While digital printing delivers the ability for every impression (or page) to be different, it also unlocks conventional boundaries and enables other digital technologies to be integrated with print. If you can put it on paper, then you can print it, digitally.

Take mashups, for example. While the term usually refers to web applications that combine data from multiple sources into a single integrated application, there’s no reason why you can’t extend the mashup concept to print. And print providers already are.

A handful of printers are creating printed products from Web 2.0 communities such as MOO, which has integrated with the social networking site Bebo, photo-sharing Web sites Flickr and Fotolog, and virtual worlds Second Life and Habbo, along with various Weblog publishing services. By integrating into these social communities, MOO and others, offer consumers an expanding portfolio of related print products, enabling customers to share their digital content when they are offline and have something tangible that expresses their identity.

But can this type of mashup application be extended to include direct mail?

Absolutely. In fact, there are a number of print providers that already have. Many printers are incorporating customised maps in direct mail campaigns. Take shoe and boot manufacturer, Wolverine, for example. They sent out a DM piece to 50,000 Sears customers a few years ago, offering them a discount on a new Trecker shoe brand. A joint collaboration between marketing service provider Trekk and print provider Yoffi, this partnership was able to leverage simple data that they had on a customer, their name and address, and transform the piece into a highly relevant mail piece which ‘featured’:

  • a personalised name (with supporting cheesy pun)
  • integration to a store locator database, to match the recipient to their address to the nearest Sears store
  • a personalised map, illustrating how to get to from the recipients house to their local Sears store
  • an estimated number of steps that it would take for the recipient to walk to the store

That’s quite a lot of customisation—not bad when you consider the
only recipient data available was a customer name and address. While
the creative was fairly dry and wasn’t the most imaginative, the
campaign delivered results; the shoe quickly became the best seller in
it’s category (at Sears) within one week of the mail drop.

X marks the spot – mapping in DM

this campaign, many other print providers have lifted the concept and
integrated with local mapping service providers to create similar
campaigns for a host of different audiences and markets, including
casino, retail, marine and auto stores among others.

While such use of mashup in digital printing deserves kudos for
innovation in leveraging customer data, it does beg the question “why bother?” Sears is a very large and familiar department store chain
across the US, the reality is that most locals know where their local
Sears store is, and how to get there. Or a nearby casino for that
matter—surely, both would be significant landmarks. Also, you’d have to
strum the privacy guitar, as it may seem rather intrusive to receive a
mailer with your house flagged on a map. What next, an aerial photo?

Home sweet home … wherever you are

perhaps a more relevant application would be in the rental/housing
market—particularly in Australia—where the population continues to grow
at a considerable rate (of 315,700 last year, 56% of which were
overseas migrants, source: ABS),
and that’s not even including existing residents who relocate to new
suburbs and states. With this continuing boom in migration and
relocation, surely there are host of retail services that would benefit
from this type of DM application. Think about the opportunity for
neighbouring furniture and hardware stores, bank branches and much more.

look at tourism. If you’re targeting would-be holiday makers, why not
target them with a personalised map, indicating local restaurants,
attractions and activities near their prospective hotel? This could
take away their pre-trip homework headache and wrap in some added value
in the process.

I’m sure personalised maps have their place
in DM, and can be effective without being intrusive.

We just need to
start using them. Properly.