We talk a lot about the benefits of digital printing and how you can maximize your creative direct mail design through its benefits. What we haven’t touched on is a specific concern when designing for digital printing: how to stop yourself from overusing or maxing out on the features that make digital printing great. Today we’ll walk through some of the biggest benefits of digital printing, how taking them too far can be detrimental to your direct marketing campaign, and three questions to ask before you get to that point.
1. Is Digital Printing the Right Way to Go?
First things first: should you even be using digital printing? There are a lot of considerations when comparing digital and conventional print, but one of the biggest ones from a design perspective is color. In a recent blog, I talked about the importance of color and how to use color in a direct mail piece to drive results. In fact, many of my previous posts focus on color usage in design, which shows how important color can be to the success of your mailpiece’s graphic design.
While color on digital presses has come a long way in the past few years, it’s still important to look at how you plan on using color, including how much color is being used, the density and ink coverage, and if the results meet expectations. Talk to your production company about their color standards and quality measures.
Mike Todryk has written some great content in the past few months on the importance of color quality process controls and understanding color quality processes and controls, and I’d recommend you read those first so you make sure you’re asking the right questions and getting satisfactory answers.
If you’re satisfied with how your colors will look when printed, or if you’re willing to tweak your use of color in order to utilize digital presses, then read on.
2. How Many Versions Should I Create?
Now that you’ve decided to go digital, consider how you’ll utilize the benefits of digital presses, including their ability to efficiently produce smaller runs, making it easier for you to design multiple versions for segmentation. How many segments you’ll be creating will depend largely on your testing plans and overall strategy.
This is a great example of doing things with purpose: it’s a wonderful thing to be able to dive deep into audience models and segmentation, but it’s not such a wonderful thing when those efforts don’t translate to higher response numbers and return on marketing investment (ROMI).
Pinpoint the reasoning behind any creative difference between mailpieces—are these changes arbitrary, or will they impact how the recipient will interact with the piece, what information they’ll receive, and how likely they are to respond to the call-to-action? You should also make sure that creative variables are limited enough that you’ll be able to read results and determine what works and what doesn’t.
3. What Elements Should Be Variable?
Another significant consideration when designing for digital printing is the amount of variable or personalized content. Since digital printing allows for a high level of personalization, it’s way too easy to get carried away and make design elements variable just because you can. Resist the urge! The jump from personalized to creepy is a very short one, and it’s not one you want to make. The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) completed a member survey showing that data to drive personalization would be a major focus among marketers in 2020. But just because you have data doesn’t mean you can use it effectively.
Before you place a variable field in your design, think about the relevancy of the variable data—will this information help make the product or service seem more trustworthy? Will it help showcase what you’re selling? If including a personalized text, image, or consumer data point helps meet those goals, consider how to best incorporate data in your mailpiece.
It’s also important to think of different ways to utilize data. Let’s say that a furniture store has data that Consumer1 has recently moved. Instead of a headline blaring “Furnish Your New Home,” they could show an image of a family with similar ages and ethnic background as Consumer1 in a smartly furnished home. It’s a more subtle use of data that appeals to the consumer’s behavior rather than assuming you know their intent. (In times of COVID-19, they could also tout their online shopping tools, delivery options, and return policy to entice buyers.)
If you’re still struggling with how to best design your mailpiece for digital print production, feel free to drop me a line, and we can talk specifics on transforming your creative to maximize the benefits of a digital press.
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