How much color is enough?
By Elizabeth Gooding on February 23rd, 2011
In the last couple of years, full color production digital printing has become a cost-effective reality for many applications. Many more marketing departments are considering adding color to transaction documents or making their color direct mail pieces more dynamic (rather than printing black over color shells). This led me to ask some of my colleagues at agencies, marketing services providers and plain old printers for their two cents.
I asked if they felt that it was critical to be able to offer clients exact Pantone or PMS color or if it was more important to be able to offer color consistency from run to run. I wondered if their marketing clients were asking for a standard that the recipients of the mail don’t care about. Within the context of delivering a full-color, white paper solution to customers, what are the “must haves” and what are the “nice to haves.”
After a lot of discussion and debate among some pretty knowledgeable industry professionals it boiled down to the following key points:
- Marketing departments have a lot invested in branding, and color is a key component of branding. With that said, any marketing department that chooses to deliver multi-channel campaigns is, by definition, making compromises on color. Color will not be consistent across email, web, mobile phones, various papers, signage etc. That is an important discussion to have, and can set the baseline for color consistency tolerance.
- Most recipients of mail have a much higher tolerance for variations in color than the business professionals sending them. If you were using a spectrophotometer and running a test in a lab, a color variation measured as a Delta e of 1.0 is generally considered to be barely perceptible to the human eye. Outside of the lab, a Delta e of 3.0 to 5.0 may go unnoticed by the average consumer.
- Setting expectations on color capabilities, educating marketers on variations in color across substrates (something they should know but often don’t) and agreeing on acceptable and MEASURABLE tolerances is critical to success. Don’t just let them tell you that they are looking for “luscious.” (Shout out to the Off Register folks.)More research on how consumers view color (real quantitative studies folks) would make it a lot easier to reach reasonable compromises with marketers. Sponsors wanted!
- If you have the ability to print CMYK plus 1, 2 or 3 Pantone colors, you should be able to charge more for it as long as you have the color management and color measurement tools in place to back up the promises.
At the end of the day, it is the design (information transfer not pretty pictures) and the content (information to be transferred) that should rule – not AT&T orange (probably not allowed to call it orange) or Coca-Cola red (they probably think they own the term “red”) or Luscious pink – but we all know that if we want the business, we need to be able to give the customer what they want.
How much color is enough? How much do you want the business? How much is the client willing to pay? So, ask them, agree on measurement for color tolerances and set prices accordingly. There needs to be a “pain and suffering” charge at certain levels of color management and client management. Enough is enough!
I’m going to be presenting a webinar on the business issues related to transitioning to color next Tuesday, March 1 at 2 pm EST. You can register here. I’ll be sharing some more thoughts on the myths and realities of moving to color and DST Output will also be sharing some of their “lessons learned” from transitioning to color. Let me know if there are some key points you’d like to hear about.
You can find a copy of the presentation at www.insightforums.com