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Process over product

Alex Turner, managing director of Listawood, explains how  the best solutions are about more than just product.

As a printer over the years, I’ve seen too many orders going through the system where the process could have delivered so much more than the design chosen. Bland pictures of delivery lorries or shipping vessels, even PowerPoint slides or clip art used as the basis for a promotional product that will have cost the end user many thousands of pounds of jealously guarded marketing budget. This is not something that the ultimate recipient is very likely to retain, which is, of course, the great strength of promotional merchandise as an advertising medium when targeted properly. Worst of all, the end user might conclude that the blandly branded mugs or diaries that they bought were a waste of money and be turned off from using merchandise in the future.

A recent example was cited to me where a major car company was simply putting their fairly basic logo on a white mug.  Yet at the exhibition stand, where the mugs were given away, there were Icelandic themes of the new car being promoted. A suggestion was made that the imagery could be branded around the mug as a transfer print and the “on the road price” printed on the base of the inside.  The marketing manager loved it and commissioned it for their next event. No mention of the cost was made!

Conversely, we very often see products going through the factory that even the most jaded amongst us after all of these years and many millions of printed products processed can barely resist digging out of the reject pile and making use of ourselves.  So whilst finding the right product for our customers is important, perhaps it’s even more important that we consider the product/process combination that will bring out the “magpie” in the target recipient of the item.

Technology has delivered us with a wide range of branding methods. Recent years have seen full colour become far more widely accessible with the development of digital offset presses, toner and dye sublimation-based transfer printing and, perhaps more importantly, UV and solvent-based inkjet systems that can print directly onto a wide range of substrates ranging from T-shirts to pens or USB devices. So is full colour always the answer? It’s undoubtedly an excellent method of producing short runs of any design, due to the lower set-up costs associated with digital, and full-colour printing can deliver spectacular results if you put the right image on the right product.

However, some products are almost cheapened if decorated this way.  Many technology-based products look far better if decorated with a simple one colour pad print or subtle piece of engraving.  Some of the most desirable-looking diaries I’ve seen are those where the covers have been Pantone-matched with the end user’s corporate colours and a simple de-boss of their logo has been discretely placed on the cover.

The custom colour glazing of mugs and other items of drinkware, decorated with a simple one-colour screen print can look extremely classy and can be used to convey simple marketing messages very effectively.

Get the product and process combination right and the resulting item of merchandise is something that the ultimate recipient will cherish and retain for 2.5 years (the average length a promotional item is kept if useful and relevant), rather than the unwelcome “freebie” alluded to in a recent Financial Times article.

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