Tom Kubinski
Printing Consultant
Direct: 612-278-1568
Fax: 612-334-5879
Cell: 612-760-3700
1109 Zane Avenue North
Minneapolis, MN. 55422
Phone: 612-375-1150
Fax: 612-334-5879
Toll Free: 1-800-230-2828

Branding - 22 Laws Of
Brand Warfare
Creative Coatings Techniques
Desktop Techniques
Digital / Variable Printing
Direct Mail Raise Response, Lower Costs
FSC Certification
For Direct Marketers
In House Mailing Capabilities
Ink Tour
Paper Mill Tour - Coated
Paper Mill Tour - Uncoated
Picking the Right Paper
PDF Formats
PDF Info & Quark vs. InDesign
PODi - Digital Print Success Story
Postal Increases & Requirement Changes
Post it to the Web vs. Print
PURL - Avoid Dog House Campaign
QR Codes
Save Disk Space
Social Media -- The Basics
Social Media vs. Print
Top File Issues
UV Burn
Ways to Save Money
What Sets Sexton Apart?
Why Print in a Down Market?
Why Work With TK?

October 2010 TK's Korner
Digital Printing / Variable Data or Business Development

  • Raise Response Rate
  • Increase Total Purchase Dollars Per Customer or Order
  • Increase ROI
  • Lower Costs per Response
  • Lower Costs per Sale
  • Gather pertinent information on each of your customers to market more effectively

This issue explores digital printing and how it is revolutionizing the way businesses reach out to customers as well as how they develop their business or marketing strategies. How does digital printing differs from conventional offset printing and why it's fueling the growth of One-to One Marketing using Variable Data Printing (VDP).

"Sexton Printing has been providing Digital, VDP printing for over 2 years now"

"Lower Cost Per Response"

"Cost Per Sale and ROI"

"Improved Response Rates with Digital Printing"

"Integrated Direct Marketing Programs Have Their "Value""

"A Personalization Test Study"

DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY is changing the face of printing. It makes printing faster, easier to produce, more flexible and reduces the need to produce/hold huge inventories. It is transforming it from a mass medium that is a 'spray and pray' one into a customized marketing One-to-One.

Blending digital printing technology with electronic customer databases, VDP allows you to create personalized promotions that not only call each member of your audience by name, but also reflect their personal characteristics, lifestyles or tastes.

VARIABLE DATA PRINTING provides a powerful new tool to win the attention of your audience, one person at a time, and frequently, capture higher sales, lower your cost per sale/response and increase your ROI.

VDP is a form of on-demand printing in which elements such as text, graphics and images may be changed from one printed piece to the next without stopping or slowing down the press, using information from a database.

(This issue won't make you an expert on the subject over night, it will show you the potential of digital technology using VDP-and how it can help you reach your communications objectives.)

What's behind the change is the marriage of reliable, high-speed digital printing and sophisticated database software, which combine to produce One-to-One Marketing using VDP for full color documents that look and feel comparable to conventional offset printing.

There are 2 main operational modes
In one methodology, the document template and the variable information are both sent to the press, and the raster image processor (RIP) combines the two to produce each unique document.

The other methodology, is to combine the static and variable elements prior to printing using specialized VDP software applications. These applications produce an optimized print stream, such as PostScript, which organize the print stream efficiently so that the static elements are only processed once by the RIP.

Digital Defined:
With most types of digital printing, there's no film, color proofing, stripping or plate making, no press make-readies, no time consuming changeovers and less waste. Because the images that appear are generated digitally, they can most often be changed 'on the fly'.

Digital technology permits quick turnaround, immediate finishing, no wait time for drying and allows for low-quantity print runs. Books and brochures can be printed on-demand, as they are ordered, eliminating the need to print large quantities of materials and then hold them in inventory.

Digital Goes Personal:
Communicators now have the ability to target messages more precisely than ever before, and they're going to town with it. Like hearing your name across a crowded room, personalized communications cut through the clutter and help establish a different relationship-you're not just selling, you're speaking with prospects person-to-person.

The returns:
While some claims seem inflated, research and experience indicate that personalized communications increase customer retention, the size of the order and response rates 6 times over.

Others say, variable printing varies from double the normal return on the first level to 10-15 times on fully variable. It depends on the data and the relevancy but it is very effective tool to increase your ROI on your mailings. Even higher per-page costs, variable data printing can make for a lower cost per response-and higher returns form your communications investments.

How to Increase Response:

NOTE: +600% (this equates up to 16% total) Full variable data, personalization, customization, database segmentation. ie; specific targets, smaller quantity, more opportunities to respond.

  1. Use what you know about your customer/prospect
  2. Send them a relevant message
  3. Ask them to act or take action in a specific manner

Variable Data Results:

NOTE when BRC is "pre-completed" with recipients name & address, return rate increases 13%.

Personalization Drives Response (2004 study)
1%=response rate for broadcast black n white no personal info
+1.5%=response rate to black n white with personalization
+1.5%=response rate with 4cp no personalization
+2%=response rate with 4cp with personalization
+6.5%=response rate with 4cp and a deeper personalization in form of purchase history

NOTE it's not the quantity that is sent out, but the number of responses you get back that matters.

A Successful Campaign

NOTE: One factor that has been left out, is timing. It is critical that you time your programs based on what is going on with your business, cycles of purchasing, world events etc.

6 Important Items for Direct Mail

  1. Integrity of Mail List -if not geared towards your target audience, will not matter
  2. Timing -what is going on in marketplace, your industry, purchasing cycles, world events, etc.
  3. Offer -what you are offering them and why they should act
  4. Incentive -reward for acting in the manner you wish them to
  5. Call to Action -is it clear on what you want them to do, how and by when
  6. Creative -marketing vehicle you use, creative concepts, visuals, copy etc.

NOTE: It is not the cost of the piece, but the RETURN it brings in. This could be: increased interest, responses, activations, dollars per sale, sales, total revenue or information gained in order to make better decisions in the future.

Data Base is the most important lever:

  1. must be clean
  2. must be well defined
  3. limited target group=data mined and clearly detailed
  4. will outscore an ill defined, broad targeted group
  5. Drayton Bird's direct marketing expert estimates a good database might imply:
    • 6x's higher response rate with good data base
    • 2x's higher response rate with good offer
    • 2x"s higher response rate with if the timing is right
    • 1.25x's higher response rate with good creative
    • 1.2x's higher response rate with response possibilities

NOTE: 18% of Americans relocate, 2% of your list moves monthly

Mail list hygiene:

  1. merge/purge
  2. zip code sort
  3. Cass certification
  4. address standardization
  5. delivery sequence file
  6. delivery points for bar-coding-specific delivery points

Sexton Printing has been assisting our customers with their mail list needs for over 12 years.

There are actually several levels of variable printing -
Level 1STATIC conventional printing with no variable data, where the salutation or name changes on each copy. Fairly simple, but doesn't increase your level of return greatly from a mass direct mail.
Level 2VERSIONING a number of different versions of documents are prepared to appeal to different groups, determined by demographics, income, location, interests or some other characteristic. Where you might have different levels of variability for different markets. This can involve text and picture changes based upon what segment it is going on.
Level 3FULL VARIABILITY where the text and pictures can change totally from copy to copy
Level 4 VERSIONING HYBRID-where you combine both the static and personalization. ie. a web run for the guts along with the personalized covers or center spreads to appeal to the many along with the one-to-one marketing.

(These are done by having a base design programmed to show what will change and then a database that will actually drive the changes of the fields that will change.)

Five levels of complexity -
Level 1VERSION building pages that change easily without significant work with a database. IE Sale Sheets
Level 2PERSONALIZED Materials with a common design having a basic name or other simple database change.
Level 3CUSTOMIZEDMore complex page layout that requires higher-level database support. Individual page elements are determined by logic that is used to access the database. IE more complex direct mail and newsletters.
Level 4TRANSACTIONAL Financial transactions that incorporate personalized and customized content with financial data. IE mutal fund and billing statements.
Level 5FULLY CUSTOMIZED Involves use of a sophisticated database that contains specific detailed information about an individual. The data is used to generate completely unique text, graphics, images and template content.

While VDP opens new options in communications, it's best to proceed carefully. You and your printer should match the equipment to the demands of the job and each type of equipment has its own weakness and strengths. Working with Sexton, you'll be reassured that we are experienced in handling both the printing technology and the information systems needed to drive it.

When starting out, it's best to keep things both simple and subtle. While it's possible to personalize virtually every aspect of a publication, large numbers of permutations become more difficult to manage, simply assembling all of the images and reviewing all the options can be challenging. It also appears that the days of boldly calling attention to personalized information are coming to an end. Today, many of the best examples seamlessly weave personalization into the project without flaunting it. The goal is to reach customers, not to showcase your technical prowess.

Before you Decide to go variable, however, it's good to keep a few things in mind -

  1. Not all commercial printers are equipped to handle VDP, which requires a broader range of skills.
  1. Software is easier to use, yet, graphic arts professionals are likely to need the help of information technology specialist to acquire and manage the data required, and at most of the printers that offer digital printing, IT experts are full-fledged members of the production team.
  1. Of course, the data must be good. Nothing blunts the impact of a personalized publication more than a mangled name or title.
  1. VDP requires a new way of looking at costs. Both production times and costs are likely to be higher, but so are the responses and purchases, which can make VDP more cost effective.
  1. No need to print and store large quantities of copies that may never be used or that quickly become out-of-date.
  1. In the long run, it might actually be less expensive to pay as you go and only print the number of publications that are required at the moment, without tying up capital in brochures stacked on a warehouse floor.

Biggest difference, most systems rely on toners, not inks.

Some types of digital printing machines

After they are applied, toners are typically baked onto the surface of the paper at a high temperature. This is only a problem when using conventional shells. ie. running a large conventional shell program and then coming back with a digital imprint over a conventionally printed area having color such as a tinted background. The conventional inks could liquefy causing a smeared type look. A test run would be a good idea. Best case, imprint onto a conventional shell on the white paper surface only.

  1. Many experts recommend against using toner-based printing systems to print letterhead stationary, feeding it through a high heat laser printer might cause your name or logo to lose definition.

  2. Compared to conventional inks, toner is also somewhat more likely to crack when folded. It's important to avoid large floods of color or heavy toner coverage on the folds. Using perfect binding rather than saddle stitching will also help reduce cracking.

  3. Dry toner-based systems typically cannot print at the high resolutions available with the best offset printing, so the use of extremely fine screens should be avoided.

  4. The electrostatic charge used to attract the toner often varies in strength across the sheet, which can be make it difficult to control gradations.

  5. Since few system allow for the use of spot colors, it can be difficult to match corporate colors or to print metallic inks.

  6. Keep in mind that what you see on the monitor is NOT what you'll see on press. The colors on screen are inherently more vibrant and encompass more of the entire spectrum.

Toner Based Digital Pritning Systems:
Most toner-based systems rely on some type of electro photographic printing technology. Electrostatically charged particles of toner are attracted to areas of the paper that have received an electrical charge. Then the toner is fused to the paper to form the image.

Xerographic Systems:
A light source scans the image and reflects it onto an electrostatically charged charged photoreceptive drum. The drum passes over a toner roller, and dry or liquid toners are attracted to the charged image areas of the drum. The drum deposits the toners on an electrostatically charged piece of paper or other substrate, and the toner is fixed to the substrate by heat and pressure. The image an any remaining toner particles are then erased from the drum which is ready for its next image.

Laser Printing Systems:
Also rely on electro photographic technology. The artwork is scanned, converted into digital data and then transferred onto an electrically charged drum using either a laser or a light emitting diode. Toners are attracted to the image areas on the drum, which then transfers them to the substrate.

Ink Jet Based:
Rather than relying on electrophotographictechnology, these systems use drops of ink applied to the substrate to create the image. Drops leave the nozzle at a rate of up to one million per second, producing a glossy image with a look that comes close to that of a continuous tone photograph. They use electrical charges to guide the placement of the drops on the substrate. Drop-on-demand inkjet printing applies drops of specially formulated liquid or solid inks in response to a digital signal.

Hybrid Technologies:
Combine digital and conventional offset technology. One type; (DI), Direct Imaging, work like a standard sheetfed offset press, but the plates are imaged and prepared right on the machine. DI presses can match the performance of high quality conventional offset presses, but they do not allow for variable data, because once the plates have been prepared, they can only print identical copies of the same image.

Variety of Digital Papers:

Digital Paper Chart

Neenah's Digital Papers

Having the right paper is important too. Papers used with digital printing should be engineered to work well with toners and stand up to the heat that can be generated during the image fusion process. A strong surface helps to protect against the picking sometimes caused by tackier waterless inks. A smooth surface helps to hold the toner evenly.

It's especially important to control the moisture content of the paper before and during printing. Digital paper typically contains less moisture than conventional offset papers, so there's less moisture to evaporate through the printed image when the toners are fused by heat. Both temperature and moisture content are critical for the paper to receive the correct electrostatic charge during digital printing.

Generally it is best to avoid papers with heavy textures, since the toner may not adhere evenly or might rub off on the high spots. Always make sure that the paper's basis weight matches the specifications of the equipment that will be used to print the project.

Food for Thought:
Repetition-is the mother of recognition and learning. The more often you hit the target market with different and creative pieces, the better chance of having them recognize and purchase/act on your offer

More info listed below that you may find of interest:

Case Studies

Other issues of TK's Korners that may be of interest to you;
be sure to check them out!

Hope this helps and stay tuned for the next issue of TK's Korner. You never know what might be covered!

If you have a production issue not discussed above that you would like me to address, or a project that needs to be looked at, please give me a call or send me an email. I will do whatever it takes to ensure you get the best value for every marketing dollar invested.

You can also check out my profile, join my network and view more client comments on LinkedIn at:

Referrals are greatly appreciated, if you know someone I could help, or who might like to receive TK's Korner, please let me know.

Take care and have a great day!

Tom Kubinski, Printing Consultant

Printing Consultant Who Helps You Make Good Impressions
Direct: 612-278-1568
Cell: 612-760-3700

TK Out Standing in his Field

(PS: If you'd like, Go to and sign up for the Sexton E Trends, a FREE e message service offering print production tips and industry trends designed to make your job easier and your production workflow more efficient.)

Make sure to check out other issues of TK's Korner!

Selected portions reprinted in Print & Media Buyer, a national magazine for the print industry (Search for Tom Kubinski).

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