera itself. In line with the brand mission to empower consumers with the inspiring message “Look What You Can Do,” Olympus didn’t want to tell consumers about the PEN, they wanted them to experience it for themselves. AR provided an ideal way for anyone to experience the size, ease and functionality of the camera in their own hands.

Readers of the June 2010 print issue of Wired and the July 2010 print issue of Popular Photography found an actual-size tip-in photo card of the Olympus PEN. Readers who peeled off the camera card and held it in front of a webcam were transported to an extraordinary experience.

Participants saw themselves onscreen with a 3-D Olympus PEN in their hands. Even more amazing, by manipulating the camera card they could interact with the virtual camera on screen, simulating actual features—take pictures, shoot video, try the flash, remove the lens and even try a variety of in-camera art filters.