Monday, January 20, 2014

Color Communication in the Digital Age

Contributor:  Brian Ashe, Solutions Architect, Pantone Digital Business Unit
Accurate color communication starts with a good color specification. Traditionally this has been done using a physical standard. This physical standard is compared to production color visually. The subjectivity of this method does not always lead to satisfactory results.
However, advances in measurement technology and software now allow brand owners and designers to specify digital color standards.
How do you tap into the creativity of a designer, and still be able to communicate accurate color to others involved in the production process? If a color is specified in a digital format,  it can be passed down the supply chain (e.g., ink supplier, prepress, press process control, or post production quality control) and used around the world with no change, keeping the integrity of the original design. The CxF (Color eXchange Format) allows global communication with unmatched accuracy across various instruments and software applications.
The main characters that need to communicate color are typically:
  • Brand Owner – overall responsibility for the brand color and wants to protect that brand while keeping costs under control and meeting deadlines.
  • Designer – colors are specified via a pallet (e.g., Pantone) or perhaps a previous printed sample. If a CxF color is specified, color communication is greatly enhanced.
  • Prepress – needs to be able to interpret the designer's creation and produce a digital file that can be printed. If a CxF color is specified, it can easily be incorporated in the most popular page layout applications.
  • Ink Supplier – needs to mix exact colors, not just CMYK screen combinations, but also many spot colors (Brand Colors). CxF is compatible with advanced ink formulation software.
  • Press Process Control – consistency is paramount, even more so if color management is to be employed, CxF can be used as reference files for inline press measurement.
  • Post Production Quality Control – needs an objective measure, not subjective judgment. CxF can be used as a reference file for hand-held measurement devices.
  • Archive – requires long-term reliable storage, able to reproduce at a later date, and electronically transportable. CxF meets these requirements very nicely.
Attention New York City-area marketers and graphic designers: Join experts from X-Rite Pantone and Esko and explore Color Communications in-depth at Consolidated Graphics' exclusive "Lunch 'n Learn NYC" event on January 30 in Manhattan. Presentations begin at 10am, and include lunch. For more information and to register, go to

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Use POP Displays To Drive Sales

Even in the age of social media and the increasing embrace of mobile marketing techniques by retailers and consumers alike, store aisles and check-out counters remain a powerful location for displaying products and brand messaging in-store – and consumers respond to them with their wallets.

A LAMà opens in as little as 3 second,
with a 97% successful deployment rate.
Recent studies show that 74% of shoppers purchase an impulse item – and about 70% of brand purchase decisions are made in-store.  According to POPAI (Point of Purchase Advertising International), one in six in-store purchase decisions are made when brand displays are present, and 66% of products “grabbed” from in-store displays are purchased.  Yet not every display results in sales; to be successful, POP displays must successfully serve as a “conduit” to bring shoppers to the retail shelf.

A key consideration for product manufacturers and retailers alike is the in-store deployment rate of a POP display.  Some larger displays are designed with a high degree of complexity, which can lead to low rates of successful deployment in the store, as low as 45%.  A new generation of instant pop-up displays simplify the set-up process, resulting in deployment rates as high as 95%.

Case in point is the LAMà -- an instant display made of paperboard that is foldable, and which opens automatically into position in as little as three seconds.  And because it also folds down just as easily, the LAMà saves marketers up to two-thirds in their POP shipping expense. Retailers like such displays because virtually any employee can set it up successfully, and they are highly flexible – from counter-top models to floor displays that accommodate hundred of pounds of product samples.

Despite the growing influence of mobile marketing and on-line price comparison, consumers remain engaged with the physicality of the in-store shopping experience.  A smartly designed LAMà  or POP display, which is positioned correctly in the store and features a high deployment rate, can result in a 12% lift in sales and increased brand awareness.

Wetzel Brothers, a Consolidated Graphics company in Cudahy, WI, is the largest manufacturer of the LAMà in the United States. For more information about POP solutions including the LAMà, contact Randy Hoffmann at Wetzel Brothers,

Monday, July 22, 2013

For Creative Mailing Programs, Go “Flat” (as in, "Automated Flat")

Contributor: Michelle Yun, President, Tucker Printers

I hear it frequently from clients, as we discuss their product sampling and creative mailing program needs: “We’d really like to be putting ‘this’ [their new product] directly into our prospects’ hands, but postage is just too expensive…”

It’s true that postage expense has gone nowhere but up in recent years, a trend that will surely continue. However, whenever I’m faced with this complaint from a client or interested prospect, I’ve got a sure and easy answer for them: “Go flat,” as in automated flat.
Part package and part envelope, the Flex Mailer® features a unique design that enables items as small as a thumb drive and as large as a t-shirt to be mailed as an “automated flat” at the far more advantageous rate. It features a highly flexible outer “skin” coupled with a unique inner tray design. The outer skin is tight enough to allow flexibility on both vertical and horizontal axes, while maintaining sufficient surface tension variations less than ¼ of an inch. Postage savings of up t o $1.00 per piece are typical.

Depending on the mailing, however, savings can be even more dramatic. Consider this example:

Our client, an agricultural and marketing company based in the Midwest, was planning a mailing to promote a new product. The mailing included printed materials to be sent directly to 18,000 recipients in a unique, three dimensional carton or package.

However, the cost to deliver such a package as a parcel or via the large shipping companies was about $6 to $7 per unit. Ouch! We recommended the Flex Mailer, which could also be customized inside and out with the desired branding. The cost to deliver the material at automated flat rates via Flex Mailer was $1.32 per unit – a savings of $90,000!

As shown in this example, there’s no need to curtail direct physical connections with prospects by mail, to effectively demonstrate new products and capabilities…and increase sales. All you need to do is go flat, with the Flex Mailer.

Tucker Printers is a Consolidated Graphics, Inc. company in Henrietta, NY. For more information about the Flex Mailer or Tucker Printers, visit Contact Michelle Yun at

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

9 Best Practices for Effective QR Codes

Quick Response (QR) codes should be viewed as an extension of direct marketing, as they use many of the same principles of direct mail and consumer outreach marketing. Think of them as a print device that directs the viewer to an extended online marketing conversation.  More importantly, from a direct mail perspective, QR codes incite a “call-to-action” response. By scanning a QR code, you are a respondent to a marketer’s or merchandiser’s offer to access an online website. In doing so, this implies, directly or indirectly, that you are interested in the product(s) or service(s).

The better we understand the “rules of engagement” for QR codes, the higher the response rates will be.  Nine best practices to follow when using QR codes include:
  1. Design a mobile site experience specifically for the QR code purpose, preferably a micro-site, instead of a full website
  2. Optimize the site for all major mobile browsers (approximately 85% of QR codes are scanned on a Smartphone)
  3. Create light, fast-loading graphics on the micro-site
  4. Keep the site design simple with big buttons & easy touch navigation (think “thumb-able”)
  5. Make it easy to connect with the brand via phone, email, or Twitter
  6. Ensure the internet is available where the audience will scan the QR code  (i.e. not the subway or airplane)
  7. Lead people to what they should buy, join, visit, or share
  8. Conclude with the “call-to-action,” answering the question “why should I?”
  9. Test, test, test -- tweak the design, and then test some more.
From a design point of view, the biggest missed opportunity is to generate a generic QR code from available resources, and simply use it as is. Imagery, photography, and any other aesthetically pleasing features should be used to make the print QR code more engaging, enticing, and inviting. Maximize brand-building opportunities by integrating brand and logo elements into the QR code, as well as other symbols, colors, and drop shadows.

The complete version of this feature  also appears in the current issue of Consolidated Graphics’ emerge magazine, under the title “QR Codes: Be Creative.”

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Respect the Power of Data

As any marketer can tell you, data is one of the most valuable assets businesses possess, and it needs to be managed with the same care and protection as cash and other physical assets. The more that marketers understand the context within which it exists, the more power it can wield. But with power comes responsibility, and as data becomes more easily accessible, the grey area between intrusive and intelligent marketing grows.

Consumers are more willing to share personal information when they clearly understand how it will be utilized and are made aware that data is being gathered prior to the time of collection. From transparency clauses on websites to verbally communicating why the data is being requested, companies can encourage their customers and prospects to freely share information in order to better meet their needs.

The boundaries of what is considered appropriate vary greatly among cultures and individuals, and merit as much art as science. While companies can take steps to ensure the accuracy and integrity of their data, no information management program is flawless, so it’s wise to anticipate failures in data usage and pre-emptively determine how to effectively respond in such situations.

Seven Best Practices for Data Usage

1.      Customers are clearly and consistently made aware of how, when and why data is gathered.
2.      You publicly state why a customer is being targeted via digital and print communications.
3.      Your company employs a data compliance department, either internally or externally.
4.      All customer data is secured utilizing state-of-the-art technology.
5.      You provide opt-out opportunities for customers and prospects who do not wish to share personal information.
6.      You regularly ask customers about their level of comfort regarding data use, via surveys or feedback loops.
7.      Crisis management processes are clearly communicated internally, prior to an actual data breach.

Respect the Power of Data  appears in its entirety in the current issue of Consolidated Graphicsemerge® magazine.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Exploring a New Age of Print at emerge 2013

Consolidated Graphics’ fifth annual emerge conference is upon us, and our team is putting the finishing touches on preparations to showcase the latest evolution of print and related technology at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, beginning tomorrow night.

Everytime we do emerge, we are awed by the level of quality, innovation and entrepreneurship demonstrated by the print industry.  This year at emerge, nearly 1,000 guests will see a brand new “emerge experience” – our interactive exhibit of printing and marketing applications including packaging, grand format, digital, technology, direct mail and more.

They will also experience the third annual Encore® Awards. This year we received our most competitive set of entries yet, with more than 400 entries submitted across the nine competition categories.  The conversations sparked amongst our judges during their review of the entries was both intriguing and refreshing – clearly “paper,” and the ingenious use of substrates, is definitely back based on what we saw.

And the attendees will be exposed to the innovative thoughts of our keynote speakers, from Nike, MGM Resorts International, Adobe, United Airlines and the creative experts at Leo Burnett.  We are also offering guests a selection of 53 educational sessions, in topics ranging from marketing and creative to print production and technology solutions.

As emerge 2013 took shape, it became clear to us that we’re on the cusp of a new age of print. While technology continues to fill some of print’s more traditional roles, there is an enhanced appreciation for this medium that remains at the core of our company and industry. Print today is being used to deliver the most important and meaningful of messages. Print design has taken to new heights, paper substrates are becoming more tactile and substantive, special attention is paid to color and ink, and formats are virtually limitless.

Consolidated Graphics’ desire to innovate, create and lead the print industry forward only continues to increase, and we’re looking forward to sharing new developments and tackling new challenges that can be solved when we gather together as an industry at emerge!

Emerge 2013 is a private, invitation-only event being held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, April 30 to May 2. For more information about emerge, go to

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Is Your Company a Good Fit for Print Management?

Contributor: Craig Condry, Vice President, Strategic Engagement, Consolidated Graphics

Consolidated Graphics has an important message for any organization that prints literature or other materials (and who doesn't, really?). By streamlining internal processes and taking a holistic approach to print buying, significant efficiencies in print procurement can be achieved. The approach is called "print management," and it's changing the way companies purchase print and related technologies, resulting in savings up to 20 percent in some cases.

But how do companies know if they are good candidates for print management? Nearly any company, regardless of size or market segment, can streamline and gain savings to some degree. However, successful candidates tend to share certain characteristics and needs. A starting point for any interested company may begin by taking the following yes/no quiz:
  1. Do you have a desire to centralize of strengthen the procurement function?
  2. Are there multiple buying locations, departments or divisions?
  3. Are you open to a strategic relationship versus transactional bidding?
  4. Is there a need for national (or global) service?
  5. Do you have senior executive sponsorship?
  6. Is there a willingness to provide benchmark data?
  7. Are you open to process and procedural changes?
  8. Are you being charged to identify double-digit cost reductions across multiple commodities?
  9. Do you want to get away from dozens or even hundreds of niche print providers in favor of a more strategic, single source relationship?
Companies that answer yes to two or more of these questions may be good candidates for print management. The only way to know for sure, is to proceed with a print assessment audit utilizing Six Sigma processes, which in short order will determine the current overall cost of ownership for print within the organization, including hidden costs that weigh down margin. In addition to printed products, it's important to focus on process during the assessment, including administration, obsolescence, packaging, freight, fulfillment, distribution and storage, to name a few. From that point, evaluation will continue with solutions ultimately proposed to streamline and create process and product improvements that deliver savings, from product design through supply chain, production and fulfillment.

The results of a strategic print management partnership can come in various forms, including reductions and stabilizations of pricing based on historical data and purchase patterns, or earned rebates. Now, more than ever, is the time for companies to take a holistic approach to print procurement, and take a look at all areas within the print supply chain to save money and increase competitiveness.

Craig Condry, Consolidated Graphics
Craig Condry
Vice President,
Strategic Engagement,
Consolidated Graphics
For more information about Print Management, contact Craig Condry at