Digital and data driven - Print marketing in the last 20 years

Chris La Greca - Group New Business Manager, Ovato

This is the fourth blog of the 2020 Visions series from Ovato.

Print has undeniably undergone a huge amount of change since the start of the century.

As we moved into a digital age in 2000, print started to suffer from a pressure it hadn’t experienced previously. With a world of entertainment now at their fingertips, people moved online to get their news and consume media. But that wasn’t the whole story.

While the world exclaimed the death of the printed word, the technology of print continued to evolve. Increasing efficiency, agility and sustainability became the name of the game as print underwent a continual metamorphosis. Long gone are the days of typesetters and other manual labour-intensive printing requirements. And although the internet changed media consumption irrevocably, it didn’t replace every format that came before it. Rather, the world shifted to accommodate both online and offline formats.

In 2019, print is not the dinosaur it’s made out to be – and in 2020 it will be more digital, data-driven and faster than ever and importantly, an effective medium for your marketing spend.

Send in the (digital) presses!

In the year 2000, if you wanted to print a magazine or catalogue, you could choose from a traditional offset printing press or a young upstart, the digital printing press.

While offset printing techniques transfer an inked image or “offset” from a plate to a rubberised blanket and then onto the print surface, digital printing technology prints digital-based images directly onto media.

The digital colour printing press, first unveiled in 1993, revolutionised the printing industry by introducing a mainstream printing method that could produce cost-effective short run printing and from 2000 onwards, digital printing began to claim a larger share of the print market.

Businesses could now access small-run, extremely personalised print that came straight from the desktop, a choice that gave rise to print on demand (POD) techniques, opening print opportunities to marketers looking to test the waters, or who were running highly targeted campaigns.

Smaller runs, more often

POD has become increasingly popular over the last 20 years, allowing brand to produce brochures, signs, magazines, packaging and any other printed material on a ‘per need’ basis.

While large print runs were historically the norm to take advantage of the economies of scale, the smaller price per unit cost of digital printing in small runs makes it an attractive choice for low volume printing.

The technical set-up is a speedier process than that used in offset printing. There’s also no need to keep the overstocks of printed material on hand because you’re only printing what you need, when you need it. This cuts down on the costs associated with the handling, transport, storage and management of unsold product.

Print what you need when you need it. Distribute it and if more is needed, run another print. Combined with digital printing, you can have a quick turnaround on the job and have it winging its way to customers in no time.

Rather than rolling the dice on a large print run and suffering significant costs if the books didn’t sell, POD gives you more control over your output.

Judging a book by its cover

Digital printing advances also brought about a revolution in the design of catalogues and advertising material. Now you can choose from a range of specialty finishes such as foil and 3D to make your collateral stand out thanks to a cornucopia of choices,.

An example of the power of amazing and creative design is The Folio Society. Started in 1947, The Folio Society creates beautiful collectors’ editions of some of the world’s most amazing books. The books feature slipcases with commissioned artwork, printed on a variety of luxurious paper stock and filled with specially commissioned engravings and other illustration types.

Personalisation, driven by customer data, is another powerful design element with undoubted effectiveness – 80 per cent of consumers are more likely to make a purchase if they’re offered a personalised experience. Who wouldn’t want to receive a unique catalogue that features a personalised cover rather than generic products? Or direct mail that calls back to a purchase they’d made with you previously? The judicious use of customer data can create a highly personal experience for a customer, one that they won’t soon forget.

The sustainability imperative

Sustainability and environmental responsibility have also become a must in the later part of this decade.

Now, more than ever, businesses are expected to take responsibility for their carbon footprint and emissions, and this is especially true for the print industry. The industry responded by introducing a raft of environmentally friendly initiatives including low-carbon automation, 100 per cent renewable planted forests, and the adoption of ISO standard 14000 Environmental Management standards. Some printers have even begun to co-locate their distribution and print arms to cut down on excess emissions associated with transport between separate locations and to increase efficiency and speed.

Print on demand naturally allows for smaller print runs that can be performed more regularly. This removes or decreases the environmental cost incurred by the handling, transport and storage large amounts of print material.

Evolution, not revolution

Since the earliest known forms of printing originated in China before 220 A.D, the reproduction of text onto paper has changed beyond recognition.

From woodblock printing to the use of an electrical charge to transfer toner or liquid ink on to paper, the technology of print has evolved in ways that have made it increasingly time, money and effort efficient, opening up access to the written word to the world.

Now, thanks to advances in printing over the last 2 decades, print is available to more customers than ever, and can be done in a cost effective and environmentally sensitive fashion. Bring on the next 20 years of print, and long may it help you in your marketing efforts.

Speak to us to find out how Ovato can help you with all your printing needs.