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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Archive for the ‘Integrated Marketing’ Category

Commercial Printing: The Marriage of Print and Digital

Sunday, July 28th, 2019

Articles in the media touting the marriage of print and digital always make me happy. Not only because I’m a firm believer in the place of custom printing (and because I’m a printing broker) but also because these articles mirror my own experience. Print and digital amplify each other’s strengths. They don’t have to fight, and one doesn’t have to replace the other.

So here’s what I read just recently. You may find it interesting. The article is entitled “Clickable Paper: An Alternative for Opening the Door to the Omni-Channel World.” I found this on on 07/02/19. It was written by Barbara A. Pellow.

To put this in context, I’ve been reading (for many years now) about multi-channel marketing (here referred to as “omni-channel” because it encompasses all channels). Ostensibly, when a brand interacts with potential customers through many, or all, media, including print marketing, email, perhaps even large-format signage on the facades of buildings or glued to vehicles, and/or even the printed QR codes (or other patterns) that send your smart phone to a related website when you point your phone at it—the brand can expand its presence and enhance your experience. It can do this very effectively, far more so than if the brand only sent you a postcard or an email.

More exposure equals more sales, if and only if the exposure benefits the potential customer. The process has to be enjoyable, immersive, and valuable in terms of the potential customer’s buying needs.

The Thesis of Pellow’s Article

So in this light, here’s what the article says. First, it notes that printers today are expanding their services to stay relevant. They do have competition, and there is in some cases less business to be had. Or, more specifically, there is less business in terms of putting ink on paper or toner on paper. Pellow’s article notes that printers who once offered only offset lithography are now also offering digital printing, design services, direct mail, large-format signage, and expanded finishing capabilities.

(In this vein I would add such digital enhancements as digital foiling and digital die-cutting. I would also add strategic marketing advice. Printers no longer just do what you ask in terms of printing. They also advise you on how to expand your market share using their commercial printing services.)

“Clickable Paper: An Alternative for Opening the Door to the Omni-Channel World” goes on to define the “fan experience.” (This is just one example of the benefits of multi-channel, or omni-channel, marketing, but I think it’s a good one.) Specifically, the author notes that sporting events have gone up in price, and the attention span of most people (including sports fans) has gone down (presumably due to competing ads and the ever-increasing demands of contemporary life).

This is a bad situation. So marketers have to step up and provide “a more seamless, entertaining, engaging fan experience” (“Clickable Paper: An Alternative for Opening the Door to the Omni-Channel World”). This is what I personally call the “Wow” factor. Marketing interactions have to be great now, not just good. Otherwise, the consumer will just filter them out. But the good news is that truly great marketing initiatives absolutely will engage the potential client.

Barbara Pellow then goes on to define “clickable paper” as “an interactive print solution that bridges the traditional offline-online gap. It connects print and digital with cloud-based intelligent image recognition software” (“Clickable Paper: An Alternative for Opening the Door to the Omni-Channel World”).

In layperson’s terms this means that you can download an app to your smartphone (Apple or Android), and when you point the camera phone at an image on a printed surface (printed page, large-format sign, poster, vehicle wrap), you will be transported to an online experience. The image recognition software will make the link between the printed page and the online content. The marketer can curate this experience, ostensibly based on a two-way conversation between the brand and the potential client. (After all, once you’re online, you can experience something and then respond to it in real time, and the online software can then tailor the ensuing experience to your needs and requests.)

In short, then, Pellow’s article says you can “enhance the fan experience by creating an interactive experience with signage and event programs” (“Clickable Paper: An Alternative for Opening the Door to the Omni-Channel World”). These static printed pieces become a doorway into a two-way conversation based on a multi-sensory experience. “The event programs could take attendees on instant journeys from the printed page to photos, videos, statistics, and historical performances of their favorite players using a clean, markless method” (“Clickable Paper: An Alternative for Opening the Door to the Omni-Channel World”).

What makes this especially effective, as Pellow notes, is that brands can then monitor sports fans’ online responses to the digital content and then tailor successive marketing campaigns based on this user feedback. And it is a truism that the more a brand learns from a potential client through such interaction, and the more relevant the brand can therefore make all subsequent interactions, the more likely a prospective customer will be to buy the brand’s product or service (in this case perhaps the tickets for a future sporting event).

The Take Away: What You Can Learn from This Article

I think “Clickable Paper: An Alternative for Opening the Door to the Omni-Channel World” holds far-reaching implications for all brands in all sales sectors, not just sporting events. Here’s my logic based on Pellow’s article:

  1. Events, products, and services are in many cases getting more expensive. This is true for both necessities and entertainment.
  2. People will still pay for an engaging, emotionally satisfying experience.
  3. The marketing materials (i.e., commercial printing products) have actually become part of this experience, just as an enjoyable, in-store interaction when buying a television in Best Buy can increase the buyer’s total “spend.”
  4. Therefore, as a marketing professional, your goal is to create an engaging, memorable event.
  5. You now have more tools than before, including both custom printing products and digital technology.
  6. If you blend the two, playing to the strengths of each, your chance of “Wow’ing” your clients increases, in part because you are involving more of the potential customer’s senses (not only the tactile sense evoked by commercial printing but also the visual and aural senses engaged by online media).
  7. Blended media (multi-channel, or many-channel; or omni-channel, all channel) works better than either print or digital alone. Your chances of intensely engaging the potential consumer increases significantly if you carry your brand message across multiple media.
  8. To go beyond Pellow’s article, I would say that her paradigm for omni-channel marketing will enhance not only marketing for sports events but pretty much for anything you can imagine.
  9. I think the next step, which is already under way, is to bring virtual reality into the mix. After all, now that I’m seeing more VR headsets in the thrift stores my fiancee and I frequent, it seems that virtual reality is becoming more commonplace. And up to this point, I can’t think of any experience that’s more immersive than virtual reality.

Who knows, in the very near future you might strap on a VR headset, slip your camera phone into the goggles, point your phone at a QR code on the side of a building, and be transported into a mind-bending VR experience—for a football game, or for anything else you can imagine.

Smart marketers will take note.

Custom Printing: Web Design That Translates Into Print

Saturday, October 10th, 2015

Creating a visual identity for a business is a formidable undertaking, rife with visual implications, functional issues, and connotations and nuances in tone. Therefore, it’s important to approach it with a sense of humor and play: an experimental approach that allows you to try many things, fail at some, and succeed at others. Being too serious about this will cripple your efforts.

My Associate’s Email Signature

To give you some background information, an associate asked me to comment on her email signature today. She is a writer, editor, and writing instructor, and she wanted some feedback.

First of all, a definition: An email signature is the contact information at the end of an email. It includes your name, physical address, phone number, email address, and, if you have a business, perhaps a tag line promoting your business. It is a great marketing opportunity.

My associate included all of this information for her writing-education business, but she set the type in a sans serif face in lowercase letters. She thought this added a fresh tone to her business. Her coach disagreed, saying it diminished her “stature and expertise.”

Here’s why I disagree, and how I think my associate’s novel approach can not only benefit her brand image but also be translated into effective print collateral.

  1. Her business name includes the numeral “7,” as in “7 Steps to Superior Writing Skills.” (I’ve made up all of these names and descriptions to focus less on my associate and more on the typographical, design, and marketing issues her choices reflect.) For the most part, people reading anything on the Internet (blogs, for instance) like to see numerals. It gives them an immediate idea of how to solve their problem in the shortest amount of time (7 steps are better than 10, for instance). And people have a much shorter attention span now than in the past, since there’s so much more information out there to digest.
  2. The lower case version of my associate’s email signature gives prominence to the numeral “7.” This would not be the case with an upper and lower case treatment of the business name. (In this case, the upper case letters would have the same alignment as the top of the “7,” and this would diminish its prominence.)
  3. The “shape” of the words (based on the ascenders and descenders) is bold and definitive due to its simplicity and casual look.
  4. The implication that good writing can be relaxed, sexy, and fun (implied by the lower case letters) challenges the readers’ assumptions, piquing their interest. The tone of the business is reflected in the typographic choices.
  5. The short lines of copy (about 20 characters each), shifts in color (red, blue, and black), and vertical dividing line used within my associate’s business name, break the information into small, digestible chunks. This fosters easy reading on a computer screen.
  6. This approach will be just as effective when the electronic media image is brought across into her commercial printing work. This is important because my associate’s clients will need to make an immediate mental link between her business card and her Web image. To be effective, all print collateral and Internet content must share a coherent look.

So I would respectfully disagree with my associate’s client and business coach. Particularly in this age when writing has been democratized, when citizen blogs compete with professional reportage for the reader’s attention, it’s important to project a tone in one’s corporate identity materials that invites readers to approach a business. “Professional” doesn’t need to be synonymous with “stodgy.”

Moreover, pairing sans serif typography with short, digestible chunks of information facilitates reading on a back-lit computer screen (which tires the eyes more than reading ink on paper). My associate even omitted all punctuation in her email signature and instead distinguished between chunks of copy by adding extra space.

A Comparison to a Much Higher-Profile Business

Another associate sent me an email link to a fashion website today. The company is a major player in this field, yet the typography in its online advertising actually impedes readability.

The type is set in various sizes of a Modern typeface. Although I’m not precisely certain of the typeface (it could be Bodoni), I know it is a Modern (as opposed to Old Style or Transitional) typeface because of the sharp contrast between the thick and thin strokes of the letterforms.

On paper (within the print magazine produced by this fashion juggernaut), the typeface works beautifully. However, on the screen, the contrast within each letterform makes reading difficult and tires the eyes. The thinnest strokes disappear on a small screen, and the thicker strokes of the letterforms appear blocky.

On this particular Web page, the designer also set some advertising copy in all capital letters. As I have mentioned in prior blog articles, this renders the shape of all words the same (a rectangle). With upper and lower case letters or even all lower case letters (as in my associate’s email signature design), you have the ascenders and descenders of the letterforms to help you identify the words (you identify them by shape, not by reading each word letter by letter).

What This Means to You As a Designer

Increasingly, designers are creating both printed materials and Web pages. Therefore, it is prudent to understand how reading on a backlit computer screen differs from reading ink on paper. It is also important to understand how to coordinate the appearance of both online and print collateral messages while making reading easy and pleasurable in both media. This involves an awareness of how the eye and brain work as well as a grasp of aesthetics, in order to effectively create a unified print and online experience.

This is hard stuff to master. It always helps to share your work, to get feedback (from older as well as younger readers), and to constantly observe typography and other design elements on the Web and in print.

Custom Printing: The Power of Integrated Media

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

I had lunch today with the CEO of a local commercial printing shop. We discussed cross-media marketing. He really “gets it” in a lot of ways and has positioned his business accordingly. Specifically,

  1. He believes that printers cannot survive by merely putting ink on paper. Rather, they must become marketing advisors, teaching clients how to use offset, digital, and variable data printing in tandem, along with social media and other electronic vehicles to broadcast their message and spark customer interest. He gets “multi-channel marketing.” Furthermore, he understands the role of the printer as a “consultant,” not just copying and distributing a print job but actually helping clients identify, target, and interact with their markets.
  2. This filters down into this printer’s choice of press equipment. In addition to the traditional sheetfed offset presses, he has large-format and grand-format inkjet presses, as well as roll-to-roll and roll-to-sheet digital laser presses (both color and black/white).
  3. He and his staff integrate the output from these presses with access to digital storefronts, web-to-print, and social media, to integrate the marketing benefits of both custom printing and digital communication. He knows that print is not dead.
  4. In addition, using the variable data capabilities of his digital custom printing equipment, this printer tailors the printed products to the end-users. He can provide both personalized content (specific descriptive text, offers, and pricing that are focused on individual buyers, based on demographics) and personalized address information for match mailings. Therefore, the content chosen for those who actually get the printed products in the mail can be sent directly to them.
  5. This printer also understands the value of market research. He and his staff don’t just base their suggestions for a client’s print marketing and Internet marketing campaign on their own intuition. They base their strategies on demographic data and web analytics, making their market research a science as well as an art.
  6. The printer has brought an additional medium into the fold: video. YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google. This is profound. And I think it’s particularly effective, since people can see what they’re buying being used rather than frozen in a static image. If the video portrays a spokesperson describing a product or service, it can more easily elicit the viewer’s trust, as well as an affiliation with the product or service and its brand values.
  7. Finally, this printer understands that even in the excitement of embracing a new technology—video—it is better to know when to use a particular medium than to become fixated on it. Video is great for many reasons. Knowing when to use it and when to use social media or custom printing to communicate with clients is even better. That’s why this printer is a consultant. He provides knowledge and wisdom in combining these media into a coordinated marketing message.
  8. Then he knows to always test and test again. Only by analyzing the results of a campaign can this custom printing vendor really provide a service to his clients, and this is what distinguishes him from his peers.

What This Means to You

  1. You may produce content for one or many of these technologies: print, large-format inkjet, variable data digital, social media, or video. Or you may be engaged in digital database management or marketing. The more you understand their interactions and their individual strengths (and this means becoming a student of art, business, psychology, and marketing), the more effective you will be, whether you’re designing a campaign or searching for vendors to help you.
  2. The custom print vendor I have described is not alone. There are many others out there you can approach who “get it.” Granted, there are many who don’t, and the last several years has seen many of these absorbed by other companies or forced out of business altogether. Keep your eyes open for such a resource, and make him a partner and advisor.
  3. If you approach commercial printing as one component (a vital, extremely effective one) within a matrix of communication venues, and if you understand how these media can be combined to increase buyer interest–or to touch, educate, or persuade individuals–you will become increasingly valuable in your particular business. You will become the “go-to” resource for your peers.

Custom Printing: More Uses for Interactive Print

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

As I looked through NewPage’s This Is Ed, #15 Interactive Print, again after writing the last PIE Blog posting, I noticed two more stellar examples of print ads combining ink on paper with digital technology.

I also found a related article and video showing a Veja Rio (a Brazilian magazine) print ad that actually includes a solar cell, allowing users to charge their cell phones while on the beach.

Here’s a rundown of the three convergent media campaigns and their relevance to print.

Australian Wine Maker Yellow Tail Combines LED Technology and Offset Custom Printing

NewPage describes a novel use for LED lights (light emitting diodes) in its description of an Australian wine maker’s ad for its Yellow Tail brand. Apparently the company ran an ad in 600,000 copies of Real Simple magazine including LED lights inserted behind fireflies printed in the ad.

These lights not only mimic the behavior of an actual fireflies, but they also stop the reader cold. After all, who would expect lighting effects in a print ad? LED technology provides two benefits in this case, according to This Is Ed, #15 Interactive Print. The lights can be programmed to change color and/or fade in and out, and they’re also an inexpensive add-on, costing only 10 to 15 cents per unit.

If it hasn’t been done before, a marketing technique will grab and delight the reader. I think three elements of this ad make it memorable:

  1. The light behaves exactly like a firefly.
  2. The intimacy of a print ad (reading is usually a quiet, personal experience) makes the interactive experience more surprising.
  3. The expectation that print is always a static medium makes this a one-of-a-kind experience.

And moreover, the print ad was an essential element of this campaign. Flickering firefly lights in a digital ad would have been far less surprising.

RSA Combines SMS Technology and Offset Custom Printing in Auto Insurance Ad

This Is Ed, #15 Interactive Print also includes a description of an RSA ad for an insurance quote.

Since digital equipment has shrunk over the years, RSA was able to include an illustration of a smartphone with an actual working keypad. The device uses SMS technology to allow the reader to contact RSA directly (and instantly) for an automobile insurance estimate. If you type in your mobile phone number and auto license plate number, you will receive an auto insurance estimate via text message shortly thereafter.

NewPage does note that this technology is expensive, ranging from over $20.00 per unit to over $50.00 per unit. Fortunately, the device can be used by a number of the reader’s friends to get multiple estimates for insurance, thus defraying the unit cost by spreading it over a number of prospective clients.

NewPage included both of these ads (for Yellow Tail and RSA) in a section labeled “The Gateway.” I think this is a particularly apt name, since in both cases the print ad launches the reader through a static printed facade into the realm of movement. And in both cases, the gateway of print is essential to the complete experience. The tactile and personal nature of print over digital-only brings the reader from a quiet, personal experience into a more dynamic, interactive realm.

Nivea Sunscreen Ad Combines a Solar Panel and Offset Custom Printing

I saw an incredibly cool Nivea ad in a YouTube video and read about it in two magazine articles (noted below, if you’d like to check them out):

(MailOnline, 6/4/13, “Magazine ad for sunscreen features solar-powered USB insert so beach-goers can charge their cell phones in the sun,” by Margot Peppers; and Adweek, 5/30/13, “Solar Panel Inside Nivea Print Ad Generates Power to Charge Your Cellphone,” by David Gianatasio)

The ad agency Giovanni + Draftfcb included a thin solar panel and requisite plugs and wires to allow the reader of the Nivea ad in the Brazilian magazine Veja Rio to charge her or his cell phone while basking in the sun on the beach. It promotes Nivea Sun skincare products. But it does far more than this.

First of all, not everyone has access to an alternate power source to recharge a cell phone on the beach. The print ad provides the tool: the solar panel. In this way, the ad underscores the importance of print advertising over digital-only advertising.

In addition, this ad sets the bar higher for interactive media. As Giantasio’s article, “Solar Panel Inside Nivea Print Ad Generates Power to Charge Your Cellphone,” suggests, “adding novel functionality to traditional campaigns could be a smart way to stir things up.” If it’s all about “stopping power,” then the movement of print advertising into the realm of interactive media could make commercial printing both relevant and unique.

Granted, this technology is expensive and time consuming to produce. According to Margot Peppers’ article, “Magazine ad for sunscreen features solar powered USB insert so beach-goers can charge their cell phones in the sun,” the “full-page advertisements apparently took eight months to produce, six months to develop the technology, and two months to print.”

Yes, but they just work. And marketing is an investment, not just an expense.

Custom Printing: An Approach to Integrated Marketing

Monday, April 14th, 2014

A few weeks ago while visiting with a book printing client of mine, I made a few suggestions about promoting three new titles this small publisher was about to produce with my help. He and his wife had a website and some marketing postcards, and they had asked my opinion of how to approach the promotion of these new print books.

I was excited about the helping this couple, so I closely reviewed this publisher’s printed and online materials to get a sense of their current marketing strategy and hopefully help improve it.

My Approach to Their Website

First of all, the three print books I have helped him and his wife produce have been glorious, with French Flaps, deckled edged cream paper, and a heavy cover stock. They epitomize the tactile qualities that only a good print book can provide.

I reviewed the publisher’s website and made these suggestions:

  1. He and his wife should have a goal in mind. The website should be more than an online brochure. It should reflect the visual branding of their books, and it should invite the reader to contact the publisher and order more books, sign up for a mailing list, or whatever else my client wants the reader to do. But it needs to encourage the reader to actually do something.
  2. The website should be simple and easily navigable, with links to print book descriptions, a publisher’s contact page that can accept reader address information, and perhaps a calendar of the book launches and other promotional events the publisher hosts periodically. These links should be immediately visible at the top of the web page, and should perhaps be accompanied by a large image that reflects the tenor of his and his wife’s publishing house. I don’t think the website needs a lot of pages. Only a few, with immediately visible contact information, will do nicely.

My Approach to Their Postcard

The publisher suggested that we create a marketing postcard that would ask for information about the reader to create a book sales list and a subscription newsletter. I encouraged him and his wife to also link electronically back to their website, perhaps using PURLs (personalized landing pages), which would give a consistent look to the promotional campaign.

The postcards could be inserted into the books, so readers could immediately get back in touch with the publisher, get on a mailing list, and continue a dialogue about the book. I thought that a tie between a print book presence, a marketing postcard, and an online presence would reinforce each of the three marketing initiatives. In fact, it wouldn’t hurt to not only insert the marketing postcard into the books but to also send it to a select list of prospective buyers.

My Approach to The PURLs

My client could add a web link to the postcard text that the recipient of the postcard could type into his or her browser to connect to the publisher’s website. Or the publisher could include a 2-D barcode (known as a QR, or Quick Response, code that the reader could capture with his or her smartphone). This could send the reader to the publisher’s website. If my client wanted to go further, image recognition software now exists that would allow the reader to point his or her smartphone camera at a photographic image on the postcard (not a QR code) and be linked to the publisher’s website.

My Approach to Their Signage

My client and his wife also attend trade shows. As a small print book publisher, they can expand the visual identity reflected in their books, marketing postcards, and website by choosing from a number of trade show graphic devices.

They could cover their trade show table with a table-throw, which could have their logo and identity information emblazoned on the side facing the show attendees.

They could also produce banner stands (large format print graphics that could completely surround their space at the booth), or smaller collapsible graphic stands.

Some of the banner stands are miniature, and would go nicely on the top of the table. Others are larger, and could be placed on the floor for a more dynamic look (one at a time or three or more side by side). And the most dramatic large format print graphics would completely surround the back of the booth, providing a startling view of the color, imagery, and tone of my client’s publishing house.

Book Printing: Print Brokering Book Case Study

Saturday, October 19th, 2013

An associate of mine is an importer/exporter. He has a source in China for LCD books: small marketing booklets with a video screen imbedded in the inside back cover, along with speakers, volume controls, rechargeable batteries, and all the other components needed to play one or more videos (or replace the videos as needed).

These LCD video books make a dramatic marketing impression, combining the tactile and personal nature of a print book with the added sensory stimuli of sound and motion that come with video. They give the viewer an immersive experience, allowing her or him to absorb marketing information about a high-end service or product. For the marketer, this technology provides an opportunity to speak (literally) directly to the prospective buyer.

The Challenge: How to Produce an LCD Video Book

That said, these books are expensive, the supplier has a minimum run of 100 copies, and the books are all the same within a press run (i.e., static as opposed to variable).

My associate wants options. I suggested finding a way to produce the job in the US instead of China, and finding a way to combine the LCD video book format with digital custom printing rather than offset printing.


My associate and I do foresee a market for the offset printed LCD video books for high-end marketing. A Lexus dealer, for instance, might order several hundred copies to give to prospective clients on the verge of buying a Lexus luxury automobile. A take-home marketing piece that blends video and print might “seal the deal” by giving the client a way to relive the experience of driving a Lexus. After all, video is powerful and persuasive.

However, on a more personal level, a middle-aged family member might want to give his or her parents such a video book as a birthday gift, showcasing the events and successes in the lives of the grandchildren. With a minimum print run of 100 copies, such a gift would be prohibitively expensive for most people. The same goes for a wedding party or a special vacation. In these cases, only a few copies of such an LCD video book would be needed. Yet there might be a sizable market for such video books, just as there is a market for photo print books at “big box” stores like Costco.

Options for Producing the LCD Video Book

Right away my client and I identified the risks in buying these books from China. What if the designer’s art files were not as expected, and the books the Chinese vendor delivered had flaws. Granted, we would see proofs, but China is far away, and how can you seek redress for a custom printing job gone wrong in such a case, particularly when you have paid in full prior to delivery?

Moreover, if we had a local commercial printing vendor digitally produce the press sheets that would then be sent to China to be converted (scored, folded, and glued) into these LCD video books, wouldn’t we be taking a big risk? If the press sheets weren’t exactly to spec (or if there were any miscommunications between the local printer in the United States and the converter in China, who would use the press sheets to build the exterior of the LCD video book and then add the video screen), it would be a catastrophe.

How to Find a Local Vendor

First of all, I made an “instructional video.” Using a sample LCD video book, I made a 30-second movie with an iPhone to show exactly how the screen fit into the interior back cover (cover #3). I showed how the book opened, where the mini USB port was (for installing new videos and charging the unit). I wanted something that would let local vendors immediately understand the structure and technology of the video book.

I sent the video to a US commercial printing supplier I trust that focuses on integrated media and not just ink (or toner) on paper. This particular printer helps clients merge traditional print marketing work with video, social media, and such, to help present a unified marketing campaign to its clients’ clients.

I asked them how they could help and what they would suggest.

How to Coordinate Work from Two Vendors

We have discussed the following options. Nothing has been decided, but the goal at this point seems to be to use an HP Indigo digital press to produce a short run of printed sheets that would somehow be attached to blank video boxes supplied by my colleague’s Chinese vendor.

If we were to buy a number of unprinted boxes (fully converted, with the video screens already embedded), and then attach the printed marketing material and upload the video, we could vary the images from box to box. We would not need to have 100 or 100,000 copies of the same box. Therefore, we could distribute a larger press run from China to multiple clients here in the United States after individually imprinting them locally.

With that goal in mind, the next step is determine how to adorn the boxes. I have suggested a four-color custom label that would be printed on adhesive stock on the HP Indigo and then hand-applied to the box. If the design of the custom printed label were such that the edges of the box (the 3/4” “build”) could be white, then the labels would not need to be wrapped around the edges of the box. We could just diecut a window for the LCD video screen on cover #3. The front cover label, inside front cover label, and back cover label could all be a consistent dimension (say 4” x 6”).

That’s where we are now, a long way from production. The cost to produce the blank boxes with imbedded video screens in China, added to the cost to print and affix the custom labels, would need to be less than the market rate for such an LCD video book—but we can cross all of these bridges as we come to them. For now, this is an exciting challenge.

Custom Printing Is Still Alive According to Online Sources

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

I came upon a few articles recently that show various venues in which the printed word still flourishes.

Direct Mail Packages Just Work

The first article is a snippet from a commercial printing supplier’s website. I work with this vendor as a broker. Let’s call them “Printer A” so as not to give them an unfair advantage. To quote from their website, “This political season, [Printer A] printed and mailed over 24.5 million pieces in a three-month period.” To continue, this printer has noted increased spending on direct mail packages. Printer A attributes this resurgence to businesses’ attempting to attract new customers by using “mail that gets noticed.”

What This Means

Direct mail marketing still works, even in the age of email and tablet computers. Printer A was slammed and had to provide longer than usual schedules for some work prior to the election due to the vast number of print jobs in progress. Companies and political parties don’t spend money on advertising that is ineffectual. A coordinated, multichannel initiative directed toward individual prospects using variable data culled from demographic research makes direct mail a formidable tool.

Colourtone Aries Says Printing Is “Tangible” Daily Industry News, dated November 12, 2012, includes a statement issued by Colourtone Aries that custom printing is still “a critical element in the marketing mix” due to its tangible nature. The BizCommunity article, entitled “Printing Will Not Die, Says Colourtone Aries,” notes that direct mail, point of sale pieces, brochures, and packaging are still dynamic marketing tools.

To quote from the article, Colourtone Aries believes strongly that “a brand’s interaction with the consumer is, and will always remain, tangible, either in the initial contact or when receiving a product. Printed communication, marketing and packaging, which adds to the consumer’s brand experience…is an integral part of the success of branding.”

What This Means

The key words here are “tangible” and “the success of branding.” The Internet is evanescent. It’s one useful marketing channel, but Colourtone Aries sees the “tangible” qualities of print as a necessary part of a brand’s connecting with a consumer on a personal level, forging a lasting bond and inspiring customer loyalty. Commercial printing is powerful and relevant.

Tablets May Actually Increase the Reading of Printed Periodicals

Media Bistro included the following article by Ryan Lytle in its November 15, 2012, newsfeed: “Tablets May Fuel Print Magazine Market, Report Says.”

This online article references a report by the United Kingdom’s Professional Publisher’s Association (PPA), which notes that tablet users read and respond to digital magazines. Furthermore, the PPA report notes “a positive correlation between print and tablet readership.”

PPA notes that while 80 percent of those surveyed had read a printed magazine within the past year, 96 percent of tablet owners had read a printed magazine within the last year.

The Media Bistro article suggests that readers have been using both tablet-based periodicals and printed periodicals. They want both formats, and in some cases the digital versions have even introduced readers to a new magazine or newspaper brand and have motivated these readers to subscribe to the print periodical, which they might not otherwise have done without the initial exposure to the periodical on the Internet.

Marius Cloete of PPA notes that: “Tablet owners are more likely to have read and purchased magazines in the previous 3 months than the national average, dispelling the myth that tablet owners are abandoning print in favor [of] digital.”

What This Means

Tablet owners are more voracious readers than the average person. They have embraced the tablet, but they still like printed periodicals. It’s not a question of choosing one over the other. Rather it is about exploring and celebrating the differences.

Commercial Printing: B&B’s “Look” Hits It Dead Center

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

I visited a retail clothing store with my fiancée today. I went in because she wanted to see the shop, but I quickly got lost in the way the décor of the store, its wall and floor signage, lighting, wall paint colors, merchandise tags, music, and avant garde employee attire all came together to create a coherent, bold atmosphere. (Let’s call the store B&B, to make it somewhat of a hypothetical example of good marketing and design.)

The first thing I saw upon entering the store was the print catalog, right near the door. I paged through it as I walked past the clothing, and then I saw backlit images on the walls of some of the same models I had seen in the catalog. Clearly, I thought, print is not dead if this vibrant clothing store (which had a huge line at the cash registers) was actively using a print catalog, within the store, to sell the store.

Bold Signage and Clothing Tags

As my fiancée shopped, I sought to deconstruct what I was seeing to better understand its effect on me. The informational signage was printed in a bold sans serif type, either black ink or reversed out of heavily saturated primary colors. Type was set in all capital letters, tightly letter-spaced with minimal leading to present a dynamic look. Interestingly enough, there were also block letters cut out of wood to denote the various sections of the store. These three-dimensional sans serif letters reinforced the look of the large format print signage.

Large format print images of models had been produced with inkjet equipment, I assumed. (They appeared to be continuous tone, with no discernible dot pattern.) Images printed on paper were framed. Others were mounted on lightboxes and were backlit with bright lights.

At my feet I saw a large, round, inkjet printed floor banner that echoed the wall signage. It had been attached to the floor with an adhesive.

Attached to the clothes I saw either black hang-tags with the store’s logo embossed and covered with a registered clear foil stamp or tags without embossing but still using either clear foil or a spot gloss UV coating to highlight the logo. Some of the other tags were printed in black ink on thick chipboard, offering a more environmentally friendly look.

Dramatic Lighting and Interior Design

Spot track lighting brought out the vibrant primary colors and the pastels and increased the apparent saturation of the color scheme. Collections of yellow and fuscia clip lights balanced the groupings of colored clothing items and accessories, often arranged by color rather than usage. And simple white (almost childlike) “drawings” adorned the walls. They appeared to be made of clear or colored foils glued to the wall paint. It would not surprise me if they had been cut out of vinyl using an automated plotting printer with a knife controlled by digital information from a design file.

It was clear to me that bright color depends on bright light, and the saturated pinks, purples, and greens in the clothing, lighting fixtures, and signs gave the room intensity and an avant garde feel.

Insistent Music, and “In Your Face” Employee Dress

Instead of the Hip Hop I was used to hearing in the neighborhood, the speakers of the music system pounded out electronic dance music. It seemed to match the intensity and immediacy of both the interior design and the bold imagery in the print catalog, with lifestyle photos interspersed among the photos of models wearing branded clothing. And the mohawks, piercings, and tattoos of the employees along with their varied dress (some with screen printed shirts covered with bright fashion images) suggested the forward-thinking, experimental clientele the store sought to reach.

The Website Reinforced the Experience

When I got home I checked out the website. I assumed it would be good, and I was not disappointed. I saw the same typefaces, colors, and bold looks. And there were some of the same models I had seen in the print catalog and the large format prints in the store.

The Catalog Revisited

After I got home I looked through the catalog again. It seemed to be as much a magazine as a catalog, showcasing articles by stylists and designers as well as lifestyle photos to reinforce brand identity and to ensure reader affiliation with the brand. I have always read that print catalogs lift sales, and I could see why. The catalog presented fashion as “power” or “mojo.” It reflected an understanding of trends and popular culture. And it gave the shopper a free reference point he or she could use to extend the experience of the retail store once having left the premises. The photos exuded attitude, sex appeal, and confidence. The catalog was a marketing piece, but it was clearly also an art book.

Why You Should Care

It is very easy to create an overall impression that a marketing campaign has been created by a committee. It is much harder to present a simple, unified look that appeals to a targeted clientele. The lighting, signage, music, employee dress—and let’s not forget the print catalog—of this retail establishment all work together to reinforce a mood and an approach to clothing that distinguishes this store from other clothing stores in the neighborhood.

This store exemplifies the successful confluence of print, architectural, and interior design.

Custom Printing: 4 Examples of Successful Integrated Marketing

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

I recently read an article by TJ Raphael in Folio called “Backstage Ties Print and Digital Together with Redesign.” It got me thinking about those companies that successfully integrate print materials and the Web, at least those I have come across in my own life. I wanted to find examples of companies that embrace print catalogs and magazines, not those in the process of shifting their focus from print to digital.

Here are a few companies successfully blending print and the online experience: Backstage, Sappi, Ikea, and Staples.

Backstage Magazine

The Folio article noted above describes a magazine focused on the needs of actors. According to John Amato, chairman and CEO of Backstage (as quoted in the Folio article), “What we’ve tried to do with this magazine is take almost every part of it and lead it back to the Web.” As a reflection of its commitment to custom printing as well as the Web, Backstage has recently transformed its magazine from a tabloid newspaper to a glossy 9” x 10.875” print book.

Amato notes that “We’re literally trying to incorporate how you process the magazine and interactions with Backstage online into one cohesive product that is Web and print.” Print “keeps you relevant as a brand, it gives you a currency that being online only doesn’t give you.” The goal of Backstage management is to blend the magazine experience, the website experience, and social media to provide both news related to the performing arts and utilities that will serve actors (such as casting listings or information on how to find an agent).

The Backstage print book is definitely viable with a circulation of 60,000.

Sappi Paper Company Books

Sappi is a premium paper manufacturer. As a commercial printing broker, I periodically receive high-end promotional print books such as The Standard, a knowledge base of offset and digital custom printing techniques all produced on paper created by Sappi.

However, Sappi also has a website, tied visually through its look and branding to the promotional publications I receive. While Sappi spares no expense in using its commercial printing services to promote its custom printing papers, it also provides online information on paper and printing. You can order promotional books and read descriptions of its print books, such as Life with Print (focusing on “Direct Mail,” “Internet Integration,” and “Engaging New Generations”), all of which demonstrate the relevance of printed publications.

Ikea Print Catalog

I mentioned Ikea in a prior blog posting because this company has demonstrated a commitment to ink on paper as well as the Web. Ikea’s print catalog is delivered to approximately 210 million homes around the world.

I checked out the Ikea website last night. Ikea’s online catalog mirrors the print catalog. You can point with your mouse and turn the pages online just as you would review the printed book.

However, the online version provides additional content that expands on the information in the print catalog. For instance, in one case you will see a furnished room in the online catalog spread. Using the mouse you can change the room, adding different colored doors, more or less furniture, or additional window treatments. On another digital page spread, you can click the mouse to activate a video that supplements information provided in the print catalog. Still another page spread reveals an animation that displays alternate room designs and alternate color schemes.

Staples Online Flyer

Each week I also receive an email flyer from Staples. It is a screen version of the paper-based circular, also available in the store on newsprint paper. However, as you move the mouse over individual products online, the screen reveals extra information about each item. Like the paper version, you can turn the pages using your mouse as a pointer. The design of the online flyer makes the print version in the store immediately recognizable (and vice versa).

What We Can Learn

If you are designing a marketing campaign that will successfully coordinate both a print-based experience and an online experience, keep these thoughts in mind:

  1. Tie the print component and Web component together graphically as well as editorially. Make them a complementary visual experience provided in a coherent manner.
  2. People are accustomed to page-turning paper circulars and catalogs, so give them an analagous experience on-screen (a page-turner). Then add supplemental content (words, images, video) to expand upon the prospect’s initial experience with the flyer, circular, or catalog while reinforcing the brand values and providing ways for the prospect to contact your business.
  3. Coordinate the print and online experiences so they are clearly from the same vendor. Provide additional information within each medium, not just the same information duplicated in a different venue.

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