What do a supermarket customer from Poland, a bargain hunter from France and a dog owner from Ireland have in common? Well, the three are very unlikely to have heard of the German city of Gütersloh. Yet they are highly likely to have numerous points of contact with Gütersloh in their everyday lives, without knowing it. How so? Because many of the flyers that are displayed in supermarkets in Poland, France, Ireland and many other European countries, or that are delivered to consumers’ mailboxes, are produced there. In Gütersloh. In huge quantities.
Each month, some 200 million brochures are printed and finished at Mohn Media in Bertelsmann’s hometown, and delivered from there to more than 15 countries across Europe. Three 96-page presses in the halls on Carl-Bertelsmann-Strasse in Gütersloh are dedicated to the printing of brochures, or flyers. As a result, the brochure business has developed into one of the Bertelsmann Printing Group’s key growth drivers in recent years – notwithstanding the increasing digitalization in how society receives information. “This form of advertising works extremely well for a sales-oriented industry such as retail, which accounts for 90 percent of our brochure volume,” explains Dirk Kemmerer, CEO of Mohn Media and Digital Marketing of the Bertelsmann Printing Group. “Despite trends such as mobile couponing, the absolute number of print flyers has increased in recent years.”
He says there are a variety of reasons for this, and although brochures are well received by many end users internationally, Germans are the absolute front-runners when it comes to utilization of brochure advertising. “First of all, the retail trade here is highly fragmented. The average distance to the nearest supermarket is less than half a mile,” says Kemmerer describing the situation in Germany.
Paradigm shift in the industry
Retailers have to set themselves apart from each other, “and one of the ways they do that, when it comes to, say, bread and butter, is through the price. The product portfolio, in particular certain brands or special offers, also plays an important role.” In addition, there was a paradigm shift in the industry about 10 years ago, especially in Germany, which had an enormous impact on printing, Kemmerer adds. After brochures had long been used only in-store to advertise the products at the local branches, the idea came up of stimulating customer demand much earlier – at home, at the breakfast table. “On Saturday morning, before the weekend shopping, flyers are still the most effective medium,” notes Kemmerer.
And so, in light of the increase in flyer advertising to private homes, and the resulting increase in print volume in the brochure sector, Mohn Media returned to the business in 2010 after a long hiatus, and rebuilt its brochure product line. “Since many of our retail customers operate outlets throughout Europe, we also deliver brochures to Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Eastern Europe,” says Kemmerer. Food retailers account for the largest share, so the colorful brochures from Gütersloh usually end up in the hands of supermarket customers.
There’s also a good chance that brochures from East Westphalia find their way to pet owners across Europe – because early this year, Mohn Media was able to win the Fressnapf Group as its latest client. The Krefeld-based franchiser is Europe’s largest specialist retail chain for pet food and accessories. In non-German-speaking countries, Fressnapf stores usually operate under the name “Maxi Zoo”. “The brochure for our client Fressnapf is a 12-page product printed on 45-gram newsprint,” says Kemmerer, describing the current order. It contains the special offers of a given month – from dog toys and cat snacks to bird food and cage litter for small pets.
320,000 copies per hour
Around 14.5 million of these brochures are produced at Mohn Media each month, and shipped from there throughout Germany as well as to France, Belgium, Ireland and Luxembourg. The Belgian edition is available in three different languages: Dutch, French and a bilingual version. Each month, 250 tons of paper are used for the production of the Fressnapf brochures alone, which corresponds to about 12 truckloads. Once all the print data is available, the production of Fressnapf brochures is quickly accomplished. The German edition, which has a print run of seven million copies, takes about a day to produce. The Fressnapf brochures rush through the giant printing press at speeds of 50 km/h, so that approximately 320,000 copies are produced per hour.
After printing, one of the key challenges is logistics. “In the case of our client Fressnapf, Ireland is currently the country farthest away from Gütersloh. This means that the trucks must be ordered well in advance for the product to arrive on time. It’s a long way, not to mention we have to transport across water,” says Kemmerer. Out of a total of 12 countries in which Fressnapf currently operates franchises, Mohn Media currently supplies five with brochures “made in Gütersloh.” To defray risk, it’s customary in business to award printing orders for different regions to different companies, explains Kemmerer, but from time to time Mohn Media has to step in and make up for production shortages in other countries.
Respectable size in the Mohn Media business
Fast production times, long distances, on-time deliveries: Although brochure production always follows the same process every month, these three factors in particular ensure that the business is a new and exciting challenge every month for the many employees in sales, printing, finishing and distribution at Mohn Media. The internationality of the business is also something very special, emphasizes Kemmerer. “Our clients often have their headquarters in Germany and expect us to manage international distribution and communications for them. For example, our sales team colleagues deal with contacts from different countries every day and encounter many different cultural backgrounds.”
Despite increasing digitalization, he is positive about the future of the brochure business. The relaunch eight years ago has caused the business to rapidly grow to a respectable size in the Mohn Media business, and it is now on a stable footing. “However, moderate growth is still possible going forward,” says Kemmerer. His long-term plan is to develop sales in two directions. The business with existing clients is to be expanded. “One option, for example, would be to increase the publication frequency, meaning a brochure would appear more often per month than is currently the case.” The CEO can also imagine larger volumes, that is an increase in the number of pages, from twelve to 24 or 36 pages.
“Of course, we can continue to grow by developing the business in new countries,” says Kemmerer, summing up the opportunities in the business with existing clients. The second way forward is to acquire new clients for Mohn Media’s brochure business; the goal is to win one or two per year. In any case, Dirk Kemmerer is confident that “even five years from now, the print brochure product line will still be one of the mainstays of Mohn Media’s business.”