Digital Printing has been adopted by the print industry for its efficiency, plethora of functions and small run capability. It is the underlying foundation of Variable Data Printing also known as VDP.
Variable Data Printing is a”Mail Merge” on steroids
VDP offers the ability to print personalized messages, images or graphical aspects on each printed piece using data collected about an individual, leveraging familiarity to increase ROI.
A simple example of the use of variable data is personalization of the greeting in a letter. No longer does a letter have to be informal as “Dear Customer”. We can now, thanks to Variable Data Printing, personalize the salutation to include the name of the intended recipient such as “Dear Marcy” or “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Smith”. This feature alone can drastically increase the chances of the letter actually being read.
Variable data can include the use of personalized images or graphics to really dig into the familiarity advantage of variable data. For example:
The owner of a local cellular phone store has a database full of data about the cellular service and devices of all his current customers use. He wants to send a postcard to each of them reminding them that their contract is about to expire and that they are eligible to upgrade their current cellphone. The owner contacts his print shop and explains what he wants to do. The print shop then explains that variable data can help him accomplish this and together come up with a killer personalized marketing piece.
The postcard would include 3 personalized fields:
- The recipients name in the greeting
- The expiration date of the recipient’s current contract
- A picture of the cellphone they currently own
While the designer creates a beautiful layout, the store owner creates a simple database that holds the following information separated into columns:
First Name, Last Name, Address, Address 2, City, State, Zip, Contract Expiration, Device Model.
After the graphics and database have been completed and submitted to the print shop, it is the job of the pre-press technician to connect the artwork file with the database using Data Fields. Each of the column names will become a data field such as <First_Name>, <Last_Name> and so on.
Variable Data Software such as FusionPro or Darwin is then used to prepare a VPS file that merges the artwork with the database on the fly as each piece is printed.
The process of a standard mailing without variable data usually begins by printing the static artwork on an offset press first leaving a blank “mailing panel” for the recipient address information to be imprinted after the run is completed using a separate mailing machine that inkjets the address on to each piece.
With digital printing, the mailing address is considered variable data that can be printed at the same time the piece itself is being printed. The printing, the indicia and the address are all printed in one fell swoop. Not only is this faster, but the customer also saves on mailing setup fees and removes any possibility of smudges to the address resulting in possible lost revenues.
This post is an addendum to “Digital Evolution: The State of Commercial Printing“, which defines the changes the print industry is visibly undergoing at this time.