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Greening Print Marketing: New Report on Digital Printing

This week, everybody is watching the stock market and talking about the economy, but I want to do a little reality check here. Other than tweaking our portfolios, there isn’t much we can do about it. Was the bail-out the right decision? Was it not the right decision? Talking about it makes us feel better—as if it gives us some kind of control—but the reality is, it doesn’t. Why not take all that nervous energy and channel it into something really productive? A place where we can make a difference right away?

Did you know that by making some basic changes in your document management and print marketing, you can reduce your carbon footprint, use fewer trees, use less petroleum, and improve your bottom line at the same time? In today’s time of financial crisis, that ought to get any company’s attention. It starts, not with the paper or ink you spec, but with the fundamental way you print at your documents.

By utilizing today’s digital production technologies, you can move to document management models that have a major impact on the environment. By printing shorter runs—even for high-quality, four-color documents—you eliminate warehousing costs and the cost of outdated print, but on the environmental side, you avoid cutting down trees for nothing. Every time a book, a pamphlet, a flyer goes out of date and gets thrown in the trash, you just contributed to needless deforestation.

By making smarter use of your database—say, mailing to only the top 10% of your customer base—you reduce the amount of printed material you use. If you combine it with smart use of print personalization, you could earn even more revenues than on a larger static mailing.

Some great examples can be found in a new report on digital-printing-driven marketing models entitled “Digital Printing: Transforming Business and Marketing Models,” released yesterday. Although the report is not exclusively on the green aspects of marketing using digital print, it’s a background buzz throughout the entire discussion. Nearly every case study in the report has some positive environmental impact, as well as a positive bottom line impact.

Here are some examples from the report:

•    Jim Beam Brands, which makes distilled spirits and fine wines, wanted to make life easier for its internal marketing and purchasing staff by creating a Web-to-print system for customizing and ordering marketing materials. In the first quarter, 67% of print orders were placed using the solution, and by the second quarter, 100% of orders had been transferred online. Jim Beam saved $100,000 per year and achieved 490% return on investment in a single year.

•    The Baan Company, a provider of B2B commerce solutions, wanted to reduce costs from obsolete collateral, reduce inventory costs and complexity of management, and improve time to market for document changes and updates. Before implementing a digital, print-on-demand workflow, 60% of its brochures were thrown away. By switching to centralized, online on-demand ordering, it now prints on demand and has reduced or eliminated inventory obsolescence. Order handling costs have dropped by 85%.

•    The University of Toronto recently experienced slashed its mailing database from 70,000 to around 35,000, then sent out personalized communications. The university’s actual donor base increased by 80% and its revenue jumped by 30%. Meanwhile, its costs actually dropped by $16,000.

Today’s economic times are uncertain and there are many responsibilities—including environmental—weighing on all of us. Switching to a more sustainable print production model is just one small, highly practical and EASY step we can take.

Want to read more like this?

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Written by Heidi Tolliver-Walker

Heidi Tolliver-Walker has been a commercial and digital printing industry analyst, feature writer, columnist, editor, and author for nearly 20 years. She is known for her meticulous research and no-nonsense perspective. In addition to having written thousands of industry articles for top industry publications, she and Richard Romano have been the face of the well-respected industry research firm The Industry Measure (TrendWatch Graphic Arts) for many years. In her more than 13-year tenure with the firm, she has written countless reports on digital printing, 1:1 (personalized) printing, Web-to-print, personalized URLs, and other hot industry applications. She is also a long-time contributing editor and columnist for Printing News, for which she writes two monthly columns, including "Personal Effects," which features monthly analysis of 1:1 (personalized) printing case studies. She is also the author of three titles for the National Association of Printing Leadership: Designer's Printing Companion, Ink & Color: A Printer's Guide, and Diversifying Via Value-Added Services. As a small, niche publisher (Strong Tower Publishing), she is active in utilizing these technologies in her own business, as well.


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  1. Heidi,

    Great post on the positive impact digital printing can have on sustainability. I’d in some additional benefits including:

    Online Proofing – up to 25% of paper in an office is wasted due to proofing.

    Centralized Print Facilities – Locating fewer and larger print facilities near shipping hubs can reduce the amount of shipping by 50% since you are already half way into the shipping stream.

    Improved Document work flow – Companies like have improved quality to the point where little paper is wasted on work that has to be reprinted. Cut sheets eliminate significant waste as well.

    Thanks for writing about this important issue.

    Jeff Grill
    VP, Marketing

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