Commentary & Analysis
VI Printing and Flipbook Marketing
By Tom Wetjen February 20,
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: February 20, 2006
By Tom Wetjen February 20, 2006 -- There are numerous opportunities to profit and grow with digital color printing services in one-to-one marketing. To fully capitalize on these in the world of print, print providers need to change how they market their services to customers. Once a printer commits to variable information (VI), a good starting point is to market the new service to current customers, one of the best targets for increasing revenue streams. An open house can be a catalyst in launching VI services and growing a business as well as focusing on strategic partnerships. Based on many print providers' experiences, such events are considered to have high value both as learning experiences and as a way to strengthen customer-vendor relationships. Open houses have high value both as learning experiences and as a way to strengthen customer-vendor relationships. Lorraine Press of Salt Lake City decided to put its new capabilities to the test and target its current customer base. It created its first variable piece on a tight deadline while still learning its digital systems. The ambitious piece, a personalized flipbook and invitation for an open house, won "Best of Show" among more than 200 entries in the 2005 Printing Innovation with Xerox Imaging awards. "I was shocked," said prepress supervisor Blayne Jensen, describing his reaction to winning the award. "We had never done a variable data piece before. We were using new software, new printing equipment and a new RIP." However, as the firm's information technology manager, database administrator, supervisor of a 100-percent Adobe PDF workflow for offset printing and manager of the piece's production, he said, "We knew from a technology standpoint that we could figure this out." The innovative piece demonstrated powerful business effectiveness, generating an astonishing 50 percent response rate with 150 of the 300 recipients attending, and was aesthetically pleasing. "We're trying to reach a higher level of creative," said Lorraine's president, Robert Miller. "I'm put off by the 'Hi Bob!' approach. We want to go beyond that so that when you get something, you are interested in it and it's persuasive. To pull this off, we need close relationships with strong creatives like H theory." New Way to Communicate Lorraine Press has successfully navigated numerous industry transitions since its founding in 1946 by Miller's father, Harry B. Miller. Today the firm has 35 employees generating annual revenue of about $4 million. I see variable information as a new technology that meets an old need: to get people to pay attention to the message you want to give them Nonetheless, its offset-based business has been essentially flat for the last few years, leading the firm to investigate opportunities in digital printing, one of the few print industry segments projected for growth. "Part of my turning to digital is to avoid the fiercely competitive nature of offset printing," Miller said. "It's very hard to grow in offset. "I see variable information as a new technology that meets an old need: to get people to pay attention to the message you want to give them by targeting buyers individually," he said. "It's the reason we wanted to get into digital." The Creation Process In April 2005, Lorraine Press installed a new Xerox DocuColor 8000, Creo software and iWay Web-to-print software from Press-Sense, part of the Xerox FreeFlow Digital Workflow Collection. An open house to introduce the firm's new services was scheduled for May. Miller wanted an invitation to the open house that would not only drive attendance, but also showcase the variable-information capability and serve as a keepsake that recipients would share with colleagues. He selected H theory to design it based upon recommendations from his sales team. Miller presented the agency with a design concept, but accepted H theory's recommendation to brainstorm additional ideas. "Most of the audience was people like us from the design community," said Christian Hansen, partner and art director at H theory. "And we felt we had a good bead on what they would think is creative and cool." The flipbook emerged as the top concept, and H theory engaged photographer Tyler Gourley to help shape the approach and shoot the books' animated photos. Lorraine Press and H theory partnered to produce this flipbook and open house invitation, which won Best of Show in the 2005 Printing Innovation with Xerox Imaging awards. Ultimately, the team produced four different personalized flipbooks in a few short weeks. The shared theme: a magician performs a trick that conjures up the name of the recipient as part of the flipbook's animated action. Having four versions meant that multiple people at the same address each received a different book, spurring discussion. The personalized flipbooks feature a magician who conjures up the recipient's name as part of the book's animated action. 'A Grand Success' "The open house was a grand success," Miller said. "We got a lot of people in here, and everyone wanted to know how we did the flipbooks." Several attendees have signed on for business, including one that is running an automated Web-based program for producing a few dozen posters every month. The flipbooks continue to generate buzz, Miller said, and Lorraine Press continues to use them, mailing personalized copies to new targets: marketing executives. "We get their attention, and we've been able to talk to people who would ordinarily turn us away," Miller said. For H theory, the piece is a strong addition to its portfolio, because it is "a good display of what our company is capable of and of how we achieve our communication objectives," Hansen said. "As a creative, you enjoy a project like this one that lets you flex your creative muscle. The people at Lorraine Press were very open to our counsel -- just as we expect them to be quality printers who apply their good instincts to improve the work they do on our behalf." Lorraine continues to use the flipbooks, mailing personalized copies to new targets: marketing executives. Overall, Miller would like to see Lorraine Press's digital color business growing more rapidly, particularly the variable portion, which accounts for about 25 percent of current volume. "But I'm not disappointed," he said. "I think this has to be an evolution in people's thinking. We have to partner with our customers in the thought process." From this perspective, the flipbook offers not only an example of a successfully executed creative and communications strategy, but valuable lessons about partnering in the thought process, as well. Print providers continue to push the boundaries of digital print and produce innovative work that exceed the demands of their clients. Businesses like Lorraine Press are using the power of digital technology to achieve unparalleled results for their clients and in turn, increase print volume, revenue and profit for themselves.