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Sponsored by Mingo Press

It’s no secret: In this digital age of screens and pixels, the print business model is struggling. Gone are the days when reading the daily newspaper was as common as eating breakfast—most of us get our news from our phones now. The “printed word” used to be an all-encompassing phrase denoting how we consume information. Now, it’s almost niche; people who read from printed paper perceived by many as holdouts or “enthusiasts.” So too with commercial design: it’s now done entirely on computer, and what once appeared on printed billboards and in physical magazines now appears on digitized screens big and small.

As die-hard print nerds, we’re dismayed each time we hear of another publishing company or print-centric business folding.

With print becoming increasingly rarefied, it’s all the more important for businesses whose models hinge on it to focus on broad appeal within such a specialized market. Things like personalized customer service, competitive pricing, and a wide array of products and services are great—Mingo touts these offerings on a regular basis—but there’s the X-factor of emotional appeal. How do we speak to our customer base? How do we engender loyalty from our current customers while winning new ones?

At Mingo, our strategy is simple. In addition to the concrete offerings that set us apart—such as running a full-service online print shop with a brick & mortar attitude—we put a high premium on being ourselves while connecting with our customers on a personal level. We entertain our muses, speak honestly and candidly, and we pay attention to trends. Not just trends in the print world, but in the culture at large.  This is the thinking behind our current direct mail campaign, which we’ve cheekily dubbed the “Mingo Trend Report.”

You might be thinking right now, “Wait—you’re talking about authenticity and being yourselves, but how does a trend report track with that? Isn’t using cultural trends to sell your business the very definition of inauthentic pandering?” Well, sometimes. But the trends we highlight are more about pointing out who we already are than retrofitting our brand to align with a fad.

Example: Personalized customer service has always been important to us. As I pointed out in a recent column, the proliferation of automated customer service has naturally led to a growing desire for a return to human-based exchanges. We might offer a live chat feature on our website, but many people don’t realize that there’s a real, actual person on the other end, not a trained robot.

Or take the growing concerns about climate change, sustainability, and environmental stewardship. Many of our customers might not know that we offer a range of recycled papers and soy-based inks.

Both those trends—personal customer service and going green—are directly connected to the way we run our business, so of course we want to point that out. But we also have other passions and interests that aren’t necessarily directly connected to our work, and whenever we have a chance to share those with our customers, we get really excited.

One trend that we find fascinating is the resurgence of astrology, which is having another cultural moment among millennials.

“In a stressful, data-driven era, many young people find comfort and insight in the zodiac—even if they don’t exactly believe in it,” wrote Julie Beck in a 2018 piece for The Atlantic. “In some ways, astrology is perfectly suited for the internet age. … It expresses complex ideas about personality, life cycles, and relationship patterns through the shorthand of the planets and zodiac symbols. And that shorthand works well online, where symbols and shorthand are often baked into communication.”

Celestial divination is all the rage these days, and we couldn’t resist the chance to nerd out over the zodiac and cosmic identity in an upcoming mailer. No, we don’t believe horoscopes actually tell the future, but they offer a fun way to process how we approach life’s challenges—and let’s face it, occasionally they’re eerily on point.

More important than our own dorky enthusiasm for planetary alignments and birth charts, though, is the connection fostered by talking openly about it with customers who share the interest.  “What’s your sign?” is a great icebreaker (as long as it’s not a pick-up line, *shudder*)—for many people as important as “What kind of music do you listen to?” or, “What do you like on your pizza?”

So why not talk about it? Some people might balk at the idea of a business like Mingo incorporating such an idiosyncratic interest into a marketing campaign, but we think about it differently. Call us naïve, but we believe that letting our personalities shine—rather than projecting a carefully modulated, data-driven image meant to be all things to all people—is the key to flourishing in creative-driven industries like commercial design. ca

Amy Gravley Witkowski is account director at Mingo Press, and a printing buff. She routinely geeks out on Gutenberg, G7 System Certification, and the Gravley family heritage of quality printing that goes back more than 50 years. She’s super pumped about this latest development in digital printing at Mingo Press.

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