Follow the rules in print

With budgets under pressure, marketers should get smart about the ways of printing, for there are considerable saving and quality improvements to be made for those in the know. By Daney Parker

If you were to conjure up images of a stereotypical marketer and a printer it is likely that you would imagine two completely different types of people. Yet no matter how dissimilar they are, marketers must be able to communicate effectively with print specialists. Despite the digital revolution, marketers are still in charge of vast amounts of printed materials, so they need to appreciate the printing process, and build working relationships with the people who will be bringing their campaigns to life.

As the world of printing can seem rather alien, the easiest solution is to find one supplier that can be trusted, and leave them to sort out any printing issues. However, John Snape, production manager at direct-to-digital agency TDA warns against passing the buck.”It can be tempting to place all the work under one roof. In theory, this should lead to ease of operation and communication, along with the peace of mind that one trusted supplier has everything under control.

Pitfalls of the one-shop
“However, the reality is that there are a number of potential pitfalls with this approach. There can be major implications for the price of a job if the supplier involved cannot print all of the formats cost-effectively. And if it has to outsource some of the work that cannot be produced in-house, it will invariably mark it up.”

Printers may argue that better control of corporate or house colours can be maintained by keeping all the work with one supplier. But in Snape’s experience this often isn’t the case, especially if work is being farmed out. He does admit that there are times when it is appropriate to place a variety of print with one company, but generally believes that if requirements are diverse there will invariably be significant savings – and far greater control – if specialist individual suppliers are used.

Helen Woodbridge, head of marketing for show organiser easyFairs, agrees that it is a mistake to rely on one printing supplier, which is why she claims fewer marketers are doing so. She believes the reason for this is partly due to the recession, as marketers shop around for savings: “In these tough times marketers are prepared to sacrifice the convenience of a one-stop-shop in order to get more innovation, better prices and to find that certain something to help set them apart from competitors.”

Woodbridge says that attendance at the Packaging Innovations Show doubled last year because more marketers were making the effort to check out the packaging and print design concepts, materials and services. She adds “This isn’t because they suddenly had time to spare – it’s because they know that diversity is critical to success these days.”

The easiest way to save money on print is to choose not to print at all. Yet despite predictions of the demise of such items as brochures and catalogues as online versions become more popular, these predictions appear to be premature. Nick Carter, creative director of design agency Positive by Design, claims that this is because people prefer to handle printed materials, as is illustrated by travel brochures. He says “It will be a brave client that puts its toe into the no-brochures-for-us-this-year market, especially while the travel agent still performs such an important role in the buying process.”

Changing DM packs
The death of printed DM packs may also not be imminent, but how these are produced has certainly changed. Stephanie Girard, marketing manager at print services firm Paragon, says that in particular, the more targeted variable data-printed (VDP) direct mail is in demand. She says “In a time where marketers have to look closely at their spend, it is recognised that VDP direct mail has a higher impact and is more cost effective than advertising through, for example, TV and newspapers, The potential effect of this type of good quality direct mail is very impressive, in particular if you use suitable, clean data built around a cohesive campaign, complete with personalised design.”

Kevin Sarney, managing director of printers Butler, Tanner & Dennis, adds that marketers are also saving money by being frugal with their orders. “‘Cash is king’ in these times. Businesses will only spend what is necessary, therefore packaging and print is being ordered on demand as required to avoid waste.”

As well as saving money in print, building strong relationships with the right partners can save paper purchasing costs, which can be as much as 70% of the total print cost. Positive by Design’s Carter adds: “By effectively managing the entire production process, an agency can pre-order paper at a more favourable price while ordering less and so avoid expensive paper storage charges.”

The print industry is moving fast to offer marketers better value, as there is no shortage of competitors. Marketers in their turn need to keep up with developments in printing processes if they are to create exciting, but practical, campaign strategies. Chas Moloney, director of marketing at print vendor Ricoh, says the single biggest mistake that marketers make is not talking to the printer early enough in the design process.

He says “Marketers should consider that printers can add a huge amount of value when it comes to one-to-one, targeted marketing. A marketer should approach a printer in the early concept stages to discuss what can be printed, how best it can be achieved, different options for media, styling, design and costs.”

Consult your printers
Investing time building relationships with printers means help will be more freely offered, eventually paying dividends. Butler, Tanner & Dennis’s Sarney says it is useful having printers on hand because they will offer a technical service that includes budget advice. Sometimes it may mean that a printer offers advice at the start of a project and yet may not be offered the contract, but this should not mean that the relationship is at an end. Sarney says the relationship will ensure both parties develop business for the right reasons in the long term: “Printers are learning they are not the creative experts, but can add to the success of a project by having the right relationship and giving sound advice to the experts.”

A marketing campaign can be seriously compromised if designers fail to understand the capabilities of the printers they are using. Rob Walker, managing director of design and print agency RJ Design Associates in Nottingham, cites how some designers create pieces that are physically impossible to print, and that show little or no understanding of the mechanics of creating a printed piece. He says: “We had a DM piece to print last year with a CD attached which was heavier than the piece of stock they wanted to print on.” Walker adds that marketers’ other common mistakes include choosing the wrong printer for the job – and then finding it costs more money by not placing it on the right sized press. Another common error is not understanding how corporate colours will translate across all medias and print technologies, from business cards through to large format print. He points out “Some colours are simply impossible to recreate exactly across all mediums.”

Marketers and printers may sometimes talk different languages, but it is up to marketers to find out about printing processes if they wish to save money, maximise the potential of the campaign, and ultimately influence consumers. It is no good coming up with a ground-breaking creative concept if it can’t be turned into reality. 

Case study: e.on
Creative agency Michon designed and built an exhibition stand for energy company e.on for the 2008 British Wind Exhibition. Caroline Matthews, account marketing manager at Michon describes the print element of this campaign:
“The main challenge was to make the exhibition stand and graphics reflect the look of a renewable/recycled material while sustaining the quality of print and colour reproduction. This was especially important considering the size of images that were used to create impact. Another difficulty was trying to match a sustainable material with sustainable credentials. The brief was also to provide graphics that could withstand use at a number of other events without becoming damaged or using a laminate for strength and hardwearing capabilities.
In terms of sustainability issues, it is key to find a balance between materials which have the look and feel of a recycled material but don’t have the credentials of a truly recycled material. This also has an impact on cost, as marketers look to find the materials that give the best fit for the purpose, but at the right cost, especially as budgets are made to stretch further because of the economic climate. The materials that have a recycled look to them also tend to come at a premium cost, compared to materials with recycled credentials

Case study: Bupa
Campaign management company Gecko built a bespoke online print system for leading health care company Bupa.
The challenge for Bupa’s brand team was to ensure an effective rebrand of all printed marketing materials, ensuring consistency. Printed materials range from direct marketing packs and sales literature for all Bupa’s customer product ranges, to point-of-sale material for live events and ­exhibitions.
By utilising bespoke software, all Bupa’s creative material is housed in a central portal, effectively allowing anyone in the business, from brand managers to sales advisers across the UK, to create, tailor and order individual print requirements online.
The online technology allows Bupa’s central marketing team to have full brand control over the output of all their print and marketing material, whatever the format, as well as direct management over budgets. Marketing print orders are then fulfilled with creative consistency, quality and cost effectiveness.
Finally, the software provides a full reporting system, which allows managers to track all printed communications and provides full results analysis to enable the success of campaigns to be assessed.

Industry viewpoints:

Simon Ward – Chief executive of the commercial division at printing specialists St Ives
When choosing a print supplier, marketing directors need to look at which company has the technology and the capabilities to provide the best solution for the job. The end product the printer or print management company supplies must demonstrate a solid understanding of what the marketing team is trying to achieve for the brand. Using a printer that can produce every element of the campaign will ensure that this understanding is shared and will therefore be reflected in the co-ordination and quality of the final printed products.
Communication is key. Maintaining a good relationship and open communication channels between the printer and the customer is crucial to ensure everyone is clear on expectations for the job and the impact the product should have on the consumer. Printers need to understand their customers’ brands inside out in order to advise them on the best print medium, or collaboration of media, for an effective marketing campaign. If you have to go to a different supplier each time you need a different piece of print produced, you are going to have to explain your requirements over and over again.
It’s not good enough to just supply print. Printers need to add value to their services and provide their customers with cost-savings by streamlining their printing processes.
When it comes to knowing how effective marketing strategies prove to be and how to make the most out of your print spend, companies often seek outside advice in order to reflect on their internal processes. Who better to provide this advice than the printers themselves?

Bill Joss – Chairman of digital print service provider Cats Solutions
Print strategies have changed. Once upon a time a promotion, mailshot, brochure, or a market research document “had to be” signed off well in advance and changes were impossible after a certain point.
Massive print runs had to be committed in order to justify set-up and printing processes and huge quantities had to be ordered in order to get the best price. This all spelled inflexibility, waste and an inability for the marketing manager to react quickly in a volatile market. It doesn’t have to be that way now…and it’s simply not acceptable for a modern marketing function to operate within those constraints.
Modern digital printing technology delivers fantastic quality, and changes can be made at the last minute – electronically.
Design, collation, binding, finishing, mailing can be outsourced to a service provider which operates on a 24-by-7-by-52 basis. The cost per sheet is almost identical and digital allows you to order in smaller volumes at a time.

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