Many of today’s consumers are falling out of love with digital, their trust eroded by data mishandling and their patience tested by straightforward digital overload.

By James de Waal, head of marketing, business imaging group, Canon SA

In 2017, the Advertising Standards Authority received a record number of ad complaints, with those for online advertising overtaking those on TV as the most complained about medium. At the same time, more than one in two people are worried about oversharing information online and are uncomfortable with the amount of research social media platforms have on them. These concerns came to the fore in the backlash to last year’s Cambridge Analytica data scandal, resulting in three million European Facebook users deleting their accounts, concerned about data misuse.

The growing challenge for today’s marketers is that 42% of consumers distrust brands, with 40% associating brands with being “pushy”. Brands are overflowing with information about their customers, and digital platforms offer so many ways to transform information into communication, though best practice examples of data-driven campaigns are still relatively scarce, with personalisation often limited to names and the most basic customer information. Marketers are realising that while capturing consumers’ personal data is essential, it’s how they use the data that makes or breaks a campaign.

As Nick Morris, founding partner and managing director at leading consumer behavioural insights specialist Canvas8 and a keynote speaker at Canon’s recent Future Promotional Forum explains: “One of the biggest mistakes that companies make is failing to deeply understand their customers and apply that knowledge to their business. It’s more than just knowing what people are doing, it’s about understanding why they are doing it and the context behind their decision-making. Behavioural insights are the key to understanding customer attitudes and predicting future decision-making.” When people have a positive association with a brand, they are more likely to trust the company, which ultimately translates into bottom-line profit.


Digital detox

The current lack of trust is prompting both consumers and marketers to re-evaluate their relationships with digital marketing channels. There is widespread evidence of consumers going through a “digital detox”, for example, using ad-blocking software and opting-out of emails which they no longer have interest in, or never originally subscribed to. Ad-blocking is acknowledged as one of the biggest threats to digital marketing, with around 615-million devices now blocking ads across the globe.

Print, media and marketing services provider Eversfrank Group is a Canon customer who is carving out a reputation as a specialist in dynamic, individualised direct marketing, working closely with brand owners to optimise customer response to their marketing campaigns. In dialogue with clients, the team affirms the growing issue of digital fatigue.

Holger Kühnemann, sales specialist, professional services at Eversfrank explains: “Online advertising has been expanding for 20 years while also becoming less expensive. The consequence has been that many brands have made excessive use of digital, overwhelming consumers with messages. The backlash has come in the form of ad blockers, spam filters and opt-outs from e-marketing. Essentially, consumers are increasingly irritated and alienated by this approach to marketing, and the danger is that they disconnect from the brand as a result.”

Fuelled by these changing consumer trends, print is defining its role in the marketing mix. In fact, a recent study showed that the five most trusted channels are all “traditional”: newspaper and magazine print ads (82%); TV ads (80%); direct mail ads and catalogues (76%); radio (71%); and outdoor posters/billboards/transport ads (69%). Bottom of this came online pop-ups (25%).


Emotion equals engagement

In recent years, there have been numerous scientific studies into how various media influences the way consumers process and engage with communications. The results demonstrate that print has a more trusted, deeper, longer-lasting and emotional impact. The ability to touch and feel a piece of printed collateral leaves a rooted footprint on the brain, with consumers giving more attention to printed material and recalling them more vividly than digital. As Nick Morris emphasises: “People have a different physical reaction to tangible products. There is an intimacy to it that cannot be replicated on a screen.”

In the midst of the data scandal, in a surprising move by Facebook, the social media platform launched a quarterly print magazine called Grow.

Terri White, editor of the film industry “bible” Empire, states that the brand made the move to gain three things from print: “trust, authority and credibility”. Print can help to rebuild trust, banish fatigue and stimulate deeper and more focused engagement with content, and there is a clear opportunity for highly targeted print marketing to re-engage consumers.

“Personalised digital print has so many advantages within the marketing mix,” says Everfrank’s Kühnemann. “Unlike email, fully addressed mailings don’t need explicit permissions, and they’re immune to tools like ad blockers. Compared with an overflowing email box of promotional messages that just encourages the consumer to hit ‘delete’, well-targeted, customised print is eye-catching and inviting. And when it’s opened, print engages the recipient more deeply, so the messages are much more impactful and memorable than words on a screen.”

Currently, brands spend 25% to 43% of their marketing budget on content, yet only 23% of CMOs feel they are producing the right information for the right audience, and delivering it at the right time and in the correct format. These trends present a huge opportunity for marketers and print service providers (PSPs) to work together on multi-channel campaigns that combine the advantages of print and the advantages of digitalisation. Marketers should look to mobilise print in a complementary role alongside digital.

Print power meets personalised promotion

PSPs and brand owners should look to understand the concept of “Programmatic Print” whereby everything which can be personalised online can now be personalised in print. There are times when digital communication alone is sufficient because the content can be processed quickly, but in many cases getting high-quality personalised printed collateral to the consumer within 24 hours could enhance the proposition and increase ROI. With an integrated programmatic printing solution, digital data can be used to produce printed marketing communications virtually in realtime – from creation to distribution.

At the heart of Eversfrank’s portfolio of one-to-one marketing solutions is RealTime Printing, which centres on on-demand digital production of personalised marketing collateral, making comprehensive use of variable data to target each consumer individually with personalised text and images.

Thanks to the high productivity of the Océ ProStream 1000 and the efficiency of the supporting digital workflow, Eversfrank can now turn materials around extremely fast and mail to the target customer within 24 hours, enabling brands to achieve the emotional cut-through of print within timescales normally associated with digital marketing.

For example, within 48 hours of a missed transaction, Eversfrank takes its clients’ abandoned basket data and sends selected customers “checkout dropouts” – a personalised direct mailing, prompting and/or incentivising them to complete the purchase. This dynamic and highly personalised approach to print marketing is already showing measurable commercial returns for its brand clients, with improved response to marketing campaigns resulting in increased product sales.

Addressing consumers with a targeted proposition, in realtime, at every stage of their online customer journey, is all now possible thanks to digital print solutions. This scenario is not theoretical, it’s already happening – but putting it into practice may be challenging. As a starting point, PSPs should begin to work collaboratively with their clients’ marketing departments to understand their objectives, how they are going about meeting them, and to what extent they understand the role of print in their campaigns.

PSPs can confidently approach brands with the fact that print can achieve the emotional cut-through that digital marketing cannot, that they can offer lead times that replicate the immediacy of email marketing and that print’s impact in a campaign can be just as measurable as digital.

Print’s time is now; it’s time for marketers and PSPs to put the emotion back into marketing, and use print to push campaign response to another level.