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Smart Marketing = Greener Printing for J. C. Penney

One of the terrific things about greening a print marketing program is that many of the best practices in marketing today have “green” as a by-product.

Take the example of J. C. Penney, which made marketing headlines today when it announced that it would be discontinuing its semi-annual Big Book catalog after the Fall-Winter 09 season. Over the years, J. C. Penney was finding that its catalog was less a direct selling channel than a way to prime the pump for online sales. Instead of wasting volumes of paper, ink, and coating — not to mention the fossil fuels to deliver the 800-1000-page books — it decided to slim things down.

Going forward, the giant retailer will be replacing the hefty volume with slimmer, more targeted specialty catalogs with content targeted based on the recipient’s past purchases and invest more in its Web store and digital services (including an iPhone application) and social media.

What’s key here is that J. C. Penney is not simply reducing its print volumes. It’s making a smarter use of print. Why send customers a massive, expensive volume 90% irrelevant to its customers and prospects? Customers are more likely to buy something if the catalog is slimmer, more accessible, and more targeted to their interests and needs anyway.

Furthermore, it is not just switching print for electronic media for the sake of monetary savings alone. It is splitting up its mix to suit the needs, preferences, and purchase habits of its customers. It is going where its customers are, putting its message where their eyeballs are naturally going to be anyway. Follow the customer. It’s a smart marketing.

Greening is just a fortunate by-product.

In fact, what’s interesting to me is how the media coverage focuses on the media mix and seeming hit to the pride of print. But the green story here is just as powerful. By eliminating the Big Book, the retailer expects to reduce catalog paper use by 25%-30% in 2010.

Like this post? See all my “Greening Print Marketing” posts.

Written by Heidi Tolliver-Walker

Heidi Tolliver-Walker has been a commercial and digital printing industry analyst, feature writer, columnist, editor, and author for nearly 20 years. She is known for her meticulous research and no-nonsense perspective. In addition to having written thousands of industry articles for top industry publications, she and Richard Romano have been the face of the well-respected industry research firm The Industry Measure (TrendWatch Graphic Arts) for many years. In her more than 13-year tenure with the firm, she has written countless reports on digital printing, 1:1 (personalized) printing, Web-to-print, personalized URLs, and other hot industry applications. She is also a long-time contributing editor and columnist for Printing News, for which she writes two monthly columns, including "Personal Effects," which features monthly analysis of 1:1 (personalized) printing case studies. She is also the author of three titles for the National Association of Printing Leadership: Designer's Printing Companion, Ink & Color: A Printer's Guide, and Diversifying Via Value-Added Services. As a small, niche publisher (Strong Tower Publishing), she is active in utilizing these technologies in her own business, as well.

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  1. But what took JCPenny SO long to wake up? This is the same retailer that shunned catalogs for the Internet just a few years ago, then got bit and realized it needed both online and print. Sears made this same “small book” move 20 years ago, essentially shuttering RR Donnelley’s old Chicago Division on 22nd Street.

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