RR Donnelley Acquires Assets of Nimblefish Technologies

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Dec 15, 2010

According to a press release from yesterday, RR Donnelley acquired the assets of Nimblefish Technologies, a provider of marketing automation software and solutions. From the press release:

R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company announced today that it has acquired the assets of San Francisco-based Nimblefish Technologies, a provider of multi-channel marketing services to leading retail, technology, telecom, hospitality and other customers. Nimblefish’s innovative software services include integrating direct mail, email, web, PURL and variable video components into multi-touch, multi-channel customer prospecting and engagement programs.

“Nimblefish will increase the range of multi-channel solutions that we provide to our customers,” said Thomas J. Quinlan III, RR Donnelley’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “The addition of Nimblefish’s innovative products will enable our customers to draw on RR Donnelley for automated programs that touch customers and prospects with intelligent rules-based messaging that is responsive to their interests and actions. This will leverage our extensive digital platform which offers the ability to personalize communications in quantities from one to millions.”

As stated in the press release, RR Donnelley intends to leverage Nimblefish and its marketing automation technology to offer additional cross-media capabilities and services to its customers. This is an area that has been of increasing interest to print service providers of all sizes that are trying to offer more comprehensive multi-channel and digital marketing services. According to InfoTrends’ most recent software forecast, multi-channel marketing software similar to what Nimblefish offers is a high-growth segment even through the recession. In addition, results from our most recent software investment survey (published later this month) show that software that enables multi-channel marketing has high investment potential from print service providers in 2011. The RR Donnelley acquisition of Nimblefish emphasizes the importance of effective, personalized cross-media marketing in an industry undergoing significant change.

You may have heard of Nimblefish before, or at least the result of its development. According to its Website, Nimblefish owns the trademark to the term “PURL”, in reference to the popular personalized URL that is used in many cross-media marketing applications today. It also lays claim to inventing the concept. Other software vendors in this space that offer similar capabilities have used the PURL term to describe the functionality they deliver, although some use variations or entirely different terms to avoid any potential legal conflict (for instance, XMPie calls its offering a “Response URL”, or RURL). Assuming that RR Donnelley picks up this trademark with its acquisition, I question if the company will more aggressively pursue what it may consider potential trademark infringers. Software vendors may want to tread lightly in how they use the “PURL” term.

In addition, it will be interesting to see how Nimblefish and its marketing automation platforms are integrated with RR Donnelley’s existing solutions, such as CustomPoint and Pivot. Since Nimblefish’s Nurture platform is already geared toward generating personalized direct mail pieces, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to see its platform tightly integrated with RR Donnelley’s technology. It remains to be seen what exactly will happen to Nimblefish’s employees and existing customers; the press release clearly states an asset acquisition, which could lead to a variety of outcomes. When Bitstream acquired Press-sense’s assets earlier this year, it kept many Press-sense employees on-hand to continue development and support activities for existing customers and channel partners (although that is not always the case).

According to its LinkedIn company profile, Nimblefish has 47 employees and according to its CrunchBase profile, it received close to $1 million in debt funding towards the end of 2009. Perhaps Nimblefish was in a precarious financial situation or otherwise looking for a buyer. In any case, RR Donnelley looks like it jumped at the chance to own some powerful marketing technology that it can use to augment its existing products and services. We’ll definitely be watching how this deal unfolds.

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