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Burdge--Promoting Corporate Identities

October 1998
In the high-tech world of printing and packaging, the business of producing stationery may seem boring at best.

Au contraire.

In the jungle of junk mail and daily correspondence, foil stamping/embossing or engraving makes a letter stand out in the crowd. And when that letter represents a promotion or product, as it almost always does, a company's corporate identity—and business—get put on the line. Immediate awareness and long-term recognition are goals of businesses big and small.

Los Angeles-based Burdge, a premium provider of fine engraved stationery, has built a business helping companies reach these goals. In its three-generation history, Burdge has played an influential role in creating business images for more than 5,000 clients, including the Disney Art Editions, Hanna-Barbera, Sony Pictures, Warner Brothers and Toyota Motor Sales USA

The service that Burdge provides is crucial to these customers. When people identify with a company's prestige or its prestigious product or cause, research indicates they're more likely to respond in a receptive way. As studies conducted by Yankelovick/Clancy Shulman show, corporate identity materials rank second only to the annual sales of a company in conveying its prestige. And prestige (if only perceived) plays a powerful role.

For example, alumni officials from the University of Southern California (USC) sent out two solicitation mailings; one was printed on an offset press using black ink, and the other was foil-stamped and embossed using the school's mascot and colors. USC reports the embossed mailing had nearly two-and-a-half times the response of the plain solicitation.

There's a lesson to be learned from this experience: Corporate identity materials can be like a fine suit of clothes—and if a company "dresses" for success, it tends to achieve success.

Burdge has been outfitting customers with fashionable corporate identity materials for 75 years. While many printers are seeking their niche in the '90s, Burdge has long since capitalized on the one it developed in 1923, when founder Charles L. Burdge (a former master engraver for Hallmark Cards) started his own engraving business.

The 20,000-square-foot facility Burdge occupies today is a far cry from the small storefront shop where it began in downtown Los Angeles. In the early days, Charles would hand-engrave copper printing plates, and policemen on horseback would have to disperse crowds gathered to watch the artistry.

Today, the same hands-on craftsmanship can be seen in many of the company's products, hand-engraved with dies created on the premises.

But with such modern technologies as the fax machine, laser printer and e-mail, how deep is the demand for fine stationery? Very. If deep is a measure of how far customers will reach into their pockets to pay for such a service, Burdge has a well of potential that is continually being tapped.

The demand for fine stationery is on the rise. To stand out amidst the clutter of the Information Age, many corporations try to add a personal touch at every opportunity. John Naisbitt noted this sentiment in his 1982 bestseller "Megatrends": "As a society becomes more high-tech, it longs for high-touch. The more information we have flooding our everyday world, the more we crave the quality and handmade craftsmanship of yesterday."

Burdge considers this a timeless philosophy that increases in significance with each passing day.

"People want the same thing in 1998 as they did in 1923—to look good on paper," says President Donald "Don" R. Burdge. "From the beginning, we have been able to distinguish our customers over their competitors, through the business cards they hand out to the letterhead with which they correspond."

Interestingly, Burdge claims that while engraving is more time-intensive than other printing processes, his customers are usually surprised by its relatively low cost.

"They see the extra expense for engraving [just pennies more per stationery sheet] as an investment in one of their company's most important marketing tools—its corporate image," says Burdge, who helped his company become a pioneer, when it began etching engraving plates photomechanically. In 1981, Burdge reportedly was one of the first printing operations in the country to use this technology.

The melding of electronic prepress technology with the delicate artistry and craftsmanship of engraving is evidenced in the hundreds of awards the company has earned. Last year, Burdge won the Engraved Stationery Manufacturers Association (ESMA) Best of Category award and an ESMA Certificate of Excellence. In 1996, the awards included two Premier Printer's Best of Category, an ESMA Best of Show and an ESMA Certificate of Excellence.

In addition to its acclaimed engraved stationery and corporate image materials, Burdge offers a variety of printing and production services, including digital prepress, diemaking, lithographic printing and thermography.

Under the direction of Don Burdge, the business expanded and relocated to its present facility in Commerce City in 1990. While Don significantly increased business by incorporating computer-to-plate technology into the operation, he attributes the bulk of business success to his father, Charles R. "Dick" Burdge, who acquired the company's first offset printing press in 1948 to complement the existing engraving operation.

Burgeoning Burdge
Not only did Dick Burdge push the envelope (from engraved printing to offset lithography), he revolutionized the way the company did business. Before he joined the firm, all the company's work came from print brokers. Dick acted as the company's first sales rep, developing an impressive client base that included some of the city's largest and most prestigious companies.

Each Burdge made his mark, carrying on the family tradition while strengthening the business. However, Don wanted to go a step farther and create a niche within the engraving/embossing niche.

Seeing a small but lively market for engraved cartoon characters, Don started working with Disney in the early 1990s, then Warner Brothers by mid-decade, to create limited-edition prints of the country's most popular characters. These fine engravings, which sell for approximately $150 each, are sold at Disney and Warner Brothers retail stores nationwide.

Having been successful at developing a new niche, Burdge is considering moving into another specialty arena: product packaging, specifically in wine and cigar labels, and fragrance boxes, where engraving, embossing and foil stamping could create a potential profit center.

While Burdge will continue to explore niches for the firm's printing and engraving services, the company's focus is—and will always be—on providing top-quality letterhead and corporate identity materials.

"Over the past 75 years, our company has grown by acting as corporate image consultants for our clients," says Burdge. "It's our job to promote graphic consistency and quality for all of our clients' offices and divisions through corporate image materials, including stationery, envelopes, labels, business cards and product packaging."

—Cheryl A. Adams
 

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