How Faster, Better Production Saves Money

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"Cut costs!" "Drive response rates higher!" "Improve our time to market!" These directives may sound all too familiar. Some direct marketers have achieved these goals by looking to their printers to identify hidden efficiencies through innovative production techniques.


The following are three stories.


Situation 1: Multiple partners. A financial services direct marketer offers credit reports through cooperative partnerships with major credit card companies. The direct mail package carries the credit card brand and is mailed to a target audience of cardholders. Each of the marketers' multiple business partners supplies its respective target lists for each mailing.


The package is a traditional financial services offer with a white outer envelope containing a letter/application and a business reply envelope. The credit card logo appears on the outer envelope and the letter/application. Historically, the production process for each of the package components required plate changes on press for each of the business partner versions. Multiple vendors were involved. The direct marketer wondered whether the process could be streamlined.


Solution 1: In-line finishing technology. In reviewing this package with the client, the printer saw an opportunity to convert the traditional package into an in-line-finished, closed-end mailer. The benefits to the direct marketer: a more efficient process reduced the production cycle by 10 to 14 days. The production staff coordinated a single vendor rather than many. The company saved thousands of dollars in postage with each mailing. The new process delighted the company's marketing department.


Here is how the printer accomplished the goals: The printer's creative department designed a new format so that the multiple-component package would be produced using in-line finishing on a web press. The quantities were sufficiently large (more than 500,000) to justify the makeready (or startup costs) of the press finishing line. A single-pass, high-speed press operation produced the letter/application and BRE and inserted them into the outer yielding, what is called a closed-end mailer. This process effectively reduced the marketer's previous vendor coordination from three to one and eliminated the need for a lettershop.


But here is where the marketer realized really significant savings: The printer also used high-resolution inkjet imaging to reproduce the client's business partner logos, as well as all aspects of personalization that appeared throughout the letter and on the application form. Previously, since the partner logos had been printed, plate changes were required on press for each version. Then a lettershop personalized the mailing using laser technology and processing a separate list from each credit card partner -- resulting in multiple mailstreams. Instead, using color inkjet imaging, the printer programs all data, including name and address, critical credit data, all personalization and the logos into a single list and, thus, one mailstream.


Situation 2: Different packages. A telecommunications company wanted to market wireless services to two distinct demographic audiences. The challenge to the company's agency was to develop direct mail campaigns that were cost-effective and appealing to each of the target audiences. Once the agency had developed two package designs, the company invited its printer to review both. One package was a self-mailer. The other was a more traditional, multiple-component package. Cost and production time were critical elements, while creative would be key in driving response.


The self-mailer contained a dimensional pop-up design. The traditional package contained several components, including a letter, brochure and map showing regional coverage. These were to be inserted into a nontraditional outer wrap and required a matched mailing process to ensure that the addressee on the letter matched the name and address on the outer wrap.


Solution 2: Creative application of finishing technology. Essentially, the printer engineered efficiency and cost-effectiveness into the packages. Complexity in dimensional pop-up designs often requires hand operations that are extremely costly and slow. The printer devised several renditions of the construction and die cuts that would be required to bring the piece to life. Through its ingenuity, the printer satisfied the company and designer while allowing for efficient in-line production. The self-mailer was printed, die cut, popped up and personalized for mailing in a high-speed, single-pass operation.


As for the traditional package, the printer recommended minor modifications to the component designs. At the request of the agency, the mission was to eliminate the need for a matched mailing and the perceived risk associated with matching internal and external components for accuracy. The printer re-engineered the format, and the personalized internal components, as well as the addressed outer wrap, were produced using in-line inkjet imaging and finishing technology. Insertion of two nonpersonalized components was required.


Situation 3: Product sampling. Product sampling is integral to consumer packaged goods marketing. Traditionally, production of mailers with samples has been costly and time-consuming. Usually, a company must coordinate several vendors and put up with multiple, slow production processes to produce a mailer with a product sample.


In today's competitive market, companies use a product launch as a defensive marketing strategy, and time is of the essence. A major packaged goods marketer looking for a more efficient way to produce sample mailers sought to partner with a printer in a technology development initiative.


Solution 3: Joint development of new technology. After nearly three years in engineering development, the A-fixx printing technology was born. This breakthrough technology enables the product sample, usually a liquid-filled package, to be married and affixed to a printed carrier/enclosure at high speeds, all produced under one roof.


Here's how it works: The carrier/enclosure is printed roll to roll on a commercial web press; the printed rolls are fed to the A-fixx system; samples are affixed; the carrier is folded and sealed, ready for distribution. Today, the marketer supplies the packages, and the printer completes the process. Daily production can exceed 750,000 samples.


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