Big Data has changed marketing in a drastic way. In the beginning, marketing was a simple cry of “buy our products”: logo prominently displayed, what you sold, and where to find you. As we learned about what makes marketing effective, we began to employ demographic marketing, targeting our advertisements at certain segments of the population, divided by income, neighborhood, race, sex, or almost any other imaginable category. With the advent of Big Data, we’ve moved towards psychographic marketing, creating specific targeted advertising based on purchasing patterns, interests, hobbies; almost anything can be targeted.


With the ease of targeted advertising on the web, print has had to adapt; it’s done so in a particularly innovative way, known as Variable Data Printing (VDP). The most basic form of VDP has been around forever; print off a postcard and have every iteration look exactly the same, but print a different name and address on the back each time. The varying data in this circumstance is quite easy to interpret; the printer can go through a spreadsheet and simply change the value of what it’s printing.


Fortunately for our demographic and psychographic marketing, the limits of VDP go far beyond that; if you’ve got the data, VDP can use it to create something incredible. Imagine you’re printing off a reminder for a patient’s annual dental trip. You obviously don’t want to print these off one at a time, because of the effort it would take, but you don’t necessarily want to use generic images either; this is where VDP comes in handy. You might opt to use a different image depending on the time of season; people smiling by the pool during summer, or building a snowperson in the wintertime. You might instead do age-based marketing, with smiling twenty-somethings for your younger patients, and older folks for the older crowd. You might even have data on who has dentures, and send denture-specific reminders to your dentured patients.


With VDP, the sky is basically the limit; if you have the data, it can be printed. That’s because variable data printing relies on an if/then system; you tell the printer if an age-value is X, then print image Y. You could ostensibly use multiple variables in order to get even more precisely targeted marketing; if a patient is under 30 and a woman, then print image “Girls Night Out”. Almost anything can be changed using VDP, and that gives you an incredible opportunity; your data and your imagination can bring you as far as you want to go.

VDP is one of the reasons why digital printing has been such a boon for Winnipeg printers and marketers. With VDP, anything from a small-batch to several thousand copies print job can be customized to suit your needs. Talk to your print shop to see if they have VDP, and what kinds of incredible things you can do with it; they’ll be glad to brainstorm ideas with you about what this exciting tool cna do.