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  1. 3 off-the-wall marketing ideas for variable data printing

    3 off-the-wall marketing ideas for variable data printing

    If you’re after a way to make your promotional materials feel more special, or you’re planning a more dynamic direct marketing campaign, variable data printing is your ideal solution. But what exactly is it? And how can you take advantage of VDP to create memorable, out-of-the-box advertising for your business?

    What is Variable Data Printing?

    Variable data printing or VDP is a process which enables you to add unique text, images and design elements to each individual item in your print run

    With VDP, there’s no need to create hundreds or even thousands of design files for each intended item - you simply provide a single ‘base’ design and a list of the individual data entries you want to print on top, and digital printing takes care of the rest.

    VDP is handy for a number of standard marketing purposes, including:

    ● Adding customer names and addresses to flyers, invitations, postcards and other direct mail (aka mail merging)

    ● Tailoring marketing messages to target different customer segments

    ● Optimising content for different branches and regions (while maintaining brand consistency)

    ● Reproducing your design in different languages for international markets

    ● Adding unique barcodes/QR codes/numbers to track customer behaviour and marketing success

    But that’s not all it can do! With a bit of inspiration, variable printing can be a powerful tool for building creative, buzz-worthy marketing campaigns.

    Extra special scratchcards

    VDP is the bread and butter of scratchcard printing - it’s the very process that lets you print unique prizes and verification codes onto each card

    But there’s plenty more you can do with scratch-off panels and VDP beyond the typical prize giveaway.

    For example, you could enhance your discount vouchers by printing unique voucher codes onto scratchcards - that way, the customer will be enticed into scratching off the panel and will likely perceive the voucher as more valuable to them. You could even give some codes larger discounts than others, giving your vouchers the feel of a prize giveaway without the prizes.

    Alternatively, you could hold a regular scratchcard giveaway, but only send them to customers in your mailing list and print their names on each one. This is a great way to recognise and reward customer loyalty; letting each customer know that they’re valued with an exclusive chance at winning prizes.

    Gotta collect them all

    Looking to encourage multiple purchases from the same customer? By printing unique variants of the same product (or printing a limited series of products each with their own unique ID number), you can often turn a regular product into a valued collectable item.

    For example, magazine publishers often produce a limited edition issue of their publication with several different pieces of cover art. Not only does this make each variant feel special, but it also means fans and collectors of the magazine will need to buy them all in order to have the full set.

    You can also use collect-them-all tactic as part of a promotional competition; distributing VDP-printed tickets or stickers at random, and giving prizes away to customers who manage to collect them all. McDonald’s follows this strategy every year with their successful Monopoly giveaway - which even includes stickers with unique codes for their accompanying online giveaway.

    What about using a collectathon to create mystery, foster brand interaction and/or encourage collaboration? With variable printing, you can display part of a coded message or map on each item in your print run, so that consumers have to collect all of them together (or at least several of them) to reveal the secret.

    You can even encourage those consumers to solve the mystery together via social media; earning you some positive online buzz in the process!

    Personalised messages, PURLs and offers

    As we hinted in our Valentine’s blog last week, variable printing is great for adding personalised messages for each individual recipient in your direct list. You can take this a step further with PURLs (aka personalised URLs).

    Here’s how it works: you set up individual landing pages on your site, each with their own personalised website address (there’s various software solutions which let you generate unique URLS and landing pages quickly).

    Each individual landing page should be populated with content relating to the intended recipient - again, you can use automated software systems to automatically populate each landing page with personalised content.

    You can then use VDP to print each PURL to each item in your direct mail print run. By providing highly-targeted content to each user, you’ll have a much easier time convincing them to buy - and since each recipient will only be visiting their own PURL, you can track the behaviour of each individual user to understand your customer base better.

    You can also use this technique offline too - utilising customer data to deliver exclusive, personally-targeted offers through their letterboxes. How about sending them discount vouchers for their favourite products, or notifying them if an event they’ve been to in the past is taking place again?

    Over to you - have you ever used VDP in your own marketing campaigns? How have you used unique-printed elements in creative ways? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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  2. How to show your customers you love them on Valentine's Day

    How to show your customers you love them on Valentine's Day

    Love is in the air once again - and now’s the perfect time to show your regular customers how special they are to you.

    All joking aside, it’s important to reward the loyalty of your customer base. After all, it’s more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing one.

    And if you go out of your way to make customers feel valued and special, they’ll be more inclined to give you repeat business and recommend your company to their friends and family.

    Here are three ideas for showing your affection for your customers on Valentine’s Day!

    Send them a Valentine’s card

    Printed valentines Card

    Let’s start with the classic way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Customers will appreciate the novelty of receiving their own personally addressed greetings card through the door - especially if you use variable data printing to add a custom message to each one in your print run.

    There’s no need to go overboard with a sappy message - just tell your customers that you appreciate their business.

    (And with Better Printing, you can even rely on us to send out each card to each of your individual customers via nationwide and international courier.

    Give them an exclusive offer or discount

    Valentines Day Promo Flyer

    One way to make customers feel special is to give them access to an offer they can’t get anywhere else.

    Why not place an exclusive voucher code inside your card so customers can get a discount in-store or online? You can also make each card’s code unique via variable printing and give every customer in your mailing list their own personalised offer.

    Your offer could even be themed around Valentine’s Day itself. Perhaps your discount could be a two-for-one deal, or money off a product in your range that couples might enjoy together. (Hey, get your minds out of the gutter!)

    Invite them out on a ‘date’

    Printed Invitation

    Okay, it won’t be an actual date - but sending your best customers an invitation. to an exclusive event or opportunity is a quirky reward that’ll definitely get people talking about your brand.

    It’s also a great way to humanise an ecommerce or online-only business; bringing the experience of being a customer into the ‘real’ world.

    What should your ‘date night’ entail? Well, you could invite your most loyal customers to try out your new products/services earlier than anyone else, or partner up with other local businesses and give your customers tickets to a special corporate hospitality event.

    (For example, you could start a romance with a local independent cinema and whisk your customers away on an intimate couples’ movie night.)

    Or what about an event your single customers can enjoy? Perhaps you can play Cupid and host a group social night for lonely hearts to meet one another.

    Hosting events is an investment, of course - but it can be a powerful means of rewarding loyalty and earning some positive word-of-mouth advertising while you’re at it.

    How will you be rewarding your customers for their loyalty this Valentine’s Day? Share your ideas in the comments below!

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  3. Saddle stitched, perfect bound or wiro bound - which book binding is best?

    Saddle stitched, perfect bound or wiro bound - which book binding is best?

    Not sure which type of booklet is right for your project? Let’s take a closer look at book binding methods - how they’re made, the benefits each type offers, and the things you’ll need to consider before you order a whole print run of them!

    What’s saddle stitch binding?

    Booklet with saddle stitch finish

    Saddle stitch binding is essentially the same as stapling. Each leaf of the booklet is folded in half to create four pages, then placed over a triangular metal frame (like a saddle on the back of a horse) and stacked one on top of another. The middlemost pages sit at the bottom of the nested stack, while the front and back covers sit at the very top. Once all the pages have been nested, they’re ‘stitched’ together using short lengths of metal wire, which are threaded through all the pages at the spine. The fastened booklets are then further pressed to help them stay folded and flat when closed.

    Advantages of saddle stitch binding

    • Affordable quality. Saddle stitching is a more cost-effective alternative to perfect binding, but retains a similar level of presentation quality (particularly for smaller, limited-use publications such as reports and event programmes). It’s also relatively quick and easy to produce - which makes it ideal for last-minute, fast-turnaround orders.

    Ability to lay flat. The spine of a perfect bound book will put up some resistance to staying open, and heavier books can sometimes fall shut by themselves - which can be a nuisance for recipe books, instruction manuals and other publications where the reader will need their hands. A saddle stitched book will generally be less susceptible to this problem (although it won’t lay quite as flat as a wiro bound book).

    Things to consider with saddle stitch binding

    Limited page counts. Since each leaf forms four pages, every saddle stitched booklet can only contain pages in multiples of four. Also, booklets with more than 48 pages (depending on paper thickness) will tend to pop open slightly instead of lying flat.

    Paper creep. Each leaf of your booklet will naturally protrude slightly from the leaf it’s nested within. This is usually only an issue for booklets with thicker paper stocks and/or higher page counts, and can be fixed by trimming to outer edges of the booklet after assembly - but the artwork design of your pages might need to be adjusted to prevent print elements drifting to the outer edge of the booklet (and potentially getting trimmed off).

    What’s perfect binding?

    Brochure with Perfect Bound finish

    In a nutshell, perfect bound booklets are glued together rather than stitched together, with two pages to each leaf rather than four. The booklet’s leaves are placed in a simple vertical stack and glue is placed along the left edge of the stack; the stack is then nested inside the booklet cover so that the glued edge fastens to the spine of the cover. Finally, the three outer edges of the book are trimmed to ensure a seamless finish.

    Advantages of perfect binding

    • More professional appearance. Every page of a finished perfect bound book has the same dimensions and won’t suffer from the page creep problems that saddle stitching can bring. It also generally looks and feels more like a premium publication than other binding methods.

    • Larger page counts. With better durability and no bulky folded spine to worry about, perfect bound booklets can store a lot more pages - up to 144, depending on paper thickness!

    • Extra cover printing space. Out of the three bookbinding methods listed here, perfect binding is the only one which gives you the space to print the name of your publication on the spine - so your booklet is still identifiable in a shelf or stack of other publications.

    Things to consider with perfect binding

    • Inability to lay flat. As we covered earlier, perfect bound books prefer to stay shut and won’t lay flat on a table or stand - which makes them less ideal for presentational and instructional publications.

    • Less economical. Perfect binding is a good choice for publications which are intended for multiple readings; but for items with a shorter shelf life and smaller page counts, it’s more affordable to go with saddle stitching instead.

    What’s wiro binding?

    Booklet with wiro bound finish

    With wiro binding, each leaf is hole-punched and threaded onto an open wire coil which forms the book’s spine. Once all the pages have been placed onto the coil, the wire is bent to close the loop and keep the pages securely fastened to the spine.

    Advantages of wiro binding

    • A more versatile spine. Wiro bound books lay flat with no resistance whatsoever, and since each page can move almost a full 360 degrees around the wire loop, you can simply open the book to the one page you’re using and fold the other half of the book under itself. This makes wiro binding ideal for notebooks and journals - they’re easier to use on the move and take up less space on a desk compared to other binding methods.

    • Even larger page counts. Theoretically, the wiro binding method offers almost unlimited page counts - the bigger the circumference of the wire loop, the more pages the booklet can accommodate.

    Concerns for wiro binding

    Less professional appearance. Wiro bound books are highly practical; but if you’re looking to print marketing publications to deliver to prospective clients, a saddle stitched or perfect bound booklet is more visually appealing.

    Fragility. It’s a lot easier for pages to get torn out of a wiro booklet, particularly with thinner paper stocks. This can be very handy for notebooks and calendars, but it’s obviously less desirable for most other booklet applications. The wire spine can also become bent or crushed, particularly if stored with other wiro bound books in a stack.

    Margin space. The inner margins of your pages will need to be punched with holes to fit onto the wire spine - so be sure to leave a bit of extra space when designing your page and cover artwork!

    Still not sure?

    Now you know all about the types of book binding on offer at Better Printing; and you’ve probably already picked out the method you want to use for your next print run.

    But if you still need help deciding, Better Printing can provide expert guidance on the right booklet type to match your publication needs. Call us on 023 8087 8037 to speak to our friendly team!

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  4. 4 essential print collateral items for the 2019 trade show season

    4 essential print collateral items for the 2019 trade show season

    We’re about halfway through winter; which means the season for industry conferences, exhibitions and trade shows is almost upon us. And as always, it promises to be the perfect opportunity to get your brand out there, and connect with exciting new partners and opportunities.

    But is your business ready for the show floor? Whatever line of work you’re in, it’s important that your booth design and handout materials reflect the business you are today, and the goals you have for the new year.

    Here’s 4 essential items for your trade show presence in 2019 - and our tips for making the most of your print collateral investment.

    Display Banners

    The display graphics of your booth are arguably the most important thing to get right about your trade show presence. You’re competing with hundreds (if not thousands) of other show vendors, so your booth needs to command the attention of exhibition attendees - even from a distance. It’s a good idea to have a range of display banners of various different sizes. For example, you might choose to place a large banner along the back of your booth, and surround it with smaller roller banner units on each side. Not only does this give you more options for customising your brand’s presentation and increasing your booth’s visual impact; it also gives you the flexibility to adjust your display to different exhibitions. For example, if you’re cramped for floor space, you could simply bring a couple of roller banners with you. Alternatively, if you have a lot of room in your booth area, bringing along larger banners can help you take maximum advantage of the space you have available.


    A high-quality catalogue isn’t just a showcase of the products/services you have to offer - it also serves as an indicator that you’re a well-established, successful and professional company that attendees can trust with their money. Your choice of paper stock for your catalogues can actually play a big part in how your brand is perceived by attendees. Remember, the higher the GSM of a paper stock, the thicker and more sturdy the paper will be - consumers tend to associate these higher GSM grades with luxury and quality. Likewise, adding gloss lamination to your catalogue prints will give them a shiny, smooth finish which readers will often perceived as lavish and luxurious. (Alternatively, picking a matt finish for your catalogues can be useful for positioning yourself as a no-nonsense or eco-friendly brand.) And don’t forget to print twice as many catalogues as you think you’ll need - there’s nothing more embarrassing than having to turn booth visitors away empty-handed! Business cards - and business card dispensers Not everyone wants to carry around a small novel of a catalogue with them - particularly if they’re more interested in collaborating with you than buying from you, and/or they’re already carrying catalogues from other exhibitor booths. For these attendees, make sure you have some pocket-sized handouts ready to go; such as flyers, leaflets and business cards. It’s a good idea to have a card dispenser set up too, printed with a friendly ‘please take one’ message - that way, visitors who are too busy to stop and chat can still pick up your materials and find out what you’re all about.

    Business cards - and Business card dispensers

    Not everyone wants to carry around a small novel of a catalogue with them - particularly if they’re more interested in collaborating with you than buying from you, and/or they’re already carrying catalogues from other exhibitor booths. For these attendees, make sure you have some pocket-sized handouts ready to go; such as flyers, leaflets and business cards. It’s a good idea to have a card dispenser set up too, printed with a friendly ‘please take one’ message - that way, visitors who are too busy to stop and chat can still pick up your materials and find out what you’re all about.

    ‘Practical’ handouts

    A lot of exhibitor handouts will simply be filed away or dumped by attendees once they get back from your trade show. Once way to prevent your marketing materials ending up in the bin is to make them useful to your booth visitors - for example, giving them a desk calendar to help them manage their to-do list, or a pen pot to store their stationery in. Not only will attendees be more inclined to keep these around, but they’ll think of your company every time they use them - perfect for encouraging repeat business.

    And finally - a few general design tips…

    • Make sure your promotional materials communicate the message of your brand. Abstract and mysterious designs are good for grabbing attention, but if they don’t reveal who you are, what you can offer the consumer and what sets you apart from your competitors, attendees will just be left scratching their heads.

    • Set out your goals for your exhibition appearances, and let those goals inform the design of your print collateral. Are you looking to sign up X amount of new customers to your services? Bring X amount of new traffic to your website? Make sure your calls-to-action drive attendees to take the action you want

    • Don’t show up to exhibitions with the same old displays and print designs year after year - regular show attendees will just start passing over your booth in favour of new exhibitors. Your business (not to mention the market around you) is always changing, so make sure your booth reflects the company you are now - not who you were five years ago!

    Need custom-printed marketing collateral for your next conference or trade show? Get in touch with Better Printing on 023 8087 8037 to find out how we can help you!

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  5. 3 Print Design Cliches to Avoid

    3 Print Design Cliches to Avoid

    Did you know the word ‘cliché’ itself actually comes from the printing industry?

    Nor did we until fairly recently! Apparently the word refers to the metal plate used by early printers to economically reproduce identical copies of the same text (which was also known as a ‘stereotype’ - that’s where that word comes from, too!)

    Why was this plate called a ‘cliché’? One method of manufacturing these plates was to press wooden type blocks into molten metal - this would make a distinctive sound which gained the onomatopoeic name ‘cliché’. (Just in case you’re unfamiliar, an onomatopoeic word is a word which sounds like the thing it’s describing - like ‘meow’ for a cat’s call, or ‘fizz’ for the bubbles of a soft drink.)

    This daft factoid got us thinking about clichés in general - particularly the ones we see from time to time in the designs we print. Here are our top 3 design clichés - and how to avoid them in your own print artwork!

    What’s wrong with design clichés?

    Design elements are simply tools for creating artwork, and no particular design is objectively worse than another. Design tropes can often come in handy, particularly as a starting point to guide the creative process.

    The trouble comes when particular design choices become widely used to the point of oversaturation; they lose their original meaning and become boring to look at.

    Using clichéd graphic design in your own promotional materials won’t help you stand out from your competitors, and can often make your organisation look cheap, amateurish and not to be trusted.

    Here’s three design clichés you should run a mile from...

    example of overused fonts

    Ask any graphic designer to tell you their least favourite font, and they’ll probably answer ‘Comic Sans’.

    If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a fun, ‘cartoony’ typeface which vaguely resembles childrens’ handwriting. It often shows up on teaching materials and other documents produced for kids. (It’s also said that dyslexic readers find Comic Sans text easier to read, although the jury’s still out on this.)

    And it’s not the only font with an image problem - other widely-derided fonts include:
    • Papyrus - a font designed to emulate ancient Egyptian calligraphy; now used for everything from cafe signs to the logo of the movie Avatar
    • Arial - a bold, clean ‘neo-grotesque’ typeface, thats essentially a copy of the superior Helvtica that pops up a lot in company logos and Business Cards - something we’ll be talking about more very shortly...
    • Lobster - a relatively new modern calligraphy font which is just starting to drive graphic designers nuts with its overuse

    Remember, none of these fonts are objectively bad, and there’s nothing to say you can’t use them in your own promotional materials. Just make sure your font choices are appropriate for the situation - and keep in mind that a more original font will help you stand out from the crowd.

    Generic logo example

    Generic logos

    This is more of a branding issue than a print design problem - hopefully you’ve already secured a great logo design long before you’ve started considering your print literature - but it’s still a common design pitfall to avoid.

    Your logo is a key part of your company identity. it’s usually the first thing your potential customers will see, so it needs to represent who you are, what you can offer them and what makes your organisation unique.

    So why do so many companies choose logos that look the same as any other? The world of logo design has its own set of clichés, particularly when it comes to B2B organisations:

    • Lightbulbs - ironically often used to signify original ideas and innovation - but overused to the point of attracting ridicule
    • Globes - often used by companies who deliver a wide-reaching international service, especially those in distribution and forwarding
    • Industry-specific designs - many different business types have their own design clichés - for example, how many car dealerships and garages have you seen that use a stylised car for their logo?

    To avoid committing the same mistakes with your own logo, start by researching the company logos of competitors in your industry. Which objects and design features are cropping up again and again? Which competitors are doing something a little different with their logo designs?

    photoshop faux pas

    Last for this list, let’s talk about the dreaded effects that plague every beginner Photoshop project - the bevel and drop shadow effects

    Both are commonly used for similar purposes making two-dimensional text and images appear as 3D objects. Applying a drop shadow gives the impression that the text or image is ‘floating’ above the surface of the page, while the bevel effect creates the illusion that the object has bevelled edges.

    Sounds good, right? Everyone wants their print marketing to jump out at readers - so why not use these effects in your own design?

    The trouble is, drop shadows and bevels are not only overused, but also often overcooked - the effects are applied to starkly, resulting in ugly designs which don’t convincingly convey the 3D illusion. Blurry shadows can often make text more uncomfortable to read too; especially if the text colour isn’t sufficiently brighter than the shadow underneath.

    It’s best to avoid the two effects altogether if you want a professional, original design - but if they’re used sparingly and creatively, they can sometimes provide subtle contrast to bring out text, icons and other design elements.

    And that’s our three print design clichés to avoid! Which design clichés drive you up the wall? Let us know in the comments below.

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  6. To pay VAT or not to pay VAT That is the question.

    To pay VAT or not to pay VAT That is the question.

    Indeed, that is the question. When you’re looking to create your printed material for distribution to your customers, undoubtedly cost is a critical factor in your decision making. What you may not know is that not all printed marketing material is VAT chargeable. VAT is value added tax added to most goods and services.

    VAT Rates:

    When it comes to printing, you will either find products that are standard rate (20% VAT) or zero rated (0% VAT). So it’s worth taking the time to understand which items are categorised as zero rated and standard rated.

    Zero rated items include:

    • advertising leaflets
    • printed booklets
    • printed brochures
    • catalogues
    • pamphlets
    • magazines
    • programmes
    • printed flyers
    • printed leaflets

    It is important to note that there are some exceptions to these zero-rated products. Leaflets are a particularly complicated item to categorise. Generally they are zero rated as long as there is a significant amount of text on at least one side of the leaflet, it must also be no larger than A4 and it must also be a single self-contained item and not part of a larger package. It also must not be printed on paper heavier than 230gsm.

    Additionally, if a flyer is designed to obtainPrinted Flyers and Leaflets pay no VAT discounts on good or services, to obtain admission or entry to a place, for use as a calendar or as a form for completion, these flyers might not be deemed zero-rated. With brochures and booklets, there are also some exceptions to the zero-rated rule. These include brochure printing being used for commercial, engineering, architectural and industrial reasons or for calendars, diaries or address books.

    All other products and services are standard rated, including:

    • banners
    • roller banners
    • display boards
    • business stationary
    • raffle tickets
    • greeting cards
    • envelopes
    • printed flyers
    • printed leaflets

    Essentially if your printed matter is to be used for commercial purposes then it is very likely it will have VAT added to it.

    So what does having zero VAT and standard rated products mean for you?

    Ultimately it means choice and cost effectiveness. Knowing that certain designs and formats can be significantly better value for your money can help shape how you design your marketing material.

    It also helps you to know your rights when you are shopping for printed marketing material. Knowing those exceptions to the rule also means you are entering in to your printing project fully aware of the kind of costs you can expect.

    If you’re not sure you should always seek advice from a reputable and established printing company like Betterprinting to see what rate affects your choice of printed products. If your in any doubt then please give us a call on 02380 878037.

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