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New Ideas, New Formats
Who says the digital guys can have all the fun? Brilliant minds in print are coming up with push-the-envelope ideas to enhance their magazines, books, directories, catalogs and direct mail. Thanks to new, efficient press technologies, the printer plays an important part in driving the ideas, according to Quad/Graphics' David Bauman, a point person for presenting new print formats to Quad clients.
Multifold covers, special inserts and uncommon sizes are prime promotional real estate and natural places to showcase Big Ideas.
Take retail marketer Sports Endeavors, for example. The North Carolina-based company specializes in selling sports equipment to professional teams and amateurs around the world. A longtime retailer, Sports Endeavors has been successful at parleying with top sports equipment companies in co-op ventures for its Eurosports soccer catalog. The book is printed multiple times each month at Quad. Frequency, worldwide reach and an ongoing push for creativity provide ample opportunity to "offer an arsenal of options for our partners," says John Kenan, Eurosports Production Director. With the support of big names such as Nike and Puma, his team and Quad have come up with a stream of splash-factor ideas, including vellum and acetate coverwraps, metallic and UV coated covers, and fold-out, large-format posters.
International media giant Hearst recently signed a multiyear contract with Quad to print five of its leading consumer titles, and has ambitious plans to bring ever more bells and whistles into its magazines. "Impact is the name of the game, and print does it so well," says Karen Wagner, production director for Hearst Magazines. A recent case in point was an ad for paint company Sherwin-Williams in the November issue of Food Network magazine. The consumer ad utilized pull-off stickers in the form of paint chips and required a number of precision printing techniques.
As recently as five years ago, these Big Ideas wouldn't have been as cost-effective or deadline friendly without innovations on the pressroom floor and Quad's seamless print-digital crossover technology. Case in point: a Eurosports enhanced French gatefold that was not only a challenge to print with its intricate assembly but also a challenge to render online. According to Mr. Kenan, the partner-sponsored direct mailer "translated very well with Quad's e-catalog online (digital) edition."
Direct mailers: The Web can't do it all
Non-catalog marketers are also putting new print formats to work. This is especially true of marketers who mail frequently or are in particularly competitive, mature markets such as retail and telecommunications. For direct marketers with a total vertical operation or deep Web presence, direct mail offers a way to reach more traditional, print-leaning prospects or those who aren't visiting their websites frequently.
Smaller regional and local marketers with franchise/satellite offices or independent reps may promote in a way that plays to the field, so to speak. With Quad's print-on-demand technology, contact information from a franchisee or field rep's customer file may be added to a preprinted piece or series of pieces via online means.
"Print on demand allows smaller first runs to test the waters and to keep startup costs low," says Barry Bogle, marketing liaison for Quad's direct marketing clients. POD also allows more cost-effective Big Ideas because the static base piece is preprinted at a lower per piece cost than one-offs. These base pieces may be a full-color postcard, die-cut flier or elegant invitation; only the names and other variable data change, and only when there is a demand. This is one-to-one print marketing at its cost-effective best, according to Barry.
Some of the most successful projects are interactive in nature, enticing the reader to become involved and take action. For example, smell the enticing scent wafting from a scratch-and-sniff front cover. Peel off a sticker to reveal a savings code or personalized URL. Unfold a back cover to remove coupons. Testing has shown that "the more time spent on a piece, the more likely a response," says Barry. Print innovations are proving that interactivity is not the sole territory of mobile, POP or demo marketing.
Trackability: Print's ace card
No matter what Big Idea shows up in the mailbox, tracking response is the name of the game, with the goal of crafting an ever-better campaign. In fact, "Quad offers a range of support for the data side, before, during and after the campaign," says David. The list is long. There's variable data print, list acquisition, list hygiene, ROI analysis, and more.
On the print production side, using the results to enhance the next campaign or segment test may include selective envelope inserting, package insert printing, laser imaging, digital printing and matched mailing. At the early stages or during the campaign, to support direct-mail print in a digital world "we pull in our multichannel experts to help with an integrated approach such as coordinated e-blasts, personalized URLs and digital editions," says Barry.
This kind of multipronged coordination is vital to boosting lift - increasing the response rate whether it is from Web, phone, store or mail or any combination. Yet, it is print that remains the time-tested medium for pinpointing response, providing concrete numbers and "not just measuring eyeballs," Barry adds.
Books get in on the act
New formats and interactive devices have seeped into the book market too, and Quad has accommodated their unique needs.
With the advent of print on demand, trade publishers often opt for "smaller first runs to test the waters and to keep startup costs low," says John Faust, marketing liaison for Quad books and directories. Nevertheless, enhancements such as foil stamping, embossing and tip-ons can be done cost effectively and work well to attract a fickle reading public. If the book takes off, speed is the name of the game. The client can depend on Quad to produce reprints and subsequent editions quickly. Having a dedicated shipping division also helps with speed to market. "Our experience and breadth of service in these areas positively affects the estimate and timeframe," says John.
Directories are also taking advantage of unique print features. For example, thumb-edge printing of phone and other kinds of directories can be done on books as slim as 1/2 inch. Advertisers in very small markets can now take advantage of novel ways to advertise previously available only for larger books.
Creative sparks fanned by technology
In many cases, the splash factor couldn't be possible if it weren't for presses with inline-finishing capabilities. Quad likes to call these presses "origami machines" because they can create unique folds and die-cuts while utilizing a variety of glues, adhesives and coatings plus inkjet printing. Since many of these functions can be performed in one pass, the inline route is time effective and budget friendly. Quad has one of the broadest collections of presses with inline finishing in North America. "These machines provide versatility and flexibility, which allows us to offer new and innovative formats to our clients," says David.
For projects with smaller press runs, offline finishing may be the fastest budget-friendly solution. "Almost anything we can do inline, we can do offline," says David. That means a regional direct marketer can opt to test a segment or a whole creative campaign that was previously unavailable or too expensive to consider.
Mock-ups rock the house
Before the technology can be applied and presses roll, the birth of an idea begins with designing a working model or mock-up. David and his team confer with Quad's Creative Services division to develop a mock-up for presentation to the client or prospect. The mock-up may go through several iterations. "Most often we simply provide idea starters. If the client likes the concept, they'll take it and run with it, adding their own creative spin," says David. Usually a number of people are involved: designers, the client, advertisers, internal creative and production staff, and Quad's service and production teams.
The final mockup's test by fire is to make sure it is feasible on press. The most creative idea in the world "won't fly unless the technology can produce it effectively," says David. Would a different size reduce the per-piece cost? Can different paper be used to achieve better quality? Do the specs need to be altered to make it cheaper to mail?
It takes time to rig a press for an inline job. Yet those extra hours up front do much to make sure the project runs smoothly. On-press vetting early in the creative process ensures that special formats and extraordinary features will not bloat the production cycle.
Postage: The 800-lb. gorilla
Some creative ideas, such as an embroidered patch that Eurosports ran on a cover, can impact postage. That's why you need a printer with mailing expertise. Says Eurosports' John Kenan: "We depend on Quad to get us through any postal issues."
Whether it's co-mailing offering more storage capacity and scheduling leeway to move deadlines, Quad has capabilities that keep postage costs as low as possible. Quad also has a dedicated volume paper purchasing department and a dedicated shipping division, making it a true front-to-back support service for direct mailers. The right resources, and a history of fulfilling unusual requests for a variety of clients, continually add to the body of knowledge and expertise.
With a proactive printer in their corner, clients can focus on final creative, sell the idea and arrange additional promotional support. "We work hard to offer value-added, compelling (marketing) vehicles to our partners, and we value Quad's willingness to work with us and explore options," says Mr. Kenan. Such mutual cooperation adds up to trust. His company has worked with Quad for over a decade.
All on the same page
Helping a creative idea materialize is a group effort. Across-the-board communication is important due to the many details that often need to be ironed out. "Everybody being on the same page is critical," says David. Many an idea has fallen by the wayside because the execution simply was not printable. Having a print team working from the get-go solves potential problems.
The rewards are there. Some of the best creative ideas can help move product in ways you never thought possible, as well asprovide positive press buzz. Creative uses of print establish a baseline for even more ambitious projects down the road. "Good ideas set the bar. Great ideas raise it," says Mr. Kenan.
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