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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 ‘Marketing’ Category

Custom Printing Case Study: Making a Business Recognizable

Sunday, April 16th, 2023

Photo purchased from …

This is a blog post about making sure your customers can find your business. More specifically, it involves branding, logos, large format print signage, and customer awareness in general.

In this light, I want to tell you about a local thrift shop that my fiancee and I adore–and frequent almost daily. It comprises two storage units and (on clear days) the pavement of the parking lot in front of the storage units. And nothing else.

There are no signs except for the large format print logos on the trucks, which the proprietor uses to collect donations.

The only promotion I know of is by word of mouth and on Instagram, in contrast to most print catalogs I have either seen or designed myself, which usually include the name of the company, the phone number, and the website address on every catalog page.

Furthermore, the name of the establishment, which includes the word “donation,” does not reflect the unique nature of the furniture, paintings, statues, and glassware available on an ever-changing basis. Therefore the prices, which are higher than those of a thrift store, can be off-putting. This is really more akin to a consignment store or an antiques store. If it were positioned that way in the promotion (overall branding) of the shop, I think that people would be more amenable to the prices but would still value the quality of the furniture and curios.

Breaking This Down: The Business Model

This particular establishment has high-level expenses. They pay their employees well. They need to pay for two huge storage units, and they need to pay all associated costs for at least two large moving trucks. After all, they use the trucks for one of their main sources of revenue, which is clearing out all—or any part—of a client’s personal or business goods and then selling them at this establishment.

Think of this part of the business as a cross between a moving company and a charity donation venue. If, for instance, you have a business and have just upgraded all of your furniture or computers, you would give this business a call to donate all the old items you’re replacing. Or if someone in your family had just died, you might have this business clear out and then sell all of the relative’s worldly possessions.

(Granted, in all cases the business keeps the revenue from the sales, but the clearing out portion of the job is still especially valuable.)

Because of its expenses, this business need to make money when selling the furniture, statuary, paintings, etc., many of which are significantly more intriguing than yard sale or thrift store goods. My fiancee and I, for instance, have already purchased a number of original paintings, complete with stories about the artists who painted them. And the prices, while not cheap, were still very reasonable—particularly on 75-percent-off sale days.

The Business Environment

So the overall environment consists of two storage rooms at the back of a parking lot in a warehouse district. The goods spill out onto the parking lot, especially the best items of furniture. At night everything goes back into the storage locker. The second storage unit contains everything from small paintings to clothes to statuary to cooking implements to hardware items and tools. Some of these goods are of marginal value (and cost). Other items include primitive wood masks from around the world as well as items carved from stone. Compared to the other shop a few storage units away on the asphalt of the parking lot, these are smaller items.

Then there is a “free” area with bins of print books and an array of lesser quality furniture. All of this changes—sometimes hourly—as the trucks come in and unload practically every item imaginable from every corner of the world.

Unfortunately, if you don’t know where to find this unique store, chances are that you will not stumble upon it. You have to be going there. It has to be a destination, and you need directions.

A Few Words on Traditional Branding

If you Google “How many exposures does it take to ensure brand recognition,” the first few snippets of information listed will say “five to seven.” I realize this is arbitrary and possibly based on nothing, but it does illustrate the point that brand awareness is “grown” gradually and intentionally. It is not accidental or random.

Almost always this involves a recognizable logo, something that may have an image related to the company (even if it is abstract and only suggestive of the tone, purpose, or values of the company). Computer companies, for instance, may have logo marks that look futuristic and that suggest speed, communication, and control.

These logo marks, or pictorial renderings, are accompanied by the name of the company, in a typeface and in colors that reflect the tone of the company, whether it be futuristic or classic (like an antique dealer’s logo). Sometimes the logo includes only the title of the company, and in these cases the typeface, the shape of the various letterforms, and the placement of color must do all the work in conveying the overall image (and the emotions, thoughts, and values the company wants the viewer to associate with the company).

Fortunately, this particular donation company’s trucks all have large exterior panels, which act as large format print signage to do exactly what I have described.

That said, what if the trucks are out collecting all of someone’s worldly possessions? The two storage units don’t really have any signs or other connection to this logo. If they weren’t wide open with their goods spilling out onto the parking lot, they would be indistinguishable from the other storage units in this business park.

Think about three letters, “BMW,” and the immediately identifiable blue, white, and black of the logo. Think about Home Depot’s orange. If you saw only the colors and no logo, you would probably be able to pair the colors with their associated names and logo marks. This is not an accident. It has come about through the association of words, simple images, and colors, again and again, over time. Even in a grocery store, with all of the competing labels, I’ll bet you could find the Starbucks kiosk for a cup of branded coffee. You would immediately recognize the two-tailed siren, classic green, etc. I do, and I don’t even drink coffee.

Back to the donation company (with all other words in the title omitted to protect the innocent). The trucks move from day to day, depending on the available parking spaces. And moving the only visible large format print signage (the sides of the trucks) might therefore be counterproductive in the owner’s establishing consumer brand recognition.


Then there’s the positioning. How might the owner of the company describe the target customer? In marketing language, this might be called “the persona” of the target client, what she or he likes, dislikes, what motivates them, and so forth.

That is, what kind of person would the company like to attract to the two storage units? What kinds of items do they want to buy? I think the company has for the most part articulated this vision (since my fiancee and I know the proprietor and have spoken to many of the other customers).

However, because there is no signage, none of the visual cues that might help position the business in the minds of potential customers have found visual expression. Or even expression in the business name chosen to represent the company.

More specifically, the word “donation” suggests thrift store values, lower prices than those charged at this location. Then again, “donation” also suggests lower value than perhaps the words “choice goods” or “unique items” or “works of art.” Perhaps the revenue of the company, or even the perception of some customers that the prices are high, might change if these words found visual expression in the large format print signage.

After all, in many cases people consider higher priced items to be of a higher value if they cost more (as counterintuitive as this might seem).

Of course this would require a coordinated marketing effort. The name of the company, its logo, the color used for the trucks, and all printed collateral would have to be consistent in promoting the company and in positioning it as an upscale place to find furniture and works of art that might not be available elsewhere.

The Takeaway

This is the beauty of coordinated branding. A skilled marketer can consciously grow potential customers’ awareness of a company as a unique source of value. And this visual positioning can pay off in spades.

If the proprietor of this donations business wants to collect items people no longer use and offer them to those who will love and cherish them (an admirable goal benefitting both the people and the planet), perhaps some enhanced, coordinated branding might be in order.

Three Tricks to Run Your Marketing Campaign with Flyers

Wednesday, May 26th, 2021

Even in this digitally driven world, the significance of traditional marketing materials hasn’t vanished yet. It still plays a crucial role in any business marketing campaign. And, speaking of traditional marketing materials, there’s no way people can deny the role of flyers. After all, they work in the best possible way when it comes to creating a business marketing campaign. A lot of people are unable to yield the advantages of these flyers as they’re unaware of their usage. So, even after they use high-quality printed flyers, their marketing campaign does not provide the required benefits. There are a lot of factors that need to be considered while printing a flyer. This includes the images, typography, strategy distribution, and whatnot. So, let’s explore the best tricks to create a successful business marketing campaign with flyers, (more…)

Custom Printing: Marrying Print and Digital Marketing

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

I read two interesting articles tonight about marketing. On the surface, they didn’t seem to pertain to one another. Upon further reflection, however, I saw that they both make the same point: nothing succeeds like cross-media marketing that presents a consistent message. (more…)


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