Thinking up a killer campaign

By Simon Creasey, Monday 03 July 2017

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Ask a bunch of senior marketers to list the key ingredients that any successful print marketing campaign needs and two words will crop up time and time again: innovation and execution.


You need to come up with a creative idea that can cut through all of the ‘noise’ generated by the other marketing channels that companies are using to bombard customers with and you need to execute the idea seamlessly. One of the best recent examples of a marketing campaign that delivered on both of these areas recently was undertaken by Enfield-based Inc Direct. 

The cross-channel campaign, which was sent out to senior marketers in the UK, started with a personalised ‘ransom note’ direct mail pack – a typed brown envelope containing a jiffy bag that included a coffee stained note, a teabag, sachet of sugar, a plastic spoon and a picture of a mug bearing the message ‘If you ever want to see this mug again visit...’ Recipients of the pack were directed to a personalised URL page where they could see a picture of their personalised mug in addition to ‘ransom’ mugs belonging to other people. 

To rescue their mug they were directed to another part of the site where they were then invited to book a meeting with the company behind the campaign so that they could get it back. It was only at this point that the recipient realised that the marketing campaign wasn’t just by Inc Direct, it was for Inc Direct. Rather than send out a pack of print samples alongside literature outlining its impressive armoury of equipment as many printers do, Inc Direct decided to showcase its skills by putting its money where its mouth is.

Inc Direct isn’t the only print firm taking an innovative approach to marketing. A host of other businesses are doing similarly creative things to ensure that they stand out in such a competitive marketplace. So what sort of marketing approach works best for printing companies and what can other companies learn from their peers who are leading the charge in this area?      

Before Inc Direct launched its ransom note packs it had experimented with other forms of marketing, according to Noel Warner, managing director of the company. Warner says he’d attended ‘meet the buyer’ conferences, but by and large he had found that the same people attended the event year after year so it wasn’t a particularly useful environment for generating new leads. He also wasn’t convinced that social media channels like Facebook would work as a lead generation platform and as for email messaging: “It is today’s junk mail,” says Warner. What he wanted was a marketing channel that reflected the company’s own unique outlook and values.

“We’re a very innovative, creative business,” says Warner. “The business has real personality. We’re fun to work with and we think outside the box so any communication has to reflect that.”

Medium and message

The natural fit for the company to convey this message appeared to be direct mail. “DM is at the heart of what we do so it should be at the heart of our marketing campaign,” explains Warner.

He says that with the ransom pack the company worked hard to create a targeted campaign that could reach out to marketers. “To get cut-through to the senior level marketers we want to work with we did a lot of research into people who are in our space and need our services. Then we put together this really personalised communication.” 

According to Warner the ransom note pack has been a resounding hit with strong levels of engagement from recipients and high recall.  

“It’s been hugely successful,” he adds. “It’s relevant, personalised and it’s a great demonstration of how we can use different technologies. There is no point telling people your print is fantastic these days because that should be a given. Nor can you hang your hat on offering people good levels of customer service because that is also expected. You need to show innovation. You need to think creatively and cut through all of the stuff that these people receive every day. You can’t just say ‘we’re a printer and we want to work with you’.”  

Paragon Customer Communications took a similarly innovative approach to marketing when it decided to launch an event to showcase its capabilities. The campaign kicked off with a save-the-date email, a printed invitation and a subsequent follow-up email invitation. 

“An ‘invite a friend’ email was then sent to all those who registered,” says Fraser Church, head of creative development at Paragon. “A personalised physical welcome pack was also printed and mailed for individuals to review what they could see on the day, along with directions to the event, etc. Finally a reminder email was sent a week before the event, followed by a text sent the day before the event.”

After the event took place, individuals were provided with a follow-up email with a link to relevant content, along with physical collateral based on request. The upshot was strong turnout, strong engagement levels and a highly successful event. So successful in fact that Paragon won the Marketing Campaign of the Year Award at the PrintWeek Awards 2015.


Like Paragon Resource has used a combination of mail and email as part of its marketing mix, but the thing the company finds tends to work best is social media and particularly LinkedIn and Twitter.

“Social media is a big channel for us,” says Asif Choudry, sales and marketing director at the Leeds-based firm. “We do all of our cold calling through that.”

He adds that the company also regularly attends industry exhibitions, but not print ones. “We go to the events where our clients are and we use social media combined with our trade stand.”

The reason Choudry likes social media so much is because through the company’s corporate Twitter accounts and the individual accounts of members of the Resource team, the company is always ‘on’.

“Social media is absolutely critical to us because we can engage with our customers seven days a week outside of nine to five,” he says.

He particularly likes the fact that these channels allow the company to strike up conversations with customers and encourage engagement. 

“The big difference that social media has made to us as a marketing channel is prior to using it we did what most printers still do today, which is send a direct mail out and then pick up the phone to say ‘did you receive it’,” says Choudry. “In addition to speaking to customers when they wanted a quotation or when a job was in progress that was the only time we communicated with customers, so it is a very dysfunctional relationship. 

“What social media has done for us is it allows us to have engagement outside of those conversations. So we are talking to existing customers and to prospects about what they’re watching on TV and what they are doing on weekends and evenings every single day of the week.”

The ability to be constantly ‘on’ that social media offers users is vitally important because the world of communication is changing rapidly and the message has never been more important. But that’s just the start of the marketing process. What printing companies and marketers need to do – once they have established what message they want to communicate – is establish the best channel to deliver it via. 

“As a broad brush stroke, print works well when something needs to be considered, reviewed or have impact/cut-through,” says Church. “Email is good for delivering timely updates, information and offers. Mobile is great for delivering reminders – eg: appointments, event schedules, etc. As for social media, this is a tool that works well when trying to build out a brand’s persona.”

He adds that marketers should consider using a combination of different media to get best results. For example, sending an email to someone following the delivery of a piece of printed material. It is an approach that can significantly improve response rates, according to Church.

But it is not just about using the appropriate channel – it is also about ensuring that the content is engaging. 

“Consumers are increasingly multi-tasking in terms of media consumption and increasingly time poor,” says Church. “Therefore, using the latest best practices in terms of data and digital technology combined with the age old skills of copy and design skills can help ensure that a business’s message stands out from others. In terms of print, this could mean using personalisation to ensure that content instantly feels relevant and engaging.”

In summary, there is no single silver bullet solution when it comes to printers choosing a marketing channel to communicate with existing and prospective customers. While digital messaging via social media and emails works well for some printing companies, for others the most effective marketing tool remains sticking ink on paper. It is very much a case of horses for courses. 

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