Greening Print Marketing: AutoNation Saves “Green” With New Personalization Strategy

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I’ve been talking about saving money and going “green” at the same time. Let’s look at a terrific example from a high-profile marketer, AutoNation.

AutoNation, the largest U.S. retailer of new and used vehicles, wanted to streamline its marketing materials. AutoNation consists of 383 different franchises, comprising 35 different brands, in 17 states. Philosophically, it was committed to personalizing its direct mail materials, but imagine the nightmare that this structure presented!

To meet its challenge, AutoNation’s printer—the high-volume direct mail company DME—had taken the “brute force” approach, producing preprinted stock “shells” for each campaign and brand. These were carted to DME’s humidity-controlled warehouse, stored, counted for individual print runs, and carted back for each print run, in which the personalized information was overprinted.

This was an expensive labor- and inventory-intensive process involving multiple set-ups, print runs, and back-and-forth trips to the warehouse. From a green perspective, imagine the impact of the multiple offset print runs, the energy used for product storage, and the fuel used for delivery. It’s quite a carbon footprint.

So DME developed a new solution—one that would reduce inventory, manage the various brands, process multiple personalized orders in the same print run, and provide a better means of response tracking to AutoNation.


DME invested in a new system, XMPie PersonalEffect, that treats each campaign as a single project, even though each campaign involves multiple brands and dealers. (For a user’s review of this software, click here.) The business rules for composing the individualized offers are programmed independent of the design. All elements for the campaign become data-driven variable objects instead of static fields. Thus, instead of using pre-printed stock, AutoNation’s campaigns are now printed, as needed, using plain, unprinted paper.

The result? AutoNation no longer must warehouse pre-printed stock for different dealerships and brands. Consequently, it saves the not only the cost, but…

  • the carbon footprint and resources used to pre-print each set of shells
  • the carbon footprint and cost of warehousing those shells
  • the fuel costs of transporting them.

Not only this, but for AutoNation, the increased personalization has resulted in greater effectiveness of its campaigns. Responses to its direct mail pieces are up 35%. Revenues are up 65%. And all of this does not come at a higher cost. In fact, cost of production has decreased versus the hybrid offset/digital method.

So AutoNation greens and saves money at the same time. Now, how often does that happen?

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