“Just because this is a time of transformation doesn't mean that it's easy to sell transformational ideas. Economic uncertainty has reduced the audience for bold, grand rhetoric. Besides, even in boom times innovation is risky. Innovators often have to ease anxieties by sounding conservative while doing something radical.” – Rosabeth Moss Kanter, in her 15 minute competitive advantage blog.
I recently took part in a webinar (an interactive seminar using the Internet) on the topic -- Variable data printing, how far have we come? Looking at the adoption patterns of this new technology, the webinar was organized by RIT and the speaker for this session was Ms Patricia Sorce, chair of RIT’s School of Print Media and co-director of the Printing Industry Centre. The webinar mainly compared the level of acceptance of VDP applications in 2003, to those in the last several years, and explored the reasons why we have not seen the explosive growth that was predicted in the early part of this decade. The webinar started with the comparing the results of research from RIT (2003), the results of the CMO council study in 2008, and the Infotrends comparison of that company’s trend results in 2003 and 2006. All three research analyses show pretty similar results – that there is only a small growth in the amount of personalized printing used in advertising from 2003 till now. This conclusion was presented to webinar participants to look for the possible reasons behind this less than expected growth. Participants from around the world suggested reasons such as -- too complex, printers don’t like change, lack of awareness, knowledge and understanding, too much work, the higher cost of personalization, database issues and the growth of the Internet. However, the reasons given by Sorce were slightly different. According to Sorce lack of awareness in not an issue as the 2008 CMO study shows that “all the marketing executives were either planning to deploy or had already deployed a personalized campaign.” The next question according to her, which strikes everyone is that “do executives fail to see the benefits of this?” Again this is not likely to be a key impediment as the CMO council study shows that the majority of the marketer’s feel that personalised printing makes a big impact and increases effectiveness. So the barriers according to CMO for integrating personalised communication within marketing programs are -– inadequate infrastructure (49%), lack of customer data and insight (46%), cost and complexity (43%), lack internal competency (27%) and limited by top management mindset (20%). The other reasons behind this small growth is the availability of cheaper and easy media such as internet with new developments like personalized URL’s are picking up. Taking the top two reasons, that is -- inadequate infrastructure and lack of customer data, Sorce says that sometimes you cannot capture enough qualitative data about individuals that give enough insights that can be linked to personalized campaigns. Talking about the latest buzz on transpromo as the area of growth for VDP, Sorce feels that transpromo comes under the purview of IT, as it is only related with transactional documents and is not considered “personalised print” by marketing professionals. Sorce concluded by saying that the simplest form of personalization is the best tactic for a marketing campaign and for high level personalization print campaigns to grow, a good data foundation married with strategy is essential.