Ed #16 Digital Possibilities

Evolution from the new to the known and accepted.

A decade ago when you talked about printing, more times than not it was offset printing. Four-color printing was (and still can be) cost prohibitive in smaller quantities. When the budget was limited, you thought about fewer colors. Digital printing was strictly for short-run, full-color reproduction, and a drop-off in quality was a given. Personalization? What’s that?

To even the most discerning eye, it is now difficult to tell the difference between offset and high-end digital print.

That was then. This is now. Quality is no longer an issue. In fact many—including highly discerning designers—would be hard pressed to tell the difference between offset and today’s top commercial digital presses. The equipment has become faster and more reliable, which in turn has brought costs down. Higher quality, quicker turnaround and lower cost open the door for digital printing in a much wider variety of situations and applications.

It’s different now. The ability to execute short-run, quick-turn printed communication has new appeal, for a number of reasons. While there are still many situations where the per-unit economics of a 20,000 quantity make sense, more and more are seeing reduced storage requirements and ability to update on shorter cycles as a strong case for digital printing.

Personalization has come a long way as well. The increased sophistication of data mining in this era of social media has greatly enhanced marketers’ ability to target potential customers based on demographic and other criteria. Much more complex personalization is now possible. Where the extent of customization used to be “Hey Bob!” at the beginning of the copy, marketers in industries such as automotive are utilizing 30–50 ports of variable data personalization in one brochure or direct mail piece.

With rapidly advancing technologies and capabilities, personalization is able to make a greater impact than ever on the effectiveness of print at reaching highly targeted audiences. And more and more companies are using it in highly creative ways.

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