Create a laboratory for direct mail innovation.

Last summer I read Tom Peter’s book Re-Imagine (which I highly recommended). Peters encourages business leaders to innovate. To create laboratories. To break models, push limits and invent mind blowing new solutions for clients.

I now have a new laboratory. The subject of study is variable data printing. The result is the marketing equivalent of a cure for cancer: huge returns for advertisers and the elimination of junk mail for recipients.

I know this is going to have a massive impact on the results we deliver for clients. And it will have an equally colossal, positive impact on Trigger Direct’s business. This is an inflection point for both Trigger Direct and our clients.


Variable data printing is a game changer for direct mail.

Here’s the story. Digital printing technology is available today that allows you to customize every direct mail piece uniquely for every recipient. This means that the offer, the photography, the colors, and the messaging is all crafted specifically to be *relevant* for the end user.

  • Higher relevance means higher response rates and ultimately more revenue for advertisers.
  • Higher relevance means that the direct mail piece is “of value” for the client. It is built to perfectly touch on their hot buttons and current needs. It is emotional. It connects. It is no longer junk mail. It is Relevant Mail.

Here’s an example…. Let’s say you are a credit card company offering a new, low rate card that earns you airline mileage and all sorts of other goodies. A solid offering. And, let’s say you want to target people that are big credit card users… perhaps those that have high balances so they can transfer over that balance (and interest payments) to your company. OK. So far, this is nothing new. Credit card companies do this every day getting ho-hum response rates and ROI.

Now let’s add the secret sauce.

First let’s cross reference that target credit card user mailing list with people that are die hard friends of the San Francisco Giants baseball team. These people have purchased SF Giants memorabilia online, are in SF Giants fan clubs or are simply baseball “fanatics” that live in SF. We only mail to the people that satisfy both criteria: big SF Giants fan and ideal credit card user.

Next, let’s position the credit card as part of the SF Giants VISA Fan Club. The card has a SF Giants logo. Classic affinity marketing. These fans will be proud to carry this credit card in their wallet and show it off to their friends.

Finally, let’s customize the package so there is a SF Giants logo on the outside of the mail piece. Colors are black, orange and white. Perhaps there is a picture of Barry Bonds or Willie Mays. (of course, we are getting permission from all applicable parties).

End result: We now have a mail package that will stop this SF Giants fan in their tracks when they scan their inbound mail. We have about 0.8 seconds to get this person’s attention when they flip through their stack of mail and that SF Giants logo will “pop” instantly. And, we are matching the perfect offer (affinity credit card with SF Giants logo and great rates and many other perks) to the perfect person (SF Giants fan, big credit card user, already has a credit card balance).

Benefits of VDP for the advertiser and recipient.

For the advertiser, this campaign is now positioned for break through response rates and model busting return on investment.

For the recipient, suddenly this mail piece is no longer junk mail. It is “Relevant Mail”. It speaks the recipient’s language. It touches on their hot buttons. It is very emotional. It is an product offering that gives them great value in a category where they have high usage.

In the old days, to manage a campaign like this for all 30 MLB teams would require you to do 30 different mailings. Very complex. Very costly. But with Variable Data Digital Printing Technology, this becomes very easy and very cost effective.

It’s like mail merge on steroids. (forgive the Bonds pun)


Benefits of VDP for the direct mail business.

Today we are using a Xerox digital printer to make this happen. One of the most exciting pieces of new technology to hit the direct marketing industry in the last decade.

This technology also offers many other benefits:

1. Very inexpensive to produce small, short run print jobs. For example, a traditional offset printer might charge you the same to produce 500 postcards as they would to produce 5,000 because of all of the setup costs. With digital printing technology you can just print what you need when you need it. All very inexpensively.

2. Very environmentally friendly. Gone are the days of shot gun marketing and gigantic mailings. Because we are now launching massively targeted, massively relevant direct mail campaigns, we are mailing far fewer pieces. Thus significantly less paper is used. Tree huggers, rejoice!

We are planting a flag in this space of variable data digital printing and expect to be at the vanguard of this new era in direct marketing.

High response rates and ROI. The elimination of junk mail. It’s a marketing nerd’s dream come true.

Good Selling!