Is full color the best option for print?

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The gloves are off
The gloves are off

Color printing has become more affordable for direct marketers, but still adds to a campaign's bottom line. Our experts debate the value of investing to color your company's marketing.

CONTENDER
Dave Henkel
President of Johnson & Quin
More than 30 years of experience

Full-color digital printing is easier to produce than ever before, but it is generally much less expensive to pro­duce that piece using preprinted forms and monochrome laser or inkjet per­sonalization. In spite of the promised impact of full color, marketers should take a step back and evaluate if it might add cost without improving response.

Some niche products, such as real estate, are ideal for variable digital production, coupling low average mail quantities with the benefits of variable color for the property and agent photos. For many products and services, these same conditions do not apply: Either the mail quantities are much greater, or the use of color as a variable mecha­nism is not likely to enhance response. Most financial, retail and business-to-business mailings are unlikely to show substantially improved response rates for color digital vs. more conventional, less costly techniques.

Given the production cost in relation to full digital color, the cost-effective alternative of preprinting static, full-color mailers and then using mono­chrome laser or inkjet to personalize the piece will most likely prove that “less can be more” when it comes to generating a greater return on invest­ment. Customers will still get the message that you know who they are and understand their needs, and you will benefit from considerably lower production costs.


CONTENDER
Jared Tanner
Held senior market­ing positions at Blockbuster Inc., Logoworks, Golfsmith and Harry & David

Is color printing right for your direct mail? Definitely — at least, most of the time.

While there are never absolute rules that apply across the board, printing your direct mail pieces in color will pay for itself (and more) from an ROI perspective. This knowledge comes from first-hand experience as a direct marketer, as well as knowledge gained as a printer. We print millions of direct mail pieces for thousands of companies, and rarely do I see anything printed only in black and white. We print for many smart marketers, and I know they wouldn't be printing in color if color didn't provide the necessary lift.

That said, there are a few instances where color printing may not pay for itself. I know the financial services and credit card industries occasionally print black and white, because their response rates are so low they have to be cheap, and the use of color has not provided the necessary lift.

This brings me to a key factor to con­sider when deciding whether or not to print in color: What is the product or service you're trying to sell? Obviously an apparel product would sell better in color than black and white. If you're selling nails, maybe color won't provide the ROI.

Ultimately, if you question whether or not you should be printing in color vs. black and white, you need to test it for yourself.


DMNews' DECISION

Both Henkel and Tanner agree that product is likely be the deciding factor in whether or not color is the right fit for your piece. Henkel's suggestion of personalization will still require an additional investment, so we agree with Tanner — “just test it.” Adding color won't reduce response rates, and the prospect of a significant lift may be worth the one-off risk.

Both Henkel and Tanner agree that product is likely be the deciding factor in whether or not color is the right fit for your piece. Henkel's suggestion of personalization will still require an additional investment, so we agree with Tanner — “just test it.” Adding color won't reduce response rates, and the prospect of a significant lift may be worth the one-off risk.

Have your say: E-mail your view to cara.wood@dmnews.com

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