Simple plan to solve Yosemite’s $1M print issue and yours too

I recently saw this article which describes how changing the name of the concession stand and a hotel in Yosemite National Park will cost the tax payers “$1 million” for reprinting the signs, garbage cans, and brochures.

With annual operating budget of $30M, $1M represents a significant share (1/30th) of the much-needed budget Yosemite requires to not only operate a park, but to attract more visitors in the future.

If you went to your boss or CFO tomorrow and told them you were going to spend 1/30th of the entire operating budget of your company to fix the words in your brochures or printed catalogs, what do you think the reaction would be?

Nes too good pas!

Yet, thousands of Marketers dedicate huge budget to print brochures, catalogs, and one-pagers every year.

Prices and spec changes? Reprint.

Rebranding after a merger or strategic change? Reprint. The costs can be astronomical, and the process takes years.

In this article, I’ll show you how your company and Yosemite can:

  1. Maintain a reasonable level of printed materials (50% of current spend)
  2. Replace print with digital versions on devices that people use already (30% of current spend)
  3. Deliver critical content digitally so that it can be accessed offline in the backwoods
  4. Re-allocate savings from your print budget to your lead generation marketing budget (20% of current spend)

As we enter the mobile age and Moore’s law continues its predicted rapid climb, Marketers (and National Parks) will have to deal with more and more rapid shifts in the way people consume and use information.

And the shifts are seismic. Like California-falls-into-the-sea seismic.

Yosemite’s print budget is just like yours.

Like most people, I get really upset when I see public dollars being wasted on printed materials in the digital age.

And the idea that our beloved National Park could possibly be spending 1/30th of it’s operating budget to fix some marketing brochures is especially maddening, given the need to improve roads and staff such a massive enterprise.

Many companies operate with the benchmark of 10% of revenue is spent on marketing to attract more buyers.  Let’s assume the National Parks operate on the same idea.

And like most companies selling products and services, I get that Yosemite has to “sell” its offerings (hotels, concessions, nature walks, new trails).

But why does Yosemite need to print that many brochures to accomplish this?

What happens to printed materials?

My hypothesis is 90% of Yosemite’s brochures are tossed into the newly stenciled garbage cans soon after people pick them up at the gate or, they get used to start camp fires.

Do you have a brochure drawer at home? Unlikely.

Will you look at the brochure again in a few months? Nope.


How many brochures are in those bags?

This perfectly parallels what I see attending major industry trade shows with our clients. Shows where companies spend thousands to have a booth and rely on that rented space to generate a huge portion of their qualified leads.

I bet you’ve had a similar experience where every time you go into a booth the staff keep trying to hand you printed materials.

It’s like a conditioned response.  Look, a prospect, here’s a brochure on our coolest product. Let me scan your badge. Sweet,  I got another lead.

However, it’s shockingly wasteful and represents wasted opportunity in the digital age.

The Marketing team spent money to design and print that product literature.  They also shipped it to the show and likely paid to deliver the box to the booth.

To take it one more step, many times the undistributed brochures get boxed up and shipped back home or worse simply dumped in the trash.

One marketing consultant I spoke with described another potential black hole for these printed brochures,

“Believe it or not, when these get shipped, they don’t always get received or found and then they have to be given out.  Remote offices don’t usually get the same love as headquarters.  Tons of boxes go untouched under a table or desk.” – Josh Krasnegor,  Consultant.

Josh said it well, tons of boxes of untouched marketing budget.

Simple plan to solve Yosemite’s $1M print issue

The biggest mistake for companies with out-of-control print budgets is that they don’t know how to best compare and contrast the cost of mobile content delivery systems to their status quo (e.g., printing catalogs, brochures, etc.).

And neither does Yosemite.

Let’s imagine the good folks at Yosemite took a look around the Park at what people are doing.  What do you think they would see?

yosemite_selfie_-_Google_SearchPeople using smart phones to take pictures, navigate roads, chat with friends, look up information on animals, or just ignore nature and stare into them.

Noticing this, Yosemite might create a mobile app that:

  1. Delivers key information offline (cellular is not always available in the park)
  2. Updates automatically when visitors phones hit WiFi hotspots in the park (entirely possible with background sync)
  3. Reaches visitors on the tool that 99.9% are carrying their pockets (yep, their phone)

What would Yosemite put in the app?

Everything!  Maps, brochures, videos, history, daily schedules, alerts to road closures. You name it.

Would they still need to print stuff?

Sure, I get that some people are just going to demand printed maps, etc.

So why not print, 20% of last year’s volume to start and direct people to their app for the other 80%? This might cut their print cost in half or more for the year.

One might imagine that an app like that would cost millions to produce however I suspect that the true cost deploy and maintain that type of app is in the $300k range in year one with roughly 20-40% annual maintenance in subsequent years.

$300,000/4 million visitors = $0.33 per visitor.

I’ll pay the 33 cents with my insanely under-priced entrance fee thank you very much.

Keep in mind that the park is spending $1m to simply FIX their outdated print materials.

The number one mistake made by marketers with out-of-control print budgets

The biggest mistake for Marketers with out of control print budgets is they, like Yosemite, are not comparing and contrasting the cost of mobile content delivery systems to status quo (e.g., spend on printing catalogs, brochures, etc.).

So using our Yosemite example, here’s a possible end result:

$1m annual print budget for Yosemite

x 50% CY = $500,000 print spend to fix their brochures

and $500,000 left over to spend:

$300,000 to deploy a mobile content app that everyone can use on their smart phones


$200,000 to spend on other items for growth.

Keep in mind that Yosemite’s $300,000 hypothetical app is based on 4 million people potentially using it.

Most mobile sales apps on the market cost between $100-300 per sales person per year. So your cost and savings might be massive compared to Yosemite’s $200,000 depending on your print spend currently.

So what do marketers share with Yosemite?

Although, I think the parallel is obvious let’s break it down.

  • Overspending on outdated technology with no measurable ROI = print
  • Refusing to see that people want to access information in a new way = mobile phones
  • Equals throwing away much needed budget

In a world where marketers and National Parks are continually asked to do more with less budget, delivering critical information to the devices people already own and want to interact with is the new norm, not the exception.

The reality is reliance on antiquated methods (print) will only widen the gap between the successful and those left behind.