New Dimensions In Marketing
Last week I got a call from an intriguing dot-com prospect . . . a company purporting to have developed software that enables voice to be carried over the Internet. As the president of the company put it, "we're out to eliminate the telephone." He got my attention.
And there are many other emerging technologies that are poised to change our industry's landscape. Take Digimarc - a company I mentioned in an earlier column - which embeds an electronic "watermark" into any substrate, from the printed page to rubber-soled shoes. The mark is held up to a camera device on a consumer's computer that immediately whisks you to the advertiser's website page, enabling the consumer to order the product or service online, in an instant.
There's the company that's developing voice recognition software that has pre-recorded a customer service reps' voice and has, through research, predicted common questions. The consumer calls and the rep automatically answers his or her queries.
And let's not forget the new m-commerce tools„cell phones, palm pilots, and other devices that will soon allow consumers to debit from their bank accounts charges for everything from a soda from a vending machine and groceries to Visa charges, with a simple keyed-in code.
Security and consumer protection issues notwithstanding, these technologies will dramatically impact the methods available to advertisers and marketers to sell products and services.
Print Versus Digital
There are so many new technologies and gizmos on the scene it's hard to keep track, much less predict which will dominate the future. (E-books were the hot ticket a year ago; today Web-based publishing is all the rage.) Despite the confusing array of these Web-based, cutting-edge technologies, it's imperative for us to understand their meaning in terms of the impact they may have to our industry.
A recent discussion with my son, who works for international branding specialist Landor Associates, enlightened me on the subject. While we traditionally think in terms of square inches per press sheet, his interactive department is confronted with cellular branding and advertising delivery.
With the possible exception of the pharmaceutical industry for which we print and fold those itty bitty drug dosage instructions, and the high-tech industry for which we produce on-demand black/white output, we don't think small. We think big, high-resolution, and lots of color.
But the Internet is changing this (along with everything else), forcing us to re-consider the dimensions of information delivery. Marketers recognize that a growing number of business professionals and consumers spend an increasing number of working hours in front of a computer. They (and everyone else) are now seeking ways to deliver information that fits the format of a monitor screen. Of course, the size of the monitor screen varies according to profession and consumer sophistication, a fact that mandates research and a full understanding of the markets to which one is selling.
Since the majority of my company's clients are commercial printers, we're able to design sites that are more graphical in nature and that match the screen size used by most designers and marcom professionals. But we also design sites for law firms and dot-coms that have clienteles with more basic skills and smaller monitor sizes, challenging us to deliver branding and messaging in a smaller format, with equal impact.
Now think of the digital display on your cell phone and you'll get an idea of the next marketing challenge. Cellular advertising will soon become another marketing tool to be reckoned with. A recent NPR program reported on a major banking institution that's launching a new marketing program. In an effort to lure more customers, the bank is installing a system that runs current movie previews in conjunction with its ATM machines.
By now, we're all aware of the European cell-phone craze. Aside from its financial "debit-card" functionality, cellular phones will soon provide the Web-based wherewithal to connect you to everything one can access via the Internet. In B2C applications, advertisers can mount a cell-phone campaign that instantly connects consumers to special offers promoted on their websites. In B2B applications, companies can deliver not only special missives to VIP clients to build loyalty, but instantaneous digital "bites" of information that coax prospects into becoming customers.
Web Versus Email
There are those experts who claim that this micro-focus will be a good thing for our industry in the long run. Since consumers will be so sick of cellular and monitor-screen information delivery, they'll be all the more receptive to printed material. The renaissance in the last few years of art-book publishing may prove the point.
Also, the extraordinary amount of R&D dollars being poured into print technologies and the interesting uses to which these technologies are being employed confirm a regeneration of interest in print, not a denigration. According to an article in the March 2000 issue of Publishing and Production Executive, Sports Illustrated magazine spent a small fortune in time and money experimenting with 3-D reproduction for its annual swimsuit edition. And a case study in the same P&PE issue profiled Toronto-based Graphics Exchange pushing the envelope in its Hexachrome, 3-D designed cover.
However, despite the advancements our industry is making in print technologies, the fact remains . . . advertisers are quickly arming themselves with other marketing weapons. And we should be considering the same in our own marketing efforts.
One client has successfully used bi-weekly emailed "newsletters" to stay in touch with customers. These are quick snapshots of industry news, as well as company news bites about jobs accomplished, equipment acquisitions, and capability reminders. Several other clients have instituted opt-in email programs„with a one-click link to the printer's Web page„that pique recipients' interest in a particular project, a give-away program, or news of special interest to the client/prospect.
Commercial email, in fact, has become such a hot marketing vehicle that, according to the May 15th issue of iMarketing News, industry research firm Jupiter Communications predicts commercial email will "skyrocket from $164 million to more than $7 billion" over the next five years. Another fact that got my attention.
But email, like its other Web-based cousins, presents as many questions as it offers solutions. How do we apply branding principles to our email missives? Embedding graphics in emails isn't easy, and given the threat virus epidemics, attachments aren't an option. How do we marry the right message with the right recipient? Which medium, or combinations of media, provides the biggest bang for our buck? And, perhaps most important, how do we leverage our skills as print communicators to take advantage of these new media tools?
While we may not have the answers to these questions today, we shouldn't let that stop us from testing how we, too, might benefit from the use of these new marketing vehicles.
Charlotte Mills Seligman is president of Traversant Marketing Communications. The firm specializes in planning and executing integrated marketing programs for printing and allied graphic arts companies, with nearly two decades of expertise in the industry. Previous columns and issues of the company's Ti Monthly e-newsletter are posted on http://www.traversant.com. Inquiries should be directed to (415) 357-2929 or charlotte @traversant.com.
© 1999 Charlotte Mills Seligman