By Michelle Janse van Vuuren, marketing director at Canon South Africa
The rise of digital media has reduced consumers’ attention span to that of a goldfish, which is less than 9 seconds. With consumers seeing over 5 000 ads a day, it’s no surprise that around 615 million devices globally are now blocking ads. With so many brands competing for a few seconds of our time, how can they cut through the digital clutter with their marketing efforts? From apps being created to be deliberately addictive to users, to consumers feeling as though they are being stalked by bad digital ads, marketers are responding by going to the extremes. But the answer is more simple: effective marketing is about understanding people and their behaviour.
Nick Morris, Founding Partner and managing director at independent behavioural insights practice Canvas8, whose clients include Google, Nike, Samsung and MTV, explains, “Despite so much digital data being collected about consumers, brands are still failing to fully understand their customers. It’s more than just the collection of data. Through gathering behavioural insights, considered analysis and consistent application to a brand’s marketing activities, businesses can better understand their customers’ behaviours and predict how they are likely to engage with certain marketing messages.”
Consumers are already telling us that advertising has become pervasive, intrusive and relentless. Research by Trinity Mirror Solutions has shown that 40% of people associate brands with being ‘pushy’ and 57% of adults agree that brands should be more careful where they place their advertising.
The data trade-off
However, with annual volumes of direct mail equating to 5.7 billion items in 2017 in the UK alone, what is the difference between direct mail that remains at the front of a consumer’s mind compared to ‘junk mail’ that is thrown in the bin?
Brands can maximise the effectiveness of direct mail by going beyond simply addressing customers by name: the key to doing this successfully is the relevance of the marketing message and delivering it in a timely fashion. As a recipient of brand communication, we tend not to resent marketing when it’s personal and relevant. However, it becomes irritating and wasteful when it’s generic information that is not tailored to our individual buying behaviours and product preferences – or has been delivered at an unsuitable time.
By gathering behavioural insights on customers, it is now more possible than ever to communicate timely and relevant messages. Brands can now track customers and prospects through every stage of the customer journey, from looking at a product online to buying it in store. At each touchpoint, they can collect and analyse data to gain a 360-degree view of the customer’s behaviours and preferences. This gives the brand multiple opportunities to act on what the data tells them, creating tailored offers and delivering them to consumers in real-time. Through digital media, consumers are sharing more and more of this data about themselves with brands. In return, they expect a positive trade-off in the form of relevant marketing materials, personalised special offers that apply to previous purchases, or loyalty rewards – and rightly so.
People sell to people and the decision to buy from one brand over another is not always necessarily about the product itself. This brings us back to Morris’s focus on behavioural insights: there is an important lesson for any brand to learn and that is to be human.
When devising any omni-channel marketing campaign, brands should analyse the data they have on consumers to understand how they behave and how they want to be interacted with. This means brands must become more personal and aim to surprise consumers, by reaching them with relevant personalised messages at a moment when they are receptive, what Morris calls ‘sparking serendipity’.
Through using individualised printed direct mail as a high quality communication tool to complement digital marketing, brands can leverage the emotional pull of physical media and intelligent personalisation to stimulate a deeper connection to the promotional message and stimulate response with ultra-targeted offers.
Inkpact is just one example of a forward-thinking brand that is transforming the way businesses communicate with their customers by offering the opportunity to send personalised handwritten letters to customers. Speaking at Canon’s Future Promotion Forum in autumn 2018, Morris highlights why companies like Inkpact are successful: “In order for direct mail to truly succeed, it needs to be two things: smart and personal. ‘Smart’ derives from the insight gained from studying the customer’s behaviour – it’s about being timely and relevant. ‘Personal’ direct mail, when done well, addresses me and my needs without being intrusive or inappropriate. Without these two things, it is vacuous.”
The future is programmatic
We believe that the future success of direct mail will come from the power of ‘programmatic print’. By this we mean the combination of digital marketing’s unique ability to personally address consumers with relevant messages at each touchpoint in the customer journey with print’s equally unique ability to engage consumers with those messages on a deeper emotional level.
Programmatic direct mail is only one example of how today’s digital print solutions can help to increase direct marketing effectiveness. There are now a variety of promotional print applications brands can use beyond direct mail to engage with customers including brochures, catalogues, ‘magalogues’, customer magazines, brand books, customer newsletters and so on.
Helping companies tailor their brand marketing material for their respective customers has never been easier, thanks to the new potential enabled by digital print. Everything that can be personalised online can now be personalised in print.
Digital production technologies give print the same immediacy as online, offering the brand owner the capability to adapt and personalise their print marketing collateral and produce selective amounts for short-term and highly targeted campaigns.
The key benefit of today’s on-demand promotional communications is the agility to respond dynamically to live campaign data.
Using the latest digital print technology, brands can use consumer data to tailor communications, fine-tuning campaign messages on the fly to achieve maximum effectiveness. Small adjustments in targeting can be made relatively quickly and simply as the campaign evolves, with delivery to the consumer within less than 24 hours.
Marketers that make intelligent use of data about their consumers and take a smart and personalised approach to print marketing will deliver more effective marketing campaigns, achieve better engagement with customers, and see the direct impact on short-term sales and long-term brand engagement.
 The state of the blocked web, PageFair 2017 Adblock Report, PageFair