By Cassandra Balentine
Printed output—especially communications meant to make a marketing impact—requires careful consideration across all angles, from design, print, and finishing quality to functionality and uniqueness.
Beyond traditional paper-based text and cover media offerings, providers of substrates compatible with digital printing equipment are hard at work introducing materials that provide functionally—such as magnets and pressure-sensitive, adhesive-backed film—and enhancements like textured substrates that excite the senses.
“The driving demand for specialty products is the printer’s desire to provide more value and variety to end users,” comments Greg Kestler, director of technical products, pressure-sensitive paper and printable films, GPA Specialty Substrate Solutions. “Our customers want to be a one-source shop for their clients, and they search for ways to add the kind of value that prevents their customers from having to go elsewhere.”
He adds that the company enjoys the opportunity to educate printers on new specialty products and applications that can help them keep more work in house.
Lanie Dattilo, director of marketing, Masterpiece Graphix, sees demand for specialty products being driven by the end customer. “It’s getting harder to attract customers and keep them loyal to or interested in a brand, they are always looking for a new look, use, or eco-friendliness that they can relate to,” she says. “Substrates are an invaluable part of the printing process because when the customer is choosing what to buy; they’re feeling our materials and reading the printed information to make that purchase choice.”
To be successful among increased competition, print providers must be the master of their craft. They should be willing to test a new ideas. All of this is in addition to providing the quality print and turnaround times print buyers have come to expect.
Andy Danihel, director of marketing, Tekra, a division of EIS, Inc., points out that digital press manufacturers have done a great job increasing the speed and capabilities of their products, especially with the ability to print onto plastic films.
“Digital equipment is no longer the differentiator for printers—it is what printers do with their digital equipment that makes the difference,” says Michael J. Madura, Jr., VP, digital, Mohawk. More materials translate to more opportunities and business. “Printers have also become more educated about the difference that quality materials make and they recognize the potential and value-added opportunities for their customers.”
Ron Pergande, director of digital media, GPA, explains that as technology becomes more versatile, people realize they can produce specialty items faster and more efficiently. “These items are customized, personalized, and often used in short-run applications such as photobooks or direct mail tailored for each recipient.”
He adds that specialty products allow digital print providers to keep jobs in house. “Items such as pre-kiss cut labels and pre-converted substrates reduce the cost and time associated with post-press finishing. The value is put into the sheet before it even goes to press, reducing the amount of processing to the production. Just print, cut, and ship!”
Specialty products offer a look/functionality that often cannot be reached with print alone. “These come in the form of novelty appearances like flakes, glitter, or metalized film, which are utilized for esthetic, eye-catching qualities to functional, more durable materials like destructible or voidable film constructions for security applications,” says Steve Allard, product manager, FLEXcon. “Most often, these products are made with more expensive materials and occasionally, the demand is for smaller size opportunities,” he adds.
John De Leon, director of sales and marketing, Flexmag Industries at Arnold Magnetic Technologies, shares that the primary driver for the demand of specialty media products comes from end users looking to stand out from their competitors. One example of this is magnetic media options, which he says are easy to print on, install, change out, and can create a look that people will notice and remember.
Additionally, the value add per print is attractive. “The profitability of printing on specialty media compared to paper is much higher, so printers want to take on more print jobs on specialty media and plastic films,” adds Danihel.
GPA’s Kestler agrees, “the printer providers use these products to produce transitional applications with a twist, bringing more value to both the end user and the application.”
A variety of common digitally printed applications benefit from expanded media options, offering innovative solutions that stand out or make a niche for a print provider.
Mohawk’s Madura says printers pride themselves on finding creative solutions for their customer’s print needs. They use the company’s range of specialty digital substrates in many ways, ranging from tear- and water-resistant synthetic substrates for menus, manuals, maps, parking passes, and signage; to embedded cards and magnets for dynamic direct mail programs; and dimensional packaging for one-off personalized pieces that make a lasting impression.
“In our business we see screen printers installing an assortment of digital printers to complement their current business,” admits Danihel. He says they use the unique characteristics of the digital printer capabilities along with the specialty print media to carve out a niche or two in the markets they serve.
He also sees printers pushing the envelope by combining the powers of digital print with specialty media offerings. He points to the example of Tekra’s Hewlett-Packard (HP) Indigo coated films used for the card market. “Our coated films, when printed, hold up to the post-printing process rigors of laminating, die cutting, and card market testing, allowing digitally printed films to be used for high-end gift cards and security cards where performance is crucial.”
Jules Gonzales, territory sales manager, GPA, says specialty products are chosen to produce end-use applications with a higher perceived value. “Common applications like business cards are pushing the envelope by going thicker, bolder, and textured. Non-traditional substrates, such as pearlescent papers and clear vinyl can add a wow factor and garner more attention, which definitely increases the value of the finished product.”
Jim Cirigliano, marketing manager, Magnum Magnetics, sees a role for magnetic media in retail environments in particular. “Retailers are coming to the realization that magnetic signage is convenient, interchangeable, and easy to transport and store,” he says.
Flexmag’s De Leon adds that print providers are starting to understand that they can print directly to magnets with existing equipment, eliminating costly steps of printing on a film or vinyl first and then laminating to a magnet. “They are also learning that their customers like having a promotional product that ‘sticks around’ longer to better promote their products and services. Both of these benefits allow print providers to utilize magnetic media in all kinds of indoor and outdoor applications,” he says.
For transitioning from larger to smaller runs, compatible media is an essential component. FLEXcon’s Allard says he’s come across many instances where a customer takes an existing FLEXcon product that may have been printed conventionally, only to have the customer come back and ask for a smaller amount weeks later. “Setting up flexo takes time and effort, and often requires quite a bit of makeready waste before printing the first saleable image. Our customers can often take the same material they buy from us for these large runs and have a smaller quantity either already available or quickly manufactured at a smaller quantity, primed, and ready for their digital needs.”
Getting Into It
Founded in 2007, SunDance Marketing Solutions is a commercial printing and marketing provider in Southeastern, FL.
The company offers a variety of services, including art publishing, commercial offset printing—up to 40 inches, a full in-house bindery—including perfect binding, stitching, and UV coating, digital print, wide format print, mailing and fulfillment, and in-house finishing.
JohnHenry Ruggieri says that about 30 percent of its business is digital, and it is growing. “We purchased an entry-level, toner-based system six years ago and now we’ve moved up to a professional HP Indigo 5600,” he says. The company relies on GPA as its primary media supplier.
According to Ruggieri, when selecting media for a particular job, some customers are very involved. He says they have made joint calls with GPA and its bigger customers. Clients will sometimes specify what type and vendor to use for their media. “Other customers just ask for generic and in that case, we substitute GPA since it runs better,” he says.
SunDance is a consignment customer of GPA, which means it stocks GPA products on its floor and then are billed when used. “This allows us a much quicker turn on digital jobs,” says Ruggieri.
He walks us through a recent application that required the use of a variety of media, the first SunDance digital sample book. It was created to showcase the shop’s unique substrates to customers, providing an easy guides as they make media selections for future projects.
“We produced 500 on our first run and just finished another 250 rerun. It was originally used in our open house, but now it is handed out by sales representatives and occasionally mailed to prospects,” he says.
The overall design took several weeks and was a SunDance concept. GPA and others donated artwork used to help showcase the print provider’s capabilities. All production was done on SunDance equipment, which was completed in two days.
For the book, the company looked for media that would allow it to stand out as well as showcase its full capabilities along with providing as many solutions as possible.
Ruggieri admits that it was challenging to find artwork to fill clear and black substrates at first. “Having suppliers we could lean on was a big help,” he points out.
The sample books are a huge success. “We ran out of our first batch within a month. Now that we have reprinted, they are one of the most coveted sales tools we have. We literally have to keep them under lock and key because they are so sought after,” he remarks.
Ruggieri notes that SunDance’s media knowledge and selection is a key differentiating factor for the print provider. “Many customers have reduced their printing/marketing departments from ten to 12 employees to one to two. If we are able to help solve a problem through a media selection, it not only assists the customer, but also creates value for our company in the customer’s eyes,” he says.
SunDance is currently moving into its new facility and just invested in new finishing equipment, including a spot UV machine as well as a Duplo 646 Slitter/Cutter/Creaser. It is also in the market for a new 40-inch press. “We have focused more attention to cross-media campaigns and promotional products, but plan to keep offset and digital as our core business,” concludes Ruggieri.
Print providers must be well educated when it comes to their presses’ potential. As many stated in this article, the technology is there, but media can truly help differentiate a printer and make their work stand out.
“Awareness is one of the key factors driving demand for specialty products,” points out GPA’s Gonzales. “Often, customers might not realize that their digital press could easily print on so many different types of media, and concurrently, they’re discovering the variety of new applications they can produce with their current equipment.”
Following the example of SunDance, sample books are a great resource for sales and customers, while enabling printers to get the hang of different media options.
Look to our annual Media & Substrates guide, found in this issue, for a quick and easy reference for both traditional and specialty media options. dps
Jul2014, DPS Magazine