by Noel Ward, Executive Editor June 23, 2003 -- LAST WEEK'S JUNK MAIL brought a piece from a local printer announcing an open house. He was poised to show off his new NexPress 2100, along with his recently renovated shop. I know this printer slightly and his NexPress acquisition, as a compliment to his other Heidelberg presses, was not a surprise, but the mailpiece certainly was. It was a 15 x 7-inch trifold, mildly personalized on both sides. Aside from the address, my first name appeared in black on four various-sized replicas of "Hello My Name Is" badges and on a reservation reply card. My first name was also reversed-out in a couple of spots, but except for these, the mailer looked like a pre-printed form with my name laser printed in black. Nothing to get excited about. Since the printer was just working off his basic customer address file, more sophisticated personalization was not realistic. That's OK, but he sure could have used some color on the personalized text to show he wasn't just filling in the blanks with his laser printer. And in my opinion, scattering a recipient's name on a piece is just gratuitous personalization, done because you can. More important, though, the overall design was underwhelming, especially for a piece intended to entice people to come see a press it bills as offering "Full Color Digital Short Run Printing," and "Variable Data and Images." The sole graphic in this mailer was a solid black silhouetted male figure bearing one of the red and white "Hello" badges, set against a swirly red-orange background. Resized versions of this graphic were repeated in three places on the other side of the sheet. Some 6-point black type announced the piece was produced in-house on the NexPress. "Maybe," suggested one blurb, "you'll walk away with a great idea for your next big project or promotion." Well not if this mailer was anything to go by. There was nothing that showed off the capabilities of the NexPress, what it could do for me, or told me why I should carve out part of my day to go see it. Maybe I'm jaded or just being hypercritical, but the mailer was a waste of paper, toner and postage. I guess what bothers me is that a printer with enough vision (presumably) to acquire a NexPress would announce its presence with a document so devoid of the very capabilities he is promoting. Why not use full color images? Why not put my name in color? Why not show me something that is going to capture my interest and maybe even my imagination? Why not do something that is likely to make me change my plans for a mid-week June afternoon and go check it out? Maybe the design staff charged with creating this piece lacks the imagination or knowledge to create a compelling piece that shows off the new technology. Maybe the printer doesn't understand how to promote the machine for which he just signed on the dotted line. And, I can't help but wonder, has this guy gone out and done any market development to get existing customers excited about what they will be able to do using his NexPress? Does he have work in the wings ready to run through his new machine? Is he just going to sell short run color that isn't right for his Speedmaster 52 or is he going to bring in variable data jobs? If so, does he have any idea what real variable data work is going to entail? And is he ready for it? Heidelberg's go-to-market strategy for the NexPress has been to place the machines in a range of commercial printers. This is OK for starters, but if other NexPress owners are announcing their newfound capabilities to the world with little more than a pre-printed shell, it would seem a tad more market development and training needs to be done to help these printers build the business that will pay for the machine. Digital color printing is dropping in price, increasing in quality and gaining ground in the marketplace. People are coming into print shops asking for it, demand which is only going to increase as the cost of color becomes more affordable. Variable data printing is the next step and will take some time to become a common request. But if a printer wants people to understand what short-run, full-color and variable data printing can do for their businesses, gratuitous personalization and a black silhouette on a red swirl come up short.