To my mind, the only thing that can prevent digital print from the same commodity-based fate of litho is its effective use of customer data – AKA personalisation.
That’s a belief I clearly share with Snowball’s David Rolfe. But reading his comment piece got me thinking, slightly tangentially admitted, about something I saw last week.
Next to PrintWeek Towers in Hammersmith there are three empty houses, presumably owned by an opportunistic property developer waiting for the turnaround in the housing market.
I say that they’re empty because these houses have been boarded up and metal grills have been added to the ground floor windows and front door, making it pretty clear to even the most casual observer (ie me) that the houses are unoccupied.
Equally, the fact that the letterboxes of all three houses are jammed with takeaway restaurant menus and all manner of flyers strongly suggests that the residents are long gone.
So I was more than a little surprised to see a post woman walk up to the door of one of these properties, remove a handful of flyers to make some room, and then squeeze in a couple of letters – which were still more out than in the letterbox.
Overcome with curiosity, I had a closer look and lo and behold they were a couple of relatively expensive-looking targeted mailshots, one from a credit card company and the other from a car manufacturer.
Now, I’m no expert on the Royal Mail charter, so I’m not sure if this was an isolated case of a postie having a bad day, or a policy of Royal Mail that all post has to be delivered, but I suspect the latter.
Which begs two questions: firstly, couldn’t the Royal Mail staff be allowed to use their initiative and ‘return to sender’ any post addressed to clearly deserted properties? And secondly, couldn’t the Royal Mail, using feedback from it’s frontline troops, keep records of all empty houses and sell that data to mailing houses so that they can clean up their records?
After all, the real value in digital print is in the data so anything that reduces waste and increases response rates has to be good.