Archive for the ‘Digital Printing’ Category

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?

Saying “Sorry” Feels Better in Print

Friday, June 20th, 2014

Speaking of the benefits and value of print (see Tuesday’s post), this morning I bear a tale of two apologies.

Several weeks ago, Shutterfly mistakenly sent a promotion to thousands of customers congratulating them on new parenthood and encouraging them to preserve their memories with a photo book. Unfortunately, many of the recipients were not new parents. I was one of the recipients of that apology.

Shutterfly has since corrected its email mistake with a follow up apology. “We mistakenly sent an email that was intended only for new parents who recently made baby-related purchases at Shutterfly,” reads the email. “We’re truly sorry if you received this email in error. We realize this is a very sensitive issue and we did not mean to upset you in any way.”

It happens. Ho, hum.

This week, my father also received an apology. This time, it was for messing up his name. This apology, however, came by mail. It was printed on an oversized glossy postcard.

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The subject line of his email was, “Doing things right.” In it, my father wrote:

The message came on a glossy, full-color, heavy-weight card, 8 1/2 by  5 1/2 inches, not just a little postcard. Pretty nice gesture. It  cost a little send it, I’m sure.

It costs more to send direct mail than email, but it sure sends a different impression. Direct mail costs more, but perhaps that’s one of the reasons its impact is greater, too. It is a much more credible way to say “I’m sorry” than an email that costs little or nothing to send.

Great Resource for Promoting Print

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

If you haven’t been to the Print Is Big website, it’s worth checking out. There are some great stats there to wow your clients and reinforce the value of continuing to use print. For example, in a world in which marketers are constantly being told that “print is dead,” here are some stats regarding industry size that may surprise many people.

  • Music: $67 billion
  • Video game industry: $33 billion
  • Online advertising industry: $147 billion
  • Print: $640 billion — and drives $3.8 trillion in related services

There is also a page on the greenness of print. For example, do your clients know that there are more forests in the United States today than there were 50 years ago? Or that 70% of supposedly “junk” mail is printed on recycled paper? Or that the co-founder of GreenPeace says that in order to protect the environment, we should use more paper, not less?

Print may be “right sizing” for today’s fractured multichannel marketing world, but it isn’t dying or being replaced by the “greener” world of e-media. Marketers need to be reminded of that.

Get Your (Augmented) Reality Check!

Friday, June 13th, 2014

You’ve heard about Google Glass(es) before, right? But have you seen those magazine advertisements that come to life on your smart phone? You might be thinking of QR codes, which isn’t too far off, but I’m referring specifically to a leading-edge technology that facilitates the most digitally enhanced communication pieces. The technology, Augmented Reality (AR), consists of software integrations to marketing pieces that add layers of digital content (photos, videos, sound effects, games) to a printed advertisement. With AR, a traditional print ad becomes an interactive communications tool that can be used to further inform consumers, gather consumer information, offer promotions, and create deeper brand experiences. At the end of the day, AR helps maximize ad shelf-life and foster consumer dialogue.

To get a better understanding of key applications and examples of AR, I encourage you to check out the recent webinar sponsored by Canon Solutions America titled “A Reality Check: Augmented Reality.” The webinar defines and exemplifies how AR interacts within both print and marketing communities. Barbara Pellow of Info Trends leads a conversation with Martin Ahe (Partnerships Manager at Layer) and Deborah Haskel (VP of Marketing at IWCO Direct) surrounding AR value and its implementation process.

Today, there are five critical trends associated with AR technology. The first involves an embedment of AR technology in ‘wearables’. Google Glass(es) are just one example, where the ‘wearer’ issues a verbal command to scan and perform a certain task. The second and third trends leverage AR to enhance the brand experience in retail and at live-events, like concerts. The fourth surrounds AR involvement in the educational space with do-it-yourself learning tools, like books and student projects. Lastly, AR has patterns of success in the automobile industry specifically. From sales brochures to owner’s manuals, brands like Ford, Volvo, Nissan, and Audi are using AR to interact, inform, educate, and strengthen relationships with their customers.

With AR growing in popularity in a variety of fields, you might be asking: “How do I start the implementation process today? And what does that process look like in conjunction with direct mail or printed communications pieces?” One way to start is by consulting the firm Layer, who is at the forefront of the AR industry. Ahe explains that the implementation process unfolds in a couple of simple, user-friendly steps:
1. In Layer Creator, upload a page that you wish to make interactive
2. Drag, drop and specify what you would like to link
3. Click publish

It’s important to remember, however, that the majority of customers are new AR technology. Thus, make sure to keep your blends simple, intuitive, and user-friendly. Haskel highlights: “In order to make effective use of AR, you have to help your clients understand the best way to use it. Think quality over quantity.” Content size (video, imaging, etc.) and the appropriate ‘call to action’ are two major components in creating a successful AR experience. And be sure to educate your audience. Many consumers are used to scanning QR codes where you only scan the small square with your smart phone. But with AR, you scan a larger area, usually the entire printed area, with your smart phone. Since this is a relatively new technology, it’s helpful to provide some direction on your printed piece for the consumer.

Get started today by checking out the webinar for classic examples and further details on the implementation process. It’s no wonder AR is here to stay when a brand can tell a story like this! Consider this your (augmented) reality check!

Raising the Standards with the Océ ImageStream 3500

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

The end of May marked a turning point in inkjet printing history with Canon’s announcement of the Océ ImageStream 3500. This continuous feed color inkjet press is the first of its kind with the ability to print on standard offset paper stocks. With both digital and offset capabilities, the technology of the Océ ImageStream 3500 removes the need for two different types of paper. Thus, high-quality inkjet printing is more streamline than ever before. Print Service Providers no longer need to rely on treated paper or add-ons to achieve high-quality print production. In coordination with paper mill partners, Canon has tested the print and image quality on a range of paper sources from uncoated to gloss. Notably, all have yielded positive results.

For commercial printers aiming to make the transition into digital printing, this could be your solution. With dual-functionality, the press handles a digital or conventional run up to 160m/min at 1200 x 600 dpi and features a flexible droptlet modulation for higher perceived image resolution. In terms of applications, the Océ ImageStream 3500 is fit for high-end book production, brochures, magazines, personalized catalogues, as well as direct mail pieces. The press itself is the most compact in its class: 10-50% smaller than other production system, which translates to a major save on floor space.

That transition from offset printing to digital, or even inkjet, printing… it just got a little bit more tempting.

All in all, the standards have been raised with the announcement of the Océ ImageStream 3500. We will just have to wait patiently until 2015 for its launch. For further details, check out the recent posts on WhatTheyThink? and InfoTrends.

Can Your Clients Use Digitally Printed Codes to Boost Sales?

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

I admit it. I buy Banquet sausage from time to time. (It’s not for me — really — it’s for the kids). This morning’s pre-school breakfast, however, caught my eye because ConAgra has a new promotion that seems to offer great potential in a variety of vertical markets and is highly adaptable even by small, local marketers.

ConAgra has partnered with Feeding America to make a donation equivalent to one meal to feed a hungry child every time one of its customers inputs a unique code from the back of one of its packages. The codes are input  into a special campaign website, ChildHungerEndsHere.com, and each unique entry triggers an 11.1-cent donation to Feeding America, the cost to provide a child with one meal under its program.

IMG_4526This is such a great program on multiple levels.

  • It is great PR by aligning the company with a great cause
  • It encourages multiple sales of its products during the period of the promotion
  • It uses an emotional appeal (stronger than financial in many cases) to woo new customers from competitors during the period of the promotion.
  • It does a good thing regardless of the impact on its sales

This is a great way to boost sales among its own customers, too (you know ConAgra’s already loyal customers are purchasing extra packages right now, and ConAgra does, too!). Plus, if it can steal just a few of another brand’s customers during this period, the company knows that at least a few of them will stay.

How could your customers adopt this model? This might be a great opportunity to pitch digitally printed packaging to new or current customers. Even small companies could align with a local cause (a local food bank, pet shelter, or school). You set up a campaign-specific website and print unique codes on each digitally printed package.

If there are companies already making significant donations to local charities, that might be the place to start. Instead of them making a straight donation, they could use a program like this to boost sales at the same time . . . and you win the digital packaging business.

 

Digital Print Quality Issue: Punch, Counterpunch

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

I have spent a lot of time over the past several weeks starting and moderating discussions about the output quality of digital print and different perceptions of what can be produced. It has been so interesting to hear the perspective from both sides — printer and client.

Clearly, with the right press, a skilled operator, and the willingness to properly maintain the press, you can achieve outstanding quality. But that takes time and dedicated resources, and just as clearly, not all printers always believe it’s worth it.

Consequently, for experienced designers who understand production, there is a notable divide:

In my experience, digital quality is often very dependent on the type of provider you use. For me, digital printing is pretty standard no matter the machine used, but if you work with folks who care a lot about quality, rather than speedy turnarounds, then digital can meet offset standards. But you have to have folks at the plant readily able and willing to take on the issues of banding, gradient quality, and color consistency in order to meet the offset standards. In my stable of print providers, only two are willing to go that extra distance. The rest seem to be more concerned about quick turnaround and low pricing. Which has its place, but I will always use the two printers who will give me consistent quality and work with me on my concerns for those products that require those types of things. — Name withheld [by me] to prevent inundation

This takes us to the classic dilemma. Do I focus on quality and clients willing to pay for it (even if it’s a smaller market)? Or do I go for volume for less discriminating buyers willing to accept less than the level of quality the press is capable of outputting in order to push through more volume at lower prices?

I’d love to hear some thoughts on this decision. Both are equally legitimate business decisions based on different business factors.

Which way did you choose to go and why?

 

Are Younger Designers Unaware of Local Printing and Support?

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

I have been stirring the pot around LinkedIn, asking questions related to digital print quality and particularly graphic designers’ and print buyers’ perceptions of what digital is capable of producing. While there are designers and print buyers who understand the full capabilities of digital production, there is still notable misperception that digital still offers more of a quick-print-quality output.

As part of those discussions, Stu Leventhal, president of Lexicon Communications (New York City) and adjunct professor – Graphic Design/Production at the Fashion Institute of Technology, made an interesting comment that I’d like to get your comments on here.

It is no secret that, in most cases, designers are not taught production in design school anymore. Consequently, young graduates may not understand the differences between production processes or even between Pantone and CMYK. They are learning on the job, and especially early in their careers, may not know the questions to ask to understand why some jobs are outputting well and others are not.

In this context, Leventhal pointed out that because younger designers often spec their print online, they may not know what they don’t know; and because they are disconnected from the process, they don’t realize that if they’d work with someone locally, they could have a partner who really invests in their education (and, consequently, their ability to output a much better quality job).

The unspoken issue today is that many young designers just know the online resources. They don’t even think to use someone local – or where there is a real person to help and advise.

So young designers may not know what they don’t know, and if they are outputting junk, they may not realize that it doesn’t have to be that way. That doesn’t benefit anyone — including the designer. This spotlights the need to encourage designers to tap into the expertise of local providers and to intensify education efforts among young designers.

Anyone have experience with this? Want to share?

Wide Ranging Responses to Digital Print Quality: Who’s Right?

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Last Friday, I wrote a post on data in “The Digital Print Survey: 2014″ published by WTT / Unisource on the issue of print quality. I cited data that 61% of respondents indicated that quality was either “as good as” or actually better than offset. Yet high percentages of respondents cited print consistency, color matching, gradients, and solids as being significant challenges.

There weren’t a lot of comments here on Digital Nirvana, but I did share the post around LinkedIn, and comments were voluminous. What was interesting was the incredible range of responses I received. On one end of the spectrum, there were those saying that gradients, solids, and color gamut would always been issues because of the design of the presses themselves. But what does it matter? Quality is in the eye of the beholder. Then there were those responding that digital has the capability of surpassing offset and producing essentially museum-quality pieces. You just need to have the right substrate, a skilled operator, and commitment from the printer to regular maintenance and calibration on the press.

All of the comments were coming from knowledgeable folks, from technicians to academians to press operators and owners, so it was interesting how varied the responses were.

Here is a sampling of those comments. What do YOU think? Add your voice to the discussion!

“If an absolute quality comparison is made with offset lithography, the differences become more apparent. Banding and gradients will always be a problem. This is due to the reduced tonal steps used in digital devices in order to increase processing speed. The recordable tone steps in offset can easily exceed 200, whereas some digital devices are restricted to fewer than 50 – thus the banding issue. Some “work arounds” are used in digital, but the most effective ones use extra colors (e.g. light cyan, light magenta). These devices are called “photo quality” in the inkjet printer market.

“Even solids and the inability to reproduce special colors are also a problem with most digital devices. These restrictions are NOT a problem as long as the concept of market-segment quality classification is kept in mind. There are good reasons why newspapers are printed on newsprint and not on high-grade coated papers. Printing has a long history of making quality vs. economic tradeoffs (grade of materials, and productivity-driven sacrifices) according to what markets desire.”

— Gary Field, color printing scientist and printing industry consultant

“Another thing besides the gradient issue is low quality screen builds with some PMS colors. This has always been an issue even in offset, that is why there are so many 6- and 7-color offset presses out there. If you want an exact PMS match, print a PMS . . . since digital cannot and since the digital process even distorts the screen build process more than traditional offset, I see builds as a critical problem with digital. Digital photos, on the other hand, print better than offset separations in my experience.”

— Greg Kingston, print and mail services at VOLVO Construction Equipment

“I think digital print quality is still a major issue because . . . you need to choose the right materials for your presses. Allot of people that are purchasing the stock isn’t aware of the particulars this one variable brings to the table. There also need to be qualified people to ascertain the print quality problem and solve it. You can’t hire people off the street expecting them to find out why the print quality isn’t great for your biggest client. Especially when they don’t know the particulars on how this industry works.”

— Barbara Jones, production artist, variable data specialist and digital prepress technician at Miller Zell

“Stock is definitely trial and error. Papers that you think would be identical (Cougar vs Accent) don’t run quite the same.”

— Richard Sohanchyk, owner, OnPoint Image & Design

“Digital printing can be great — high quality blends, few streaks, etc. — if  the company has highly skilled operators and free reign to replace worn components and time to do the maintenance and calibrations. Often the gamuts are much larger than [GRACoL]. I hear time and again the lament from digital press operators that they are not allowed to do whats necessary to make the digital press perform. Anything can beat the image quality of an offset press has glazed, out of pressure rollers, blankets with smashes and haven’t been torqued in a year, and the image of the wrench embossed in the impression cylinder.”

— David Avery, seasoned technical trainer

“I think it is an assumption by most consumers that digital equipment isn’t capable of going up against some of the very best 4-color offset printed materials. I think the reality is, MOST of the time, digital is used for “quick print” work where quality is less of a concern so the perception is that that is all that digital is capable of. However, just like offset, if you pay attention to quality, use the workarounds, and use materials that give you the best outcome, you can create pieces that rival offset. I have seen some very nice pieces used in very high profile accounts that were printed digitally. All of the variables that should go in to creating a quality piece were accounted for and executed, even though it meant a premium price was paid for the product. I don’t see how that solution is any different that creating a quality piece from offset. Digital is very capable of creating quality pieces, I just think we have marginalized it’s potential in the marketplace by our position when selling it as “quick print”. Of course, when we need to use metallics or some other specialty inks that digital doesn’t always offer yet, then of course it can’t compete, but we aren’t exactly comparing apples to apples anymore.”

— Brady Manthe, central premedia specialist, Brown Printing Company

“One particular job: Essential criteria — digital and offset components have to match. The machines tasked with the job were a 40-inch Komori (5-colour) and a Xerox-PC700. Stock was an A2 Coated Matte. We failed. Couldn’t match the two. We had our excuses ready, but the customer was not as pedantic as we had been told and didn’t even notice. The offset quality was good, very good — couldn’t fault it — until we tried to match and found that the digital was so much superior that it made the offset product look dull and lifeless by comparison. That was four years ago on a digital press which has since been superseded.”

— Shotz High Performance Print

“You should not expect to match offset and digital (laser/toner). Digital has a wider color gamut, so there can be a color difference between the two. Paul’s point about ICC profiles, you can work to match the 2 processes (if you care to) and perhaps move the curve on the offset to make it less dull and lifeless. Ironically, some the of negative traits of the digital is not having as smooth tone in gradient tints, can be can be a plus, if you like the look of it being a little sharper than the original. As far as proofing, I always ask for a proof for digital to be made on the same digital machine, RIP and paper that will be used in production. The only variable then will be the calibration and repeatability of the machine. There is no sense in comparing to another process or type of proof.”

— Ronald Boyum, printing services specialist at the U.S. Government Printing Office

What is your experience? Chime in!

All new Fold of the Week!

Thursday, May 15th, 2014
What should a company do when it wants to change its name? Throw a great party, of course! This week’s selection, designed by Prismatic (hellprismatic.com) and produced by Lawton Printers (lawtonprinters.com) of Orlando, offers a really fun modification to the always exciting and varied tulip fold format. By adding a reverse panel to the cover, the opening experience is entirely fresh. The piece is dramatic in scale and features holographic foil, too. It’s a real winner. Cheers!

The Survey Says: Digital Print Image Quality

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

If you haven’t checked out The Digital Print Survey conducted by What They Think and Unisource (March 2014), it’s a fascinating read. While the results are not projectible to the industry at large, the results are drawn from nearly 400 responses and provide a compelling look inside the shops of a representative cross-section of digital print providers.

To me, among the most fascinating sections are those relating to digital print quality. This was such a hot button for years, and if you ask PSPs today if the issue still exists, you’ll hear a resounding “No!” But that’s not what the data says. Do you agree with these results?

When asked, “In your opinion, in general, how does the output quality of your digital color production presses (HP Indigo, Xerox iGen, Xeikon, Nexpress) compare to the output quality of offset presses?”

  • 53% said “about as good as offset”
  • 8% said “slightly better than offset”
  • 2% said “is much better than offset”

In addition, 86% said they were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the image quality coming off their presses.

However, only 67% were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with color matching and 63% were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with color consistency. Even fewer (43%) were satisfied with color matching.

When asked about their production challenges, “getting consistent print quality” was in the top three challenges, with 30% of respondents giving this answer. “Getting consistent color” came in fourth, with 29% of respondents giving this answer.

When asked which job elements reproduce “fine with no problems,” relatively low percentages of respondents agreed with the following:

  • fine lines / detail (47%)
  • solids (36%)
  • gradients (22%)
  • custom colors (18%)

What I take from this is that, in the end, printers are satisfied with the overall print quality on these presses, but especially when it comes to fine detail and color matching, it still takes a lot of work.

Would you agree with this data?

Building Your Web-to-Print Relationships

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Having a web-to-print storefront can be extremely beneficial for businesses. Through setting one up, a printer can save time and resources when it comes to the process of taking orders. However, while an online storefront may accomplish the goal of reducing the printer’s workload, could it end up meaning less business in the end?

Is the online-only bride too narrow?

As more and more of our interactions with businesses, friends, and other associates move online, service providers must still seek to develop relationships with customers that simply order online. Not only will this help us open up the communication lines when it comes to customer service, but it may also lead to conversations that generate additional business opportunities.

How can you make sure each customer who orders from you online feels just as appreciate and acknowledged as the rest? Download our article, Web-to-Print and Relationships, to learn 5 ways to build greater relationships with online-only customers.

Please take a moment to read and share this resource at http://ilink.me/OnlineOnly. Do you find your company running across this issue with online storefronts? What solutions have you found? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Book Publishing Made Easy with Inkjet Technology

Monday, April 28th, 2014

When we talk about inkjet technology and its benefits, the conversation tends to revolve around transaction (invoices, bills, statements) and promotional (direct mail) pieces. But in this webinar titled Inkjet: Implications for Book Printing Manufacturers and Publishers, InfoTrends’ Group Directors Barbra Pellow and Jim Hamilton bring book printing into the conversation. As they highlight, book printing now makes up roughly 20% of the inkjet marketplace, and is one of the fastest growing sectors towards adopting this technology. The webinar explores why the shift is occurring, defines emerging technologies, and discusses the financial implications of adopting a high-speed inkjet digital business model.

To understand any industry shift, it is important to consider social and financial factors that contribute to the changes in trends. In 2010, Hamilton cites three key conclusions about the changing dynamics of the book publishing industry. These include: “content is king, publishing is becoming more of a service than a product, and the days of high-volume book manufacturing are coming to an end.” By 2014, Hamilton affirms these conclusions are more prevalent than ever before with 1st mode publishing, just-in-time manufacturing, and print-on-demand services. In fact, with the onset of e-delivery, Hamilton proposes that the entire definition of a book is evolving. Now books are also electronic, on-demand, interactive, contain personal content and are delivered via multiple channels.

Although digital channels are rising in popularity, print remains one of the most effective delivery methods. In a recent PEW research study, it was found that 7 out of 10 adults read printed books. Only 4% of readers are ‘e-book only’, where as the majority alternate amongst digital, print, and audio channels. Likewise, print remains a significant source of publishers’ revenue. All of these trends, grounded in research, highlight the need for digital print solutions that can get personalized product to market in order to meet the needs of both publisher and consumer.

Book printers and publishers are realizing that production digital print provides a more effective method of manufacturing. Shifting from offset, the biggest growth opportunity now lies within inkjet color continuous feed technologies. From wharehousing and distribution to the integration with cross-media and interactive components, digital inkjet solutions provide the capacity to fulfill publishers’ demands. Essentially, the digital printer becomes a virtual document wharehouse, in which inventory is produced at the click of a button within a given workflow. And it all comes at a reasonable price with inkjet. The final portion of the webinar lays out the impact of print volume over cost distribution. In the projection, fixed costs like equipment and monthly service fees decrease per unit as volume increases, but the cost component from click charges and ink increase as volume increases. These numerical relationships are important to consider once you’ve determined how ‘long’ your run should be.

“Technology is becoming your friend in the publishing market,” claims Pellow. Inkjet technology in particular seems to provide the highest quality solution and workflow to meet the end goal. For more on cost factors, black versus color printing breakdowns, and the full list of benefits of inkjet, be sure to check out the full webinar here!

Survey on Digital Print Production Issues Released – And It’s Free!

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Want objective input on the production and quality challenges still being faced by digital printers and the resources required to overcome them? Unisource and WhatTheyThink recently released a joint Digital Printing Survey that will tell you. Best of all, it’s free!

Among the topics covered:

  • Services and equipment offered
  • Digital equipment and revenue
  • Variable data work
  • Digital print quality
  • Digital vs. offset
  • Factors impacting press / image quality

The list goes on. Basically, everything you want to know about the status of the industry. It also comes with expert commentary from What They Think’s own Dr. Joe Webb.

You can download a copy here.

3D Printing in the Commercial Printing Industry: Think Dimensional Mail

Friday, April 11th, 2014

I’m stunned. I just looked back at my post on using 3D printing to drive digital printing and there are 68 shares on LinkedIn. I don’t think any post I have written — ever — has gotten that many LinkedIn shares. This tells me I’m on to something.

Part of the reason, I think, is that all of the discussions I’ve seen around 3D printing have to do with bringing existing products, services, and business models into our industry. That means discussion about whether printers should try to replicate what’s already being done, and done well, by companies that are far more entrenched and expert at it than printers are. Of course the answer to that is, “No!”

What nobody is talking about is how printers can apply the technology in a complementary way to drive more sales the products and services they already offer. That’s why I think that post resonated so much. As I discuss in the report “State of 3D Printing in the Commercial Printing Industry: 2014,” I believe 3D printing will provide significant opportunities for this industry, but most important applications will be the ones nobody has come up with yet (although I’ve proposed a few).

We are hearing many printers express concern that 3D-printed products are simply too expensive to be used in marketing campaigns, but I don’t think 3D printed products should try to compete with traditional response incentives or ad specialties. I believe 3D-printed products should be used for creating customized or personalized products (branded items), one-off products (personalized, highly unique incentives like action figures of company executives), or for ultra-short-run campaigns with a highly targeted audience.

In this, 3D printing would compete with dimensional mail. When going after corporate executives, marketers understand the value of sending a personalized box, complete with personalized marketing collateral, personalized sales letters, and personalized incentives ranging from radio-controlled cars to personalized baseballs. Now imagine a 12” action figure that looks just like the CEO of the target company staring out at the recipient (or his gatekeeper) from underneath a plastic window as part of a mailing box. I can imagine an open rate in that campaign of 100%.

So when thinking about 3D printing, forget replicating what’s already being done. Think how the technology can be applied in complementary ways to drive the business PSPs are already doing!