Over the Cross-Media Bridge

Cross-media marketing. Multi-channel marketing. Cross-channel marketing. Multi-media marketing. These terms get tossed around almost interchangeably, but the general idea is that marketing service providers are using more than one type of media in their marketing campaigns.

For the sake of simplicity let’s stick with the nomenclature used by InfoTrends, which defines cross-media marketing as: “the use of two or more media types (print, email, Web, mobile, and/or social) in an orchestrated campaign targeting a specific demographic and/or psychographic segment. These campaigns can be retention programs targeted at existing customers or acquisition programs targeted at prospective customers. A cross-media campaign delivers relevant content and a call to action through multiple media simultaneously as an integrated campaign.”

It’s pretty straightforward, but are printers really doing it or is this just another hot topic that is more terminology than action? The answer is that some are indeed doing it and some are doing it well. Some have tried it and quit. Others are not sure what to do. Just as it takes more than addressing mail pieces to become a true marketing service provider, creating an effective cross-media marketing campaign takes skill sets that many, if not most, commercial printers don’t possess in house.

Scott Cappel, owner of Sorrento Mesa Printing in San Diego, CA, may sum up the dilemma best. “We have actually moved away from this area and are refocused on more of the traditional fundamentals of the smaller printer portfolio of offerings,” he says. “It may be hot, but it’s damn hard to do.”

“I think it is being practiced, but not in the way that it should be to maximize responses,” says John Foley, president of marketing software provider interlinkONE. “The print world still thinks print. Okay, so I am generalizing here, but my ongoing experience has shown me that printers are still not moving rapidly enough to offer value added solutions versus strictly marketing services like cross-media without a solution behind it.”

 

Slow to Adopt

The concept of cross-media is nothing new. XMPie was founded in 2000 and the XM supposedly stood for cross-media. However, even if the term is now fairly well understood in the printing industry, that is not necessarily the case among print buyers. “Despite 10 years of promotion by the graphics industry, it still means nothing to the average marketing professional,” according to a PODi Insights blog.

“Cross-media is another term that is known well by the print world, but the target audience, who are often marketing folks, think of these solutions in broader terms,” says Foley. “This is where a service provider can actually add greater value if they think outside the box.”

So, let’s get down to the bare bones. According to the PODi blog, the aim of cross-media marketing is pretty simple. “The point of cross-media is to make print more effective, and to measure by how much, by connecting it to digital media channels, which are more easily measurable.”

Adds Foley, “The idea is to increase interaction and engagement with the audience in the channel and media they are in or the channel/media they use.”

 

Right Way, Wrong Way

Before we look at some real world examples and considerations, let’s outline some obvious pitfalls. First, it is not nearly enough to possess the technical skills to pull off a successful cross-media marketing effort. The one thing that marks most, if not all, failed efforts is a lack of strategy. Tactics are fine, but aren’t worth much without a strategy behind their deployment. A potential customer might get all tingly about the spiffy new technology, such as personalized URLs or QR codes, but there has to be a strategic objective. What do you want to accomplish and how will each piece of the campaign help reach that goal? In addition, you also have to set the right expectations and know the target audience and their wants, needs, desires, and influences.

One example of a successful cross-media campaign comes from Latcham Direct, an XMPie customer in Europe. It involved Time Magazine Europe, which was handling its subscription process by having customers fill out and mail order forms. Latcham Direct created an online subscription process using cross-media XMPie solutions. The launch was a mailing pack with a subscription solicitation letter, loyalty card, flyer, and return envelope. Each letter also contained a personalized landing page (PURL) to subscribe online. Some 30 percent of prospects responded online to the first cross-media campaign. It was used twice more and ultimately reached 1.6 million potential subscribers and had a 75 percent conversion rate of those who visited their PURL.

 

Closer to Home

Of course, the Time campaign is pretty large scale and it seems as if cross-media is a bit farther along in Europe than in the US. However, here are some insights from a variety of printers and print vendors, both here and abroad.

“We use several forms of media to push messaging,” says Roger Buck, marketing director at The Flesh Company. “However, I’ll be the first to say we probably don’t do ‘real’ cross media effectively. We use some media based on the target audience. We use email for a large portion of our accounts and other media for those where we do not have emails. But in my mind, a true cross-media program is pushing the same message to the same target to increase the opportunity for a response through multiple views. We attempt this by using email combined with magazine ads and some direct mail.”

“(Cross-media) is something we’re working on now,” says Paul Gardner of Hudson Printing in Salt Lake City, UT. “We’ve got a great small team together and are seeing significant opportunities. Surprising how little most marketers we’ve talked with understand about the power of print—and encouraging that most are eager to learn.”

“In the UK there is a massive market to be exploited,” says Richard Allen, director of business development at Kingsdown in Taunton, UK. “Once again it comes down to educating our clients and prospects and telling them that we, as printers, are the experts. I think the biggest hurdle is to ensure that the client/prospect truly comprehends cross-media and the benefits, of which there are so many.”

“I have been involved in campaigns, demonstrations, and presentations,” Allen continues. “Everywhere I go the reception is very positive, but it is quite a departure from ‘normal’ marketing processes and sometimes it takes time for the client to establish the project, ownership, and to plan a campaign. The concept is not new, but the execution is. There are currently not enough examples in the marketplace.”

Troy Lister, manager of digital services at ADR in Benton, KS, notes: “We are starting to do a lot of it ourselves. We’ve had the capabilities for years, but didn’t know what to do with them, exactly. Now we’ve partnered with some ad agencies and are seeing things take off. We’ve found that the most important factor to get started is putting together a good team with strengths that complement each other.”

 

Reimagine Communication

“We have to think outside of the box and look to what the customer is trying to accomplish to come up with the most effective marketing campaign for them,” says Foley. “I think cross-media is being practiced in the printing industry, but not nearly to its fullest potential.”

The PODi Insights blog notes: “Cross-media for the next decade will mean much more than personalized URLs. Social media is here to stay, and print easily hooks into that. And now mobile is the fastest growing new digital medium. QR codes and Intelligent Print Recognition enable print to become interactive with mobile devices. Print with embedded NFC tags is just around the corner. Opportunities will abound.”

“I believe cross-media is still growing slowly due to the complexity of truly effective campaign development,” says Buck. “Between pre-campaign data analysis—assuming you have the data—campaign media selection, campaign development, launch, and tracking, it’s not something you learn do to in a short time frame. It’s an ongoing education.”

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