2021 Innovator of the Year: Johnson & Quin Improves Direct Mail with Color Inkjet
In today’s printing industry, the concept of innovation is wide in definition, but rather narrow in its goal. Leading companies have grasped many tools to define themselves, increase profitability, and differentiate. They utilize new technologies, systems integration, an expanded product mix, exemplary customer service, and more.
As a group, the eight companies included in the 2021 class of Printing Impressions’ Innovators of the Year demonstrate new approaches that can move printing businesses forward and possess strong insight into where the industry is going. Even amid the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, these companies succeed, grow, focus, and inspire.
This year’s innovators were nominated by a group of printing industry experts and consultants, who identified them as notables. The summary of Johnson & Quin that follows shares what makes this company innovative, interesting, and exceptional. The insight it presents may provide the inspiration you need to take your company to a new level, or in a new direction.
Johnson & Quin | Niles, Ill.
As a high-volume direct mail producer, Johnson & Quin, which was founded in 1876 (making it the oldest company among this group of innovators), made a profound switch to high-speed inkjet printing in 2019. That change — to three Screen color inkjet systems — reports VP and Principal Andrew Henkel, was precipitated by the fact the company’s clients had accepted color digital output and were happy with the results.
“It felt like a leap of faith,” says Bob Arkema, the company’s executive VP, “but it seemed like an inevitability. We could take advantage of being early inkjet adopters, or wait until we were forced to [invest]. It felt riskier not to do it.” To keep up with its three high-speed inkjet lines, Johnson & Quin has also been investing heavily, primarily in inserting systems.
“Johnson & Quin, is using continuous-feed inkjet mainly for mid-level-priced, good clients, such as cell phone providers, etc.,” points out Marco Boer, VP of IT Strategies. “They are using software to optimize postal discounts and delivery response to the most efficient levels possible, often pre-sorting at the print level to get the highest postage discounts.” The company’s 100% color inkjet approach makes them stand out in the direct mail space.
Asked about how innovation has factored into Johnson & Quin’s success, Henkel says the adoption of color inkjet has helped deliver greater speed-to-market and strong postal savings. He adds that, as postage rates go up, the need for mailings to be effective — and to deliver a more personalized experience — increases.
Arkema adds that the company had to work to migrate its customers over from conventional printing, and that the new processes allowed clients greater control and a broader choice of compelling approaches. “We’ve made a massive investment,” Arkema points out, “and we’re betting on the use of more one-to-one personalization as we move forward.”
According to Henkel, a great deal of Johnson & Quin’s innovative success comes from its culture, and the fact that both customers and employees stay engaged with the company for long periods of time. “And we continue to invest in new technologies in order to keep them engaged,” he says. To this, Arkema adds that the company’s move to a new printing platform, “made it fun again, and our people had the flexibility and willingness to go along.”
The path ahead for Johnson & Quin is to help clients figure out how to have their marketing strategies effectively supported by the technologies available. This is done, Henkel says, through the creation of new, relatable marketing tactics and the ability to manage massive mailing projects, while emphasizing strong quality control.
Further, the company is keeping an eye on omnichannel marketing approaches, which Henkel views as both “blossoming” and “somewhat inevitable.” Even amid rising postal costs, Henkel and Arkema agree, customers are getting back into direct mail, and a pullback in mail volume is not expected.