VIVID IMPACT--A Vivid Vision
BY T.J. TEDESCO
A decade ago, Image Printing was a Louisville, KY-based commercial printer serving its local print market—but it had the vision to do a whole lot more. At the same time, Midland Communications Packaging, also based in Louisville, prided itself as a manufacturer of marketing solutions within the postpress segment of the graphic arts industry.
Today, the merged company, now called Vivid Impact, is a diversified graphic arts manufacturing enterprise that specializes in providing a range of communication solutions.
The concept of Vivid Impact dates back to 1989, when Greg Buchheit and Pete Smith bought Image Printing. With them came the vision of a tightly integrated, single-source graphic arts solutions provider. For the next decade, Buchheit and Smith grew the company through internal operations and external acquisitions.
Within the same industrial park, Midland Communications Packaging was known for loose-leaf binders, vinyl heat-sealed products and creative manufacturing solutions to packaging and presentation of marketing information. Both Midland Communications and Image Printing prided themselves at listening to the voice of their customer and building or solving unusual marketing material production problems. The companies shared a common vision. Since their manufacturing capabilities didn't overlap, the fit was natural and obvious.
Image Printing and Midland merged into a strategic partnership in mid-1998.
During the next 18 months, "communication packaging" and the management of the production of complex marketing projects through an integrated solutions approach became the mantra at newly named Vivid Impact. Immediately, they set their sights on concurrently winning national accounts and capturing a larger local market share.
To achieve these lofty goals, Vivid Impact relied on carefully cultivated strategic relationships with other manufacturing companies, which fortunately were already firmly in place.
Vivid management worked hard at getting their people to believe that no communication problem was too difficult to pursue. To drive this point home, they told their people and the marketplace, "If Ringling Brothers calls and asks if we can print its logo on the side of an elephant, we'd tell them to send a sample."
By January, Buchheit and John Clark, partner and chief development officer, were convinced that they had something special and focused on completely integrating their operations. Opportunity knocked. Graphic arts industry veteran Earl Shiring became a vested partner with the responsibility of president and CEO. Shiring brought a new and critical "big picture" corporate perspective to the company's vision. Shiring had been senior vice president of sales for Fetter Printing, a regional leader in the traditional sheetfed commercial printing industry.
Shiring made it very clear that he wouldn't have joined Vivid Impact if it were "just another printing company." As he says, "Vivid Impact opens a new category within the graphic arts industry. I firmly believe that our solutions approach with the multi-faceted manufacturing capability under one roof, coupled with our talented network of creative production resources, will lead the graphic arts communication industry into the future."
Shiring, along with two other partners, Tim Quinkert, vice president of key accounts, and Brad Wright, vice president of sales, put together a management team. Dan Rutledge, technology, Bob Goodman, manufacturing, and Marla Pinaire, administration, quickly established a feedback loop within the company so that internal workflow and processes would keep pace with evolving marketplace demands. Vivid's systems approach to solving customers' marketing production problem runs deep into the company.
Prior to the merger, Midland's management enjoyed an invaluable association with the Binding Industries Association International (BIA). The educational programming and networking opportunities with some of the most creative binderies and associate suppliers in the postpress industry opened Vivid's eyes to some very valuable lessons and opportunities.
The company has deepened its relationship with the BIA, and now Vivid Impact is more intent than ever on promoting a simple message: That miracles and innovation for customers can and do happen with proper consideration of the critical finishing and packaging procedures in the bindery. Beginning with the "finish" in mind prevents a project from getting off target or never hitting its intended mark in the marketplace.
Move the Battlefield
Custom vinyl products, bindery services, fulfillment and commercial printing services are increasingly considered to be commodities in the eyes of graphic arts buyers. While Vivid Impact's integrated solutions approach certainly helps stave off product commoditization, the company progressed much further, as demonstrated by these two examples.
First, Vivid has pioneered a new product that allows four-color process graphics to be combined with instant dry, erase write-on/wipe-off properties on several different substrates, including hard board, plastics and metal. Vivid now markets this product as VividBoard to companies needing interactive communication signage and point-of-purchase displays. Among VividBoard customers is an international restaurant conglomerate that has invested more than $1 million in VividBoards as a vehicle to enhance the integrity of an internal employee quality recognition and corporate communication system.
Second, Vivid Impact has successfully forged strategic alliances with other companies scattered throughout the United States. For example, it is part of a carefully structured partnership with eight other graphic arts companies that market each other's products and services. This entity, called IDEAlliance, opens new distribution channels for VividBoard and other Vivid Impact products. Moreover, Vivid Impact offers IDEAlliance products to which it otherwise would not have access.
For example, Vivid sales reps are currently selling an IDEAlliance member-developed product called Pro.Motion, which is "lenticular" signage that allows viewers to see different images from different angles. Pro.Motion combines an unusual prepress process, high-resolution four-color process screen printing (no lamination of preprinted graphics) and refracting lenses to create multiple images on one substrate.
As a result, the Vivid sales force can sell completely customized lenticular solutions at a fraction of the price had the company developed the technology on its own.
In addition, Vivid Impact has launched an e-commerce solution for the Dalai Lama in the form of a tri-fold CD-ROM kit project with 32- and 52-page stitched brochures pasted to the flaps of a plastic CD holder. Although this physical product features full-color printing, what's interesting here is that it also encompasses fulfillment and e-commerce services. Vivid Impact has developed and is managing a Website that allows customers to place, pay for and track orders online. In turn, Vivid Impact warehouses product components, fulfills all orders and manages inventory levels for the client.
Another noteworthy project involved a complex, on-demand digital printing solution with hundreds of offset and on-demand printed product specification forms, index tabbing, laser imaging, collating, bindery work, loose-leaf binder manufacturing and fulfillment services. Since this highly technical paint and coatings company's U.S. headquarters is in Texas and distribution is worldwide, communication and speed were of the essence. Many image and data files were electronically transmitted and all proofing was done online. This bundled and customized solution would have been difficult for a competitor to replicate.