Keeping Print Relevant: Personalize to Make a Connection

I find myself on the cusp of a lot of things. A late August birthday puts me on the cusp between Leo and Virgo. A height of 6'1" gives me the impossible inseam length of 33 inches. My late 1970’s birthday puts people of my generation in the Echo Boomer category; too late to be called Boomers and too early to be called a Millennials. Lastly, as an American immigrant who is raising children who are not, I often find myself in situations that can only be called a cultural cusp. These lighthearted examples of cusps in my life have influenced me in more ways than one.

By definition, a cusp is where two curves meet. For all you typeface aficionados, think of the letter V in a Zaph Chancery or Brush font face. If you visualize the V—specifically, the bottom point—it represents the ending of one line and, guess what, the ascension of another. I think there is a real application to this perspective as it relates to the print marketing industry. Although I am not sure if we are still going down the first curve or headed up the second, we (print-centric marketers), need to make our print more relevant in today’s marketing conversation by a making it social.

Print Can Be Social, but Proceed Cautiously

Admittedly, the term “socializing print” is ambiguous. It excites (digital print community), it confuses (brand managers), and it angers (email marketers). But, most importantly, it provides the ability to start a conversation with your client.

As print is a tactic in your clients’ marketing strategy, socializing print is all about connecting it with other tactics. For example: a postcard for Disney cruises that connects the solicitation with a YouTube experience via a QR code. Another example would be unexpectedly receiving a brochure on total customer satisfaction after posting a negative review on one of your regular online shopping destinations.

Integration of technologies such as personalized URLs, SMS texts, QR codes, and variable data supplement the conversations companies are having with customers. Today’s marketer is challenged by how to make those conversations more free flowing, while increasing the tangibility (realness factor) of the relationship. What might seem like a contrary point to connecting tactics is that socializing print is oftentimes more about where you are putting the print in the marketing cycle and less about the print itself.

Will It Go Viral?

Going viral is not the only goal of social marketing. All too often, people interchange these concepts and, in my opinion, they are missing the larger picture. Print is an excellent conversation starter between a company and a prospect. In fact, print can be more social than online channels in this regard.

As we all know, email marketing is strictly a permission-based channel. In other words, if you don’t know them, you can’t talk to them. I should probably add that if your customers do talk to them using unsolicited email, they will have the CAN-SPAM act of 2003 to deal with. I find it amazing how many marketers do not follow this rule. Once you talk marketers off the ledge and convince them that life does exist without unsolicited email marketing, it opens up the doors to discuss your solution of socialized print in order to build a viable email strategy.

In closing, I find myself saying this to my prospective and potential clients. It has worked for me and I hope it helps you in your sales journeys. Print is a key component of a sound social media plan. Print says “hello” and “come back” better and with greater success than any other media out there.

Sudhir Ravi is a serial entrepreneur who runs a variable data print practice within TVP Graphics in Streamwood, IL. Do you want to continue the conversation? Contact him at or 312-772-3191. Connect via Twitter @ThinkVariable.