I spent more than twenty-eight years working on print and mail (and inserted) projects. In addition I have not been in a printing facility for almost a year and miss the smell of alcohol, ink and paper. While I don’t miss the noise of a printing plant or lettershop (mailing facility) I do miss the incredibly professional people in the print and mail industry that always showed that they cared about doing the job the right way. There are fewer and fewer of them still working in the print and mail industry.
There are a number of LinkedIn groups dedicated to direct mail and printing and production. Without fail there are daily discussions regarding the relevancy of direct mail as a channel and how it is still a relevant channel with a very attractive ROI. I don’t disagree but I also feel the cheerleaders do a disservice to themselves and the industry as a whole in not telling the entire story. That real story has to include the increasing irrelevancy of the print and mail world and too many people remaining in the industry refuse to acknowledge that fact. Print will never return to prominence, nor will it disappear either. The same can be said for mail.
It’s true that there are still a number of companies that use print and mail to attract and retain customers. But do you think there will be more or fewer of those occasions in three years? How about five years? If it were not for the fact that people are living longer (the same people that are familiar with and respond to print and mail) the shrink rate of the print and mail channel uses would be even more accelerated.
Personally I still love print and sort of love/hate mail. However when we talk with clients about the various channel marketing opportunities unless there are dimensional mail applications (i.e. unusual shaped mail packages or boxes) for higher priced items, it is unlikely that we’d ever suggest an acquisition mail campaign as an initial approach. Now I am certain that there will be concrete examples of companies that are bucking that trend which I will fully be willing to acknowledge, however I’d also ask them – how long does the company expect the print and mail approach to survive? What are they doing to transition to digital and mobile channels?
Print and mail are still undergoing transition and what is likely to emerge for print is a channel that will be more elegant (tactile, portable, and special) in that it will be higher quality and more expensive on a per piece basis but also deliver higher value to the user (and with hope the marketer) than it has in the past.
My wish for my still-in-the-industry colleagues is to concentrate on the higher end and higher value products since when it comes to print there just won’t be all that much of it – but you knew that already didn’t you?