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SPECIAL REPORT VARIABLE DATA PRINTING -- Methods May Vary

October 2005
Fall is prime time for professional sports, and many fans are too well acquainted with the sentiment, "Just wait until next year." For years, the same could be said for proponents of variable data printing (VDP). Early adopters of VDP often ended up with a great service in search of a market.

Over time, the Web-to-print business model came to the forefront. It evolved around providing online, template-driven solutions for companies that market through remote agents, dealers and distributors. As the market continues to mature, a growing number of digital printing operations are developing other formulas for success.

Daniels Marketing Support Services, Asheville, NC

Daniels Marketing Support Services has gained a competitive edge by flipping that term around into print-to-Web.

"Our market space has been focused on using variable data printing to drive people to the Web to complete some type of transaction," explains Vaughn Fisher, COO. "We have the graphic arts and IT abilities to develop what we call customized micro-sites, which are a great companion to VDP in that they provide a personalized conduit of information.

The company grew out of a commercial printing operation, Daniels Graphics, and there's also a sister company, Daniels Communications, nearby that is an inbound call center offering fulfillment services, order taking and more.

Fisher says the organization first moved into variable data work in the late 1990s by doing black-only pieces and imprinting of color shells. It has since added an HP Indigo 3050 digital press to do color work and now uses a Kodak Digimaster 9110 for black printing. "We decided on the HP Indigo mainly because its output looked most like offset printing," he notes.

The parent organization's conventional printing operation includes several multicolor sheetfed offset presses. It has developed a specialty in light packaging (non folding) for the textile industry and produces a lot of CD carriers for a local disc replicator.

In the VDP arena, recruiting campaigns for smaller colleges have become a big market for the company. So big, in fact, it established "edu.Marc" as a division of Daniels Graphics to pursue that business.

"Small liberal arts colleges, especially in our market area (the Southeast), have been struggling to attract students," Fisher says. "We've helped several smaller schools do one-to-one campaigns to prospective students and had great results."

Despite the success Daniels has had with micro-Websites, its COO notes one such student recruitment campaign provided a surprising reminder that it's risky to presume what response channel a target audience will prefer.
 

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