RRD, Quad, Transcontinental Forecast the Catalog and Publication Printing Markets
A renaissance is brewing. Slowly but surely, printed magazines and catalogs are inching their way out of the shadow of the Internet and merging together with online media. We see this happening already, but it is just the tip of the iceberg. This is especially true in the case of printed catalogs that drive buyers to a website to make an order.
Although catalogers and their printers continue to struggle with many of the same challenges as in recent years—rising postal rates; competition with online ads; in a nutshell, the search for relevancy in a digital world—many of the solutions of years past are proving effective. The International News Media Association shares a study from Oracle stating that 70 percent of marketers use print to direct audiences to digital content, and 46 percent call it “vital” to digital campaigns.
As omnichannel communications continue to evolve, the biggest challenge becomes monitoring and managing how effective these alternative channels are. It is a learning process for publishers and printers, and some are more successful than others, but it is an upward trend overall.
Repeatedly, studies have shown that consumers are not looking for a single mode of communication that delivers all of the information they seek, explains John Coyle, group president, sales, at Chicago-based RR Donnelley. Marketers do not choose consumers’ communication channels anymore, he says; the key is knowing where and when each channel of communication provides value.
“Marketers and retailers learn more every day about detailed customer preferences through a wide range of data sources: purchase history, Web activity, social media interaction and in-store tracking,” he remarks. “All of these data sources provide an unprecedented view of a consumer’s buying preferences. When this information is leveraged into a targeted campaign, consumers can experience a printed catalog that actually ‘feels’ like it was created just for them.”
Printed Catalogs Drive Awareness
This personalization has a positive effect on the evolution of catalogs. “While some catalogers moved away from the printed catalog in the past, we haven’t seen that phenomenon,” shares David Sutch, sales manager for Walsworth Publishing, headquartered in Marceline, Missouri. “In fact, several catalogers increased their print runs, as well as the frequency in an effort to stay top of mind with the consumer.”
Although some catalog publishers may reduce paper weight and page counts to save money, this does not point to a decline in print’s effectiveness—it is, rather, a change of character. No longer center stage, highly targeted printed catalogs still play an important role in a cast that includes myriad other consumer engagement methods.
Publishers are creative when it comes to finding ways to add value for their readers, relays Kerri Rosenberg-Hallet, director of marketing at Denver-based Publication Printers, “For some, this means offering useful tips or free services.” She offers Pottery Barn as an example, explaining, “They now offer complimentary design services to their customers, a value that used to be reserved for those who could afford the high price tag.”
Many people, young and old, still appreciate the feeling of a printed catalog in their hands. They enjoy flipping through it, looking at products. Reading the “story” of a catalog has become an experience, explains Leo Centorami, senior sales director at TC Transcontinental in Montreal. Marketers use scenes, such as landscape spreads with wildlife, to draw consumers in and prompt them to eventually make a transaction, more often than not, online.
Tim Ohnmacht, president of marketing solutions at Quad/Graphics, based in Sussex, Wisconsin, adds that catalogs are increasingly being used as sources of consumer idea generation and inspiration. “The catalog actually inspires the shopper about what to buy and do with products,” he says. “Almost half of all people say they look forward to getting catalogs in the mail.”
In addition, he adds, the ad blocking technologies of the digital realm do not apply to printed catalogs. “You go to your mailbox and the catalog is there,” he explains. “You can’t miss it, even if you want to.”
Magazines Deliver Dynamic Experiences
Staunch optimism flows throughout the publications sector, too. “The perceived print versus digital argument is over and old news,” states David Briggs, vice president of sales and marketing at South Burlington, Vermont-based Lane Press. He holds that the case is not about printing anymore but about publishing. “Circulations are growing for publishers that understand how to compete effectively,” he says, so printers must support all the various platforms that publishers find useful.
Apps, QR Codes, AR—Even Drones
To entice publishers, successful printers are broadening their offerings in many directions, but not because they need to compensate for a decline in demand for print services. Nowadays, mobile applications, augmented reality and QR codes are all typical avenues for creating dynamic customer engagement. Video services are also increasingly popular. One of the latest examples of Quad/Graphics’ changing service model is the addition of five video drones to support aerial video applications, shares Eric Steinbach, president of publishing solutions at the company.
“At Walsworth Publishing, we offer clients a low-cost ‘Digital Presence Assessment’ as a way to stack rank areas for investment in improving strategy, results and online/offline integration,” notes Tom Ashton, sales manager. “Effective capture and retention is less about simply being engaged with active overlays, video embeds and the like, and more about a coordinated marketing strategy.”
Dave Cardona, senior vice president of the magazine group at RR Donnelley, describes how magazine publishers are working toward creating experiences, much like what catalogers are doing. “Creating a lifestyle and personal experience around traditional magazine brands now includes e-commerce opportunities, event and trade show experiences, Web and mobile content, and more,” he says.
In particular, this works well for niche magazines and special interest publications. “In our increasingly specialized and personalized world, the move to specialty interest and targeted titles is no surprise,” Cardona remarks. “These titles drive a passionate user experience, which can lead to many other opportunities for special editions, events or trade show programs and custom digital interaction.”
Centorami, of TC Transcontinental, shares a recent study conducted by University of Mississippi professor Samir Husni [who also refers to himself as Mr. Magazine] that found new launches for the third quarter of 2015 were ahead of the same period in 2014. “The cooking-related segment is a good example of how special interest magazines meet a market need,” he explains.
What’s ‘Cooking’ for Magazines?
“Cooking interest grew during the recession as a way to save money, and then there was additional interest over eating healthier, less processed meals and losing weight. There are even magazines targeted toward teaching children to cook and understand more about food, and the ability to create additional revenue streams in the cooking category are considerable,” Centorami says.
As Rosenberg-Hallet of Publication Printers so aptly puts it, “It appears that even in a down economy, Americans will still spend money on their pets, their beer obsessions and their hobbies.”
In short, these are changing times for the role of print, when it comes to publications and catalogs, but its power to captivate and endure remains the same. PI