Archive for the ‘Digital Nirvana’ Category

Spelling DOES Matter! University of Texas Misspells Its Own Name on Player Bios

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

I have recently been reminded of the printer I ran across who has a full-time proofreader on staff who reads every document it prints. As a political mailing specialist, you can imagine how much egg it has kept off its clients’ faces over the years.

I’m not saying that everyone should hire a proofreader, but once again, we are reminded that proofreading is a valuable service.

The University of Texas learned this painful lesson two days ago when it misspelled its own name on its printed player biographies. Instead of, it printed

TexsaSportsThe university’s arch rival, the University of Oklahoma, wasted no time capitalizing on the error, purchasing the domain name for the misspelled name and having a little fun.

Should the folks in the print room have caught the error? Not necessarily, but it would have saved the University of Texas a lot of embarrassment if they had. It’s all over the social media now, and you can imagine how much fun the sportscasters are having.

Thanks, sports page!

TexsaSports 4


Survey: 23% of Retailers See 11% Cumulative Lift Using Personalization

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

If you want to know how your customers and prospects expect to be marketed to (what they set as their norms), look at retailing. To this end, the study “Personalization Comes of Age: 2014 Retailing and Consumer Insights” from the e-tailing group, is very enlightening.

According to the study, the top seven things on marketers’ “to do” lists are as follows:

  1. Mobile (including tablet)
  2. Marketing
  3. Personalization
  4.  Omni-channel
  5. Platform
  6. Conversion Optimization
  7. Analytics, Reporting, Big Data

So personalization comes in behind mobile and marketing. This isn’t any surprise since most of us expect (or even rely) on personalized product recommendations when we shop online. What may be a surprise is that retailers have actually quantified the reasons why.

Nearly one-quarter (23%) of retailers responding to the survey see a 11% cumulative lift using personalization. This is up from only 19% of retailers giving this answer one year ago.  More retailers are also seeing greater value in longer-term lifecycle personalization, up from 15% one year ago.

These are encouraging numbers. While there will be differences in retail that do not exist in print (such as focus on online activities such as shopping cart abandonment and real-time personalization online), people are still people. Done right, personalization isn’t going to be effective online and not in print. People’s internal wiring doesn’t work that way.

Personalization still has to be done right, but the increase in the percentage of retailers who see benefits from personalization, including long-term lifecycle personalization, suggests that as they get better at it, the benefits increase, too. Jumps in the numbers from 2013 -to 2014 mean that retailers are getting better at it — and your clients can too.

If retailers are improving their personalization efforts and reaping the benefits, your customers can do the same.


How to Utilize NFC for Print Marketing

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Near field communication, or more commonly referred to as NFC, is a current and fast-growing technology that can be extremely beneficial for marketing and in particular, print campaigns.

Are you looking for new ways to make your print materials more engaging? NFC poses a great opportunity for you.

Watch the video below to learn all about NFC – what it is, examples, and how you can use it to bring your print campaigns to life.

Have you tried out NFC yet or do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments below!

What’s Missing from Your Omni-Channel Marketing Strategy?”

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Canon Solutions America will host an “Ask the Experts Roundtable” entitled “What’s Missing from Your Omni-Channel Marketing Strategy” on Oct 27th at 12:30 PM at the Direct Marketing Association Conference being held in San Diego, CA. The roundtable Group Leaders will be Elizabeth Gooding, President, Gooding Communications Group, and Sheri Jammallo, Corporate Enterprise Segment Marketing Manager, Canon Solutions America.  Both Elizabeth and Sheri will lead the group through a discussion you won’t want to miss.  In this session you will learn:

What’s Missing from Your Omni-Channel Marketing Strategy?   When marketers compare the MROI of the various direct marketing channels they use the conversation tends to follow the lines of “digital versus traditional” or “online and offline” but rarely is it a true “omni-channel” discussion. One of the most overlooked channels is statement marketing, which is a critical anchor point in customer retention and cross-selling initiatives. With recent advances in full-color inkjet printing, statement marketing is poised to become one of the most cost efficient and effective tools in the marketer’s palette – particularly when used in conjunction with an overall multi-channel customer experience strategy. Come to this session to learn how statement marketing can drive value on its own, add value to other channels, and the key factors to consider when developing statement marketing initiatives.

For more information on this session, go to:

Elizabeth Gooding helps clients in highly regulated industries to optimize the designs, processes and production technology used for multi-channel communications. She conducts research on trends, technology and opportunities related to the marketing services value-chain while sharing her experience through industry white papers, blogs and speaking engagements. She is a recognized thought-leader in the optimization of transaction communications and hosts the Transpromo Professionals Network on LinkedIn and other business communications related groups. Having worked extensively with a wide spectrum of clients from print manufacturers and print service providers to in-plant printers and corporate print buyers she has a unique perspective on the application of technology to specific vertical industries and business development strategies that drive results.

Survey: Data Collection on the Rise

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Don’t let your customers fool you — they may have more data than you think. According to polling conducted by Digiday and Neustar in June 2014, 76% of U.S. digital media and marketing professionals are collecting data on current and potential customers and 77% have increased their data collection over the past year.

The number one reason? To get a better understanding of their customers, with 57% giving this answer.  Marketers indicated that they are expanding the volume and type of data they are collecting — demographic, psychographic, location, and social.

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 2.31.34 PMThis is good news for 1:1 print providers, since data availability has been one of the Achilles heels of this process. But the challenges of data silos and data integration remain. In fact, according to the research, half of respondents say they are still unable to link data to create individual customer profiles.

Still, on the whole, this is good news. The more customers focus on data collection, integration, and profiling, the more natural the pathway to discussions about how you can help. So these data represent ongoing challenges, but they present opportunities, too.


More Out-of-the-Box Thinking with Print

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

I continue to ruminate about a comment made by a designer during an interview several months ago. He talked about a certain promotional piece being particularly effective because the channel itself — print, and the way that particular piece unfolded — actually became part of the message. As each complex fold was lifted, it revealed a new element of the product being marketed and reflected the message regarding the value and continual surprises the product offered.

Now when I see unusual and interesting uses of print, I think back to that interview. I’ve posted a few here, and this morning, I’d like to post another: pop-up paper cups.  This campaign was from Nescafe, but I can think of endless other ways, as well.

cup_125In this application, paper cups (branded or printed with promotional information, of course) can be folded and either glued into (or onto) a promotional piece or publication, handed out, or mailed. When they are opened, they pop up in their full dimensional shape, giving recipients a fun paper cup from which to drink coffee and view the marketing information at the same time.

How else could this be used? I think about the “channel as part of the message” approach.

  • New store openings (particularly those offering coffee, pastries, and full-out breakfast).
  • Bed & breakfasts, hotels, motels
  • Co-branded with multiple local businesses sent to new movers within a specific ZIP Code

The possibilities are endless. With the right workflow, the cups could even be personalized. (Part of a welcome packet for new employees, perhaps?) The point is to think about using print to provide some kind of value beyond just a flat piece of paper trying to sell people stuff — a value that other channels simply cannot provide.



Are You Printing Fewer Spot Colors Lately?

Monday, July 14th, 2014

As I have poked around the industry, gathering comments and insights regarding print quality from print buyers and designers based on the What They Think / Unisource “Digital Print Survey,” I received an interesting comment in a LinkedIn print buyer’s group.

The issue of spot colors in digital print isn’t as important as it used to be, he said, because fewer designers are specing spot colors, whether for digital or offset, based on cost.

Here is the comment, posted in the Print Buyers & Procurement Group, by a managing director of a design and print management firm:

To be honest Heidi, I have had very minimal use for printing spot colours on digital presses. . . Designers seem to shy away from spot colours these days, but I guess this is largely due to cost rather than design quality. It is a shame there are not more designers specifying really bright oranges, greens and deep blues which can look so good but are out of the 4-colour process colour gamut. It is about upselling the design and print I suppose and convincing a client the value of something different from the norm but again it comes back to getting over the price barrier.

Does this match your experience? Are you seeing fewer spot colors these days? If so, do you agree with this designer / buyer’s assessment of the situation?

3D Adoption and the National Retail Print Shops

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

3D printing is a topic I’ve written a lot about lately, and the commercial printing industry is still trying to figure out how it fits — or if it fits — into the mix. I’ve written a number of posts on 3D printing over the past several months, so I won’t repeat my comments here (I will post links to previous posts below). Instead, I want to offer this simple food for thought.

  • Staples in The Netherlands is currently offering its own 3D printing service, Easy 3D, similar to the Shapeways model. We must believe something similar is in the works here in the United States.
  • The UPS Store already has six beta sites for 3D printing. The Kearny Mesa store has done extremely well with this technology, even garnering a feature write-up in Forbes.
  • Other big box retailers with printing services are scrutinizing the technology, as well. Active research is being done not just into 3D printing, but into the kinds of marketing applications I’ve talked about here on Digital Nirvana and have been encouraging the printing industry to consider for about a year now.

There has been a lot of water cooler talk about why 3D printing is not a good model for commercial printers — that its product manufacturing, prototyping, and consumer tschotkes are too far flung from the commercial printing model — but I continue to suggest that this is the wrong way to think about 3D printing.

3D printing must be seen in light of its opportunities to drive marketing campaigns. This means incentives and response drivers for the kinds of jobs commercial printers are already doing. Printers don’t even have to do the 3D printing themselves. These models work even if you outsource the production to someone else.

I don’t believe 3D printing is something this industry can afford to ignore. If you don’t start thinking about it now, the inevitable entry of the national retailers into this market will drive printers to play catch-up in the future. I am seeing more and more signs of serious interest from the national chains, so this is something printers need to take seriously.

Catch-up is never a good place to be!

Links to previous Digital Nirvana posts on 3D printing:

3D Printing: Thoughts from Around the Industry

Solving a Problem with 3D Printing: Part 1

Solving a Problem with 3D Printing: Part 2

Using 3D Printing to Drive Digital Print Marketing

Business Models for 3D Printing in the Commercial Printing Industry


5 Tips for Motivating Your Sales Team to Learn New Skills

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Having to learn a new way of doing things can be stressful. If your sales team is stuck in a rut of outdated selling techniques, try these tips to encourage them to update their skills.

  1. Make the Benefits Clear
  2. Involve the Team in Choosing Training Methods
  3. Set Clear Goals

To see these tips further explained, as well as additional tips to help your team, download, 5 Tips for Motivating Your Sales Team to Learn New Skills.

Please take a moment to read and share this resource at Do you have any other tips for keeping your sales team motivated? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

How Do You Handle Gut-Driven Marketers?

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

According to a new study from The Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by Applied Predictive Technologies (APT), senior managers and executives are most likely to say their marketing decisions are driven by data, but when it comes right down to it, they are more likely to trust their own intuition.

When asked to characterize their individual decision-making style, 42% of respondents say they are data-driven (“I collect and analyze data as much as possible before making a decision”), more than cited any other option. However, 73% also say that, when it comes to decision-making, they trust their own intuition.

Kind of like overriding your Garmin when you think you know the better way to go.

Furthermore, if their gut contradicts the data, only 10% of respondents said they’d follow the data. More than half (57%) said they’d re-analyze the data instead (until they could make it agree with their intuition perhaps?)

One of the benefits of data-driven campaigns is, well, the data. Finding trends, developing customer profiles, and understanding customer preferences and behavior are foundational to the value of personalization in print and multi-channel marketing. These results suggest challenges for MSPs relying on data to prove value or help their clients increase the value of their campaigns.

What would you do if you ran into a key decision-maker unwilling to trust the company’s own data? What would you do?

To download a PDF of the survey, click here.

Is Now a Good Time to Target Ad Agencies?

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

A recent survey of advertising agencies, conducted by STRATA, finds that ad agencies are bullish on growth in their businesses. If you’ve been thinking about taking your digital output expertise into this area of the marketplace, now might be a good time to do it.

Here are some encouraging numbers from the survey:

  • 62% of the agencies polled see business increasing this quarter compared to the same time last year, the highest level ever recorded in the survey.
  • 53% project growth to be better in the first half of 2014 as compared to the last half of 2013
  • 29% are increasing their ad budgets from last year, representing the highest level recorded by STRATA since 2008
  • 32% of agencies said they plan on hiring staff this year

If you’re going after this market, however, there are some key factors to keep in mind:

  • Agencies aren’t looking for one-stop shops — they want to know what you do best.
  • Color and consistency are critical, so make sure you are geared up in terms of staffing, PM, and workflow to serve this market.
  • Be ready to counter outdated perceptions of what digital presses can and cannot do.
  • If your workflow, staff, and equipment can hit spot colors, showcase it!
  • Take samples — show, don’t tell.

If you’ve had your eye on the agency market, the data says there is no time like the present.


Innovation Ennui: Hidebound by History. Is Print’s Prudence proof of Paralysis?

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Many years ago, when I was president of one of the first quick printing franchisor companies, a wise-man counseled me with this pearl — smart franchise companies know that almost allgood marketing ideas do not occur at franchise HQ, instead they happen on the front lines — in the franchised locations, as the result of franchisee and customer interactions.

Implementing the advice meant that I sought the counsel of some of our best and brightest franchised owners and one of them told me about “Ed.” Ed was the head of research and development for Lee Newspapers (now Lee Enterprises) a chain of community newspapers based in Davenport, Iowa. Ed’s job was to actuate the punch line in George Bernard Shaw quote made immortal by Teddy Kennedy’s eulogy for his brother Bobby. “…Others dream things that never were, and ask why not?”

Ed didn’t go to graphic arts industry trade shows; he went to the shows his newspaper ad space clients might attend. He wanted his skunk-works of innovation to be forward thinking, changing and ever willing to try things, even things that failed.

Dr. Joe Webb, renowned commentator on the printing industry has long cajoled us to do much as Ed once did — go to conferences of designers and ad buyers to learn what moves them, not what servo-drive moves the roller train in the Iron Horse press. I found this article posted by Dr. Joe in the Economics and Research section of WhatTheyThink to be amazing and worrisome in equal measure, because Dr. Joe’s research protocols are so stellar.

I administrator a Facebook Group page for people in the graphic arts around the world. Every day, I post items about new and exciting uses of print, oft-times centered on what I like to call smart, interactive print – print made more valuable to the customers of your customers, through response drivers like QR or NFC or AR or printed electronics and so forth. But there is another observation that makes one wonder — the articles that receive the most comments, and likes and shares and so on, are often about print’s past — XYZ Print Shoppe in Palooka-ville. No one values the 600 year-old patrimony of print more than me, but change happens. We change or we wither.

Seize the Day, or glissade gently into that long good night?

Back on February 2nd, 2012, John Newby of the Ottawa Times (Illinois) wrote a great blog about the potential of Augmented Reality and newspapers. His final line applies to every segment of the printing industry:

“It will be interesting to see how and if the print industry embraces such technology or if we squander yet another opportunity”.

If we look at Dr. Joe’s chart, it would seem that thus far, the amorous advances of AR have been largely rebuffed. Only 7.1% of the 209 surveyed participants offer AR.

In a very visual and interactive age, AR, QR, NFC and whatever comes next add value to print by making print more interactive and more visually dimensional. Yet we tarry – 93% seem to say, let’s hurry up, but then wait?

What’s past ain’t prologue Poindexter!

Exactly one day after Dr. Joe’s post went up on WhatTheyThink, Jennifer Matt wrote a fiercely disruptive piece on WhatTheyThink that should be taped to the bathroom mirror of every C-level print industry executive. Jen put this line in bold in her article:

The human resources in the print industry are predominately “experts” at yesterday

So accurate and so ‘hidebound by history.’

This week I happened to spot on someone’s LinkedIn profile a pic of Steve Jobs, the Apostle of Apple with one of his pithy epithets:

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back towards the technology, not the other way around.”

We print peeps are hard-wired to admire technology. In this change agent era, we might do well to re-consider.

Jim Daly, owner of Fine Arts Imagery, a giclée printing atelier in Asheville NC commented on the Jobs quote as follows:

“Isn’t it ironic that the most profitable companies speak in terms of customers, creating value and experience, while the others talk about efficiencies, share price, etc.? The former create the future while the latter seem satisfied to “optimize” that which has been successful in the past.”

Print has changed mightily over the centuries and yet, even now, there are aspects of everyday print production that could be easily intuited by Benjamin Franklin or even Johannes Gutenberg. Much of traditional print has moved to the evanescent stage of the Internet’s ether and it’s not coming back; ergo, print and perhaps especially smart, interactive print, presents ostensible opportunity to those who’s glass is slowly filling with optimism.

As the whirling dervish of change continues to upset the conventional and disrupt the traditional, some print segments wither while others flourish. There are massive people costs, (I wonder how many folks I know from print who are now in real estate, a dozen?) and the stresses on the owners and senior managers to try to get it right when embracing new strategies cannot be understated. But in the maelstrom we can be certain of the terrible beauty of this trifecta:

Innovation is crucial, Innovation is cruel, Innovation is cool.

Or, in a cornpone hat-tip to that certain beefcake TV commercial we posit:

“Print, it’s what’s for Winners.”

How Do We Fix the “Lack of Designer Training” Issue?

Friday, June 27th, 2014

I’ve been blogging a lot lately about misperceptions by designers and marketers about the capabilities of digital presses or how to optimize a file for output on a digital (as opposed to offset) press.

Some may have no understanding of the differences between digital and offset because they’ve never had production training. For others, their first experience may be with a specific presses years ago, and so they are using that experience as the yardstick for all of their decisions after that. They may not understand the different classes of presses, and in their minds, make no distinction between a small-footprint production press and an Oce ColorStream 10000 except in volume and speed.

Last month, I asked whether printers were missing an opportunity to educate designers on these issues and got some very interesting responses.  Here is a condensed selection of the comments to that post:

My research indicates that the creative world has an incorrect understanding of print, printing and related verticals. Not only from the application side but from the impact printing, print, etc., have on the results of the creative and design effort. Just about half of those surveyed want to learn more, beyond techniques. What was more surprising is that just more than half of the creative or print managers did not want their design teams to be fluent in print since they felt it opens the door to creativity that is not affordable, complicates their jobs, and in the end transfers too much control to the creative. — Thad Kubis

When I was doing a full time print technology and management course in the late 1970s, our college department also ran Design for Print courses for creatives. Those are long gone, and the old print colleges in the UK are mostly now “media departments,” for which read “web and video courses.” It’s a pity because new print technologies are broadening the creative and marketing scope of printing tremendously. Sadly printers are notoriously bad at self-marketing, while the creative [and] design magazines seem to consider print as passé or at best a novelty item. Real-world examples of the exciting potential of today’s latest print processes just aren’t being transmitted to today’s new designers. — Simon Eccles

Most involved with print projects from inexperienced designers experience firsthand the lack of actual print production education in design schools. The question is then, what should the print industry’s role be in helping to resolve this issue? If the design schools do not provide this form of education, then who? There are very few resources available (and I will give kudos to book projects like “Real World Print Production for Adobe Creative Cloud”) for the young graduate designer to learn about bleeds and resolution and such print-specific instruction. There are even fewer resources of this type online, where a young designer really spends the bulk of their time. In the end, these young designers will work with what they enjoy and understand. It only behooves the print industry to ensure that the resources designers need for print-specific design are made available to them. — vkellie

I’m fortunate enough to have transitioned from the pressroom (five years as lead pressman) to prepress and then a designer, so I’m speaking from that background. As a pressman, I was furious, the way pressmen can be sometimes, at prep for giving me jobs arranged on the sheet in such a way that I would then fight ghosting or hickies all day. So I started to work in prep, because I wanted to help fix the problem. That’s when I found out how difficult the job can be when designers send their junked up files. Then I became a designer (which is what I really wanted anyway) and determined that I would never commit the sins designers don’t seem to realize they commit. The answer to the problem is that designers need to care enough about their work that they seek out places like Digital Nirvana. PrintWiki,, etc. If they want their designs to reproduce properly, they should know about these resources. After all, if they design for screens, they’re all over the blogs and podcasts that cover that medium, right? — Joel Powers

Advanced Color Graphics does a company tour and Q&A for the visual communications design class at Penn State every year. The students are in general genuinely interested in the production – paper, press and bindery – more so than the prepress file aspect. I think that given the opportunity and seeing real-world work, most young designers would at least seek out a printer as a resource before taking on a print project. Maybe we should create virtual tours on our print websites. — Patti Worden

Having taught in a technical college setting for 11 years, there is no mistaking that design students who also learn printing techniques and theory are better designers and more successful long term. I have seen it over the years, and knowledge of print is not only needed for great design, it’s needed for great print as well. Sadly, many students just don’t understand the need to learn about print regardless of their focus. I’m a creative professional with 25+ years of print experience, and that knowledge pays off EVERY day in my work. I do my best to teach the new design students coming up the importance of print and to their career. I’m just one person, but hopefully we can turn this concept around and bring print back as a skill that designers have. — Craig Bower

Click here to read full comments.

What do you think of Patti’s comment? Should more printers be creating virtual tours on their websites? How about YouTube videos of specific on-press issues? (“If you do this, then this shows up on press . . . “) Free instruction for new clients?

What do YOU think would work?


5 Tips for Handling Social Media Complaints

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Social media provides your business with a flexible way to get in touch with your customers and build a loyal relationship. But what happens when it provides customers with a public means to complain about your business? Follow these five steps to navigate complaints as painlessly as possible:

  1. Monitor your social media channels. If a complaint isn’t acknowledged and resolved quickly, your customer is likely to get more aggravated. Watch your social media channels so you are ready to step in when a problem arises.
  2. Mind your language. No matter how fraught the situation, be sure to remain polite, professional and courteous at all times. Remember to speak directly to your customer in humane language – corporate-speak and stock phrases can sound impersonal and dismissive.
  3. Apologize. Your customer is upset and they want to know that you are taking their concerns seriously. Start by apologizing for any distress or inconvenience caused. By taking responsibility, you’re showing that your business cares about its customers’ concerns.
  4. Acknowledge publicly, address privately. A public apology is a vital first step and shows the willingness to take responsibility. In order to hash out the details of resolving the problem, offer to get in touch by email, direct message or telephone, for a fuller discussion.
  5. Make it right. Analyze the issue, acknowledge your customer’s distress, and work out how you can make it right with them. Willingness to fix mistakes can actually boost your reputation, showing your customer service skills in a positive light.

Complaints are a part of business life, but having them aired publicly is a nerve-wracking experience. By having a plan in place for dealing with complaints and keeping a cool head, you can diffuse the situation and even turn complaints into a positive outcome for your business.

Do you have any experience with negativity on your social media platforms? How did you overcome the problem? I’d love to get a good chat started in the comments below!

USPS Webinar on Saving $ on Mailing Costs – Today 1 PM

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

We all know that bad mailing addresses are costing marketers money — and a lot of it. Bad addresses can also frustrate and alienate customers. But how do you fix it?

The USPS is offering a seminar today at 1 PM to provide some answers. The seminar is designed to help participants:

  • Understand how customers prefer to receive communications
  • Help them eliminate data silos
  • Save up to 30% in mailing, printing, and delivery costs
  • Keep data clean

“24% of all mailings have some sort of address problem,” USPS says. “That means your message might not even reach the end consumer. Don’t let Bad Data ruin a good mailing.”

To register for the webinar, click here.

Sorry for the last minute notice on this. I just got the announcement myself. Usually, these webinars have some kind of archive link that will allow you to view the content even if you miss the live event. So if you cannot attend today, check to see whether an archived version is available.