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Video: Direct Mail Achieves 20% Lift Using Augmented Reality

What is Augmented Reality? Wikipedia says it is a technology in which virtual reality replaces the real world with a simulated one.

I wrote a post earlier here about Augmented Reality (AR) but I thought you would be interested in another example that I found.  Offering integrated marketing?  See the video below and try using AR in your Direct Mail or stand alone print piece.

RappWorldwide won an award for their Toyota Camry campaign.  The video boasts a 20% lift in sales attributed to the campaign.  Have a look – instead of just looking at a printed piece, it feels like you are inside the car and can touch the controls.  Graphic Artists, Printers, Direct Mail Services and other Direct Marketing Suppliers should be learning how to use AR to promote their services and increase the effectiveness of their offerings.

The technology is embedded in the print piece and when smart phone users with the corresponding app (examples:  1, 2 or 3) scan the piece here’s the kind of experience they can expect:

I know the QR code is not dead but honestly, as a consumer, wouldn’t you rather have a cool interactive experience when you scan a printed piece rather than being directed to a website?  There are a few different AR technologies available, but I haven’t found anything to scan yet in Canada!  I keep going to Chapters in Newmarket, Ontario looking in magazines for one of the logos for Layar, Aurasma, or Blippar on any page so I can try it. If you are going to incorporate it into your printed pieces, make sure you put some instructions in a sidebar or a conspicuous place so that people will know what app they need and how to scan the piece.

Let me know if you are using any of these and where I can get a printed sample – I will continue to post the best examples I see out there! Better yet, include me as a seed in your mailing list if you are going to create a Direct Mail campaign using AR! See the “About” section here for my contact info.

Video: Pfaff Takes Direct Mail Production on the Road!

The video caption says “With a camera, laptop, printer and Porsche, we created the first instant direct mail piece for Pfaff Auto, Toronto.”

That is what Advertising Agency Lowe Roche did in Toronto, Canada for auto retailer Pfaff located in its new digs in Newmarket at Mulock Drive & Leslie Street. Check out the video to see how they did it:

Maybe laborious and costly but an amazingly creative way to take Direct Mail Production to new heights! Going on the road? I love it! Did you see the gear they had – a generator, the cutting board, ruler and knife right there in the back of the van. Imagine the logistics if you were the Production Manager on this one! Glad they had a nice sunny day for it.

Do you or your clients have a high-end segment that warrants this kind of special attention? What kind of response rates are your campaigns achieving? The video says that Pfaff had a 32% response rate to opt for a test drive so maybe the ROI made it worthwhile. How would you use this idea for your industry or your house list? I would love to know the overall costs and final sales results attributed to the Pfaff campaign. (At least there was no cost for postage!)

Hey Pfaff, I live in Newmarket – could you leave a Porsche in my driveway too? But maybe you could just leave it there and mail me the keys?

Media Marriage Now Legal! (or Print Meets Digital)

Recently I have been reading a lot of posts all over the internet about how Direct Mail and traditional print are dead due to the use of digital media. Those who disagree say print is still very much alive and the most important part of an integrated marketing campaign with each channel complementary to another.  I thought QR codes were a cool way to integrate digital media into print.  I’ve created my own and printed it on my business card.  Here it is – try it out if you have a smart phone and have downloaded a QR code scanner app.  You can hold it right up to your computer screen and it should work:

QR code, Sheila Gregory

But if you want to stay on the leading edge in truly integrated marketing then I’d say forget QR codes. Most of them just take you to a company’s website which is pretty boring unless you are ready to purchase something or donate to a charity.

Here’s an even better way to marry digital media to your direct mail campaigns.  Now you can incorporate Augmented Reality (referred to as AR) into your Direct Mail piece.  The user must have a smart phone and download an app that scans a printed page (a bit like scanning a QR code). However, the result is different. You can see how it works by checking out the video below by Layar.

There are other companies offering similar services but I found the Layar app for my iPhone first and downloaded it right away.  I then ran off to Chapters as fast as I could to find a magazine that had the Layar capability built into one of its pages so I could scan it.  I checked a bunch of the magazines on this rack:

computer magazines, magazine rack, Chapters, Wired, apps

There were loads of QR codes on practically every other page.  But I could not find one page with the Layar logo!

Layar logo

And most of these magazines list and rate hundreds of great apps. I was so disappointed!  After a little more research on Layar’s website, it seems that it might be more popular in Europe. But I bet that soon you will see AR logos plastered on every piece of print material you see in North America.  This technology is at the leading edge of social, digital and mobile direct marketing and I am sure the early adopters will pick it up and use it soon. We used to mail CDs – these days that would make us look like dinosaurs! I wonder which of us Direct Mailers will be the first to get on the integrated bandwagon with AR!  Have you already used this technology? If yes,  please tell us about the results and any hiccups you may have encountered. And would someone please tell me where I can find a printed piece with the Layar logo printed on it?  I want to go &  find it so I can scan it!

VIDEO – See why making special direct mail envelopes cost more

Are you quoting a special make envelope for a Direct Mail campaign? Do you need to explain why your quote is high?   If you’re like me, you always wished you had enough time to go to your suppliers’ plants and learn more about their processes so you can increase your knowledge and expertise to help your company. But who has 2 or 3 hours to spare outside of the office in this business? It’s hard to squeeze in all the demands of your job let alone your own development.  Hopefully you can use the video below to explain, in part, why your quote is higher than one for an off-the-shelf jet printed envelope.

Do you have a once per year campaign and this piece must stand out from the piles of mail that recipients will see? You can’t just do the same old off-the-shelf jet printed envelope like the rest of the year. Maybe this time you have a little extra budget room because this campaign is the most important one of the year. The client wants something special and the design team is pumped to splash the colour around and get out of the box! It’s time to think about pricing.

There are a couple of different ways special envelopes are made that can dictate a higher or lower cost within the range of special make costs:

Solid steel die-cutting: Is it possible to use a design shape and size that matches an existing solid steel die at your envelope supplier’s plant? Find out what the standard die sizes and shapes are. See if your client and design teams are happy with one of those. If so, then see if your envelope supplier can provide a template for the designer. Then you can ensure you’ve planned the most efficient (least expensive) production. It might also save some time. You’ll see why when you watch the video (thanks again Royal Envelope!)

Adjustable die-cutting: The standard die sizes and shapes are just not going to do it – the creative team went wild and there is a budget for it! Great, something exciting is going to be created! The envelope supplier doesn’t have a market for that specific envelope. If they did, then you’d be in the same boat with loads of other marketers looking the same as everyone else. But they can use an adjustable die to cut out your size/shape and satisfy the need to be creative and different! Watch the video to see why it costs more and takes longer than using a standard size/shape die.

Die-cutting is just one part of the process. Printing, folding, gluing, window film/application, special papers, volume – they can all affect the pricing. I’m not even touching here on postage rates for various sizes and ability to insert mechanically. I’ll write about those in a future post.  If you want more posts about envelope production or an entirely different topic in Direct Mail Services, please let me know specifically what interests you and I will take a shot at it.

Video – The Halm Jet Press

What are we always looking for in Direct Mail Production from our suppliers? There are many things of course, but I can boil them down to three general areas:

A high quality product

The lowest possible cost

A short turnaround time

You want to satisfy all three of your needs above and you’re quoting envelopes for your next Direct Mail campaign. Any graphic artists out there? As Direct Mail Project Managers, we need you to work with us in production to create a design to run on a specific piece of equipment which can deliver all three of the above requirements.

The machine I am talking about is the Halm jet press, which can be a perfect match for specific designs that ensure a beautiful final product. This press is used for printing pre-manufactured envelopes. Most of the time we run 2 colour jet designs, but some suppliers have a 4 colour jet press too. Here is a video of the 4 colour press operated by Royal Envelope in Concord, Ontario, Canada near Toronto.

As it says in the video, this is a perfecting press so we can print both sides in one pass which saves time and money. Royal Envelope also has 2 colour perfecting jet presses, so you might save even a little more if you can limit your design to 2 colours.

If there are any graphic artists out there that are good at creating designs for the 2 colour press, please chime in and tell us how well it works for you. For example, have you tried creating any duo-tone designs that make it look like 4 colour work?  Maybe you could provide a link to a sample of your work. Come on, don’t be shy – show us your talent!

If I can collaborate with one of you artists, I’ll write a post on the requirements for designing an envelope to run on the Halm jet presses.

If you want to learn more about envelopes, watch another video showing how conventional envelope manufacturing is done by die-cutting.

“Jet” printing vs “Inkjet” printing

***Please see the preamble regarding Direct Marketing Glossaries posted here***

A few years ago, I was at a lettershop run by one of our vendors with a group of people from our agency there to learn more about the production side of our business.  I was standing with our graphic artist when the lettershop gal leading the tour was telling  him about their inkjet service and capabilities.  He immediately began discussing jet printing and asking general questions.  I soon realized he was thinking about envelopes being printed with the graphics he’d created instead of envelopes being addressed.  The tour leader answered his questions and the discussion carried on.  It was going quite nicely for some time except for the fact that they were talking about two different things and neither one knew it!

Envelope providers identify jet printing as a fast, generally low-cost way of printing graphic images on pre-manufactured envelopes. They might be using a press like the Halm Jet Press in the first picture below.  This type of press does not print variable data so it cannot include personalization or specific messages relevant to each person receiving the mail.  Envelope suppliers are generally not data service folks.  This is the one our graphic artist was referring to.  See my additional post containing a video of a machine similar to this in operation here.

However, the Halm jet press is a completely different piece of equipment from the inkjet machine that is found in most lettershops.  A lettershop might be using a Buskro inkjet printer like this one pictured below:

We don’t really think of this machine as a press at all.  This piece of equipment is used in tandem with your database to print the address directly on the mail pieces.  Many of these machines can handle colour and graphics now with better resolution than in the past.  It is however, used for a completely different purpose than the Halm jet press.

So my two colleagues were talking at cross purposes until I unfortunately had to interrupt and tell them I could read both of their minds and they were not in the same place.  I say it was unfortunate, because I think it would have been more fun to let them go on talking about two different things for my own entertainment, but would I do something like that?  No, really, seriously now!

I am scheduled to visit an envelope supplier soon to shoot some video so I can show you the jet press in action.

Are there any lettershops out there that would like me to come in and shoot some video of their Buskro inkjet addressing system?

Is it a Householder? or Is it a Householder?

***Please see the preamble regarding Direct Marketing Glossaries posted here***

When is a Householder NOT a Householder?  Well, it’s when it’s a Householder.  Huh?

I don’t know if all Direct Mail businesses use this term in 2 different ways, but I have certainly encountered that practice with at least 2 service providers.  If you are talking to a Data Processing service, you may be having a conversation about Merge/Purge, but if you are talking to the lettershop guy or gal you may be discussing a category of mail.  Maybe you already know what I’m babbling about but here it is anyway.  We often use this one term to describe two completely different things in Direct Mail:


Canada Post’s product is called “Unaddressed Admail” and is colloquially referred to in the Direct Mail industry as a Householder because it can go to all the households in the areas you choose.  You do not address or personalize the mail pieces.  You more or less blanket geographic areas sometimes because your client’s location is in the area or perhaps because your house list shows that your best existing customers are concentrated in these locations.


Now you may be using some other Canada Post product such as Lettermail or Addressed Admail and you are in the midst of writing the Merge/Purge (M/P) instructions for your Data Processing service.  You have already decided on your mailing strategy and this will affect the way you select your criteria for the M/P.  This means you need to tell them which part of each record should be checked for a match.  Here are 2 ways you might write your instructions to select the match criteria you want:

a) Merge/purge by First Name, Last Name, Postal Code

b) Merge/purge by Last Name, Postal Code

The second choice b) is the “Householder” because selecting your match criteria this way will result in only 1 piece of mail per address.  So if you have John, Joan, James and Jane Sample all living at 123 Main Street, Anytown ON, X1X 1X1, only one of those names will be left on your mail list after the Merge/Purge is complete.

VOILA!  Double duty term deciphered!  I would like to know if your service providers use this term in both ways too.  Please let me know!


***Please see the preamble regarding Direct Marketing Glossaries posted here***

I have occasionally seen a confused look on a Project Manager’s face followed by the question: “When they say nixies, what are they really talking about?”  There are related but slightly different ways this term is being used in our industry.  Don’t assume the person you are talking to is using the term the same way you understand it in your given situation.  Possibly you are talking about the same thing but from a different point of view and that can sometimes make a big difference in what you will say or do.

Nixies are usually described as mail that is undeliverable using Addressed Admail.  If we use this meaning, we are talking about actual pieces of mail that are created and go into the mailstream but are never seen by the intended recipient.  They may go to the correct address but the addressee does not live there anymore, so the new resident probably just tosses it.  You may never have the knowledge that this happened because even if the new resident tries to return it, the basic Canada Post Addressed Admail service does not a offer return to sender service.

But wait, this term can be explained differently depending on which glossary of terms or website you happen to be reading.  You can get yourself into trouble explaining it to a client or colleague one way when in a different situation, it would be better to explain it differently.

Here are a couple of explanations of this term that I have retreived from the web:

1) From Northwest Database Services (a U.S. Mail Service Provider):

Nixie is a mailing piece that is misaddressed or illegibly addressed and therefore undeliverable. Nixie mail is also called “undeliverable-as-addressed mail.” Nixie mailing pieces are frequently referred to as “nixies.””

Ok I get it so far.

2) From Mail-O-Matic (a good lettershop service in BC, Canada):

“Nixies are records in a mailing list that should not be there. Nixies also refer to mail that gets returned to sender when mail is sent to undeliverable addresses or deliverable addresses but unknown or incorrect names.”

Ok, now if I am using Addressed Admail, the most common product used in Direct Mail, there is no return to sender service.  So the definition above might not apply for most of the mail we send.  But it might apply to Lettermail (1st class) or those who pay for the return postage guaranteed service.  If they are returned, you might have a way to contact the recipient and update the information in your database.

But I also know that “nixie”  may be interpreted somewhat differently when the term pops up in an NCOA report (National Change of Address).  It may be used to refer to records where no forwarding address is available.  The subtle difference is that now we are not talking about an actual piece of mail.  We are talking about a record in your data which is flagged in the NCOA run because the mover chose not to share their new address information when they filled out a change of address card at the post office.

3) From Cleanlist (a really excellent NCOA data service provider):

“Nixie: Individual, family, or business has moved but no forwarding address has been provided, possibly for privacy reasons.” 

Since you cannot update these nixies in your database, you or your client should keep them on a suppression or kill file and run it against your mailings to save on postage.

So depending on the situation you are in, you might discuss nixies in different ways with different actions taken depending on the specific circumstances.  If confusion is likely, it’s best to just avoid the jargon and describe in simple terms exactly what you mean or what action you need to take.

Please tell us all here if you use a different definition of nixies.  How do you use the term where you work?  Do you have a way to update nixies in your organization?

Direct Marketing Glossaries

When I started out in the Direct Mail industry in Canada, I knew almost nothing about it and was especially confused by what seemed like tech talk.  Pretty soon someone dropped a glossary of terms on my desk and I started lapping it up as quickly as I could.  I was a complete neophyte! This post could probably have been named “Oh, the trouble you can get into”.  You know the old adage, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing?  Well that was an apt saying for me to remember at that time.  Since then, if I had to say there is only one thing that I know after all these years in DM, it is to question what I think I know.

I took the glossary at face value as if these terms were carved in stone and everyone in the industry already knew and agreed on exactly what each word meant.  Here’s what I didn’t know about this new language:  Almost every new person I would encounter in this industry over the next 15 years would use a lot of the terms loosely.  They would sub in one term for another to fit the situation or the usage that was common for their specific workplace.  It was confusing and didn’t always fit the circumstances I was in.  So who was the authority on DM terminology?  I think the correct answer was no one, but I didn’t know that at the time.  We can all use any one term in lots of different ways.  When someone is explaining some DM lingo, it is probably exactly correct – for a given set of circumstances.  But we have to know where they are coming from, what their knowledge or experience is or the specific slant they are assuming.  People will always look at things from their own point of view.  People also sincerely want to be helpful in explaining things to us.  The problem comes when that something is defined based on a specific situation, but that is not exactly THE situation and we don’t recognize this fact.

With the hope of preventing us all from falling into the same deep holes that I have, I will start a series of posts in this category highlighting some of the terms I have seen used in different ways, in different circumstances and by different groups.  You can look up any glossary online and maybe there is a standard one where you work.  If it’s too late and you have experienced a misunderstanding because of terminology (which undoubtedly caused no end of trouble) check back here for terms in this category.  You may find something that will help you decipher the different points of view and make room for more clear communication in the future.

I hope you will also add your stories about terms that were confused or used differently.  I also hope you will suggest terms we can clarify here to help everyone.  My goal is to create this space as our own community of Direct Marketing Project Managers where we can make suggestions and support each other in this crazy business!  If you find anything that seems really incorrect, please do tell me – we are better as a group of specialists if we refine and share information, improving it for others as we go.

Running Out of Materials

One of the worst nightmares for a Direct Mail Project Manager happens when the lettershop calls and utters these dreaded words:

“We ran out of envelopes and we still have 5M to insert.  Can you send more today?”

The mail date is tomorrow.  That stone you keep in your throat drops down into your stomach, hard.  Your first reaction could be sarcastic:  Oh sure, I’ll just go out back and print up another 5M and have them over to you in an hour.  NOT!  You stifle this childish urge and calmly ask for the packing slip.  Then like all Project Managers I know, you start questioning your own work.  You frantically check your print orders, you check the number of records in the data file, you recalculate how many overs you included.  You check everything you may have missed but turn up nothing.  Your orders are correct and you have done everything right.

The packing slip comes showing the quantity you ordered.  Note that lettershops will verify the number of boxes and amount listed in each box, but most will not normally perform weight verification as part of their receiving process.  There’s a lot of time and labour involved doing that.

A lot of lettershops will tell you the envelope printer “short-shipped” (correct number of boxes but possibly there was a small unintentional shortage in each box).  So you call the envelope supplier and tell them they did not ship enough.  The envelope supplier tells you they shipped the correct quantity and the lettershop lost or destroyed them.  You are stuck in the middle with a deadline, a budget problem and no resolution.  Your only choice is to order more envelopes as fast as possible but who pays for them?

I have been in this situation several times and it is only when dealing with two really great suppliers that my problem was solved.  Years ago, the first time this happened to me, my suppliers were Mediair and Royal Envelope.  And in one of the best customer service moments I have ever experienced, the missing envelopes were printed and delivered the next day and the last 5M were inducted on time.  But what really impressed me was that the two suppliers got together and discussed the problem without me present and decided to split the cost.  My budget was intact and the mailing was a success.

So why did the lettershop run out?  You can spend hours speculating on this but you will probably never know what happened.  The only solution I know is asking the lettershop to do weight verification upon receipt of all materials but of course you will pay extra.  And be ready for an extra burden on your time when you have to receive and verify all the packing slips as they come in.  Whether you ask for this service or not may depend on many factors such as how many different components there will be, how large is the mailing, how tight is your budget and deadline.

I bet many of you have had this experience.  How did you handle it?  Did your suppliers save the day for you?