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Direct Mail Marketing Still Matters, and Here’s Why

Even as more business transactions move online, direct mail marketing remains an effective way to influence customer choices.

Direct mail marketing is alive and well and an effective communication tool.

In an ever-more-digital world, direct mail marketing meets a need that can’t be met through bits and bytes. Customers crave the sensory input that a well-executed print campaign delivers, and they’re more likely to recall brands after experiencing print marketing.

That’s why even digital companies turn to print marketing and direct mail campaigns. Dissolve, a Canadian firm founded in 2013, is an online provider of stock footage and photography for film, television, print and digital applications. Dissolve deals only in digital media, but they are committed to using print to increase brand awareness and boost sales.

“People love to connect with something in their hands,” says Joe Mak, Dissolve’s director of marketing. “That’s hard to do with email.”

That sense of connection may be why print outperforms email and other digital advertising media. Canada Post’s Smartmail Marketing: The Science of Activation study showed that:

  • Direct mail marketing generates 29 percent higher brand recall than digital advertising.
  • Online pre-roll video ads hold a customer’s attention 57 percent longer when they’re followed by direct mail.
  • Combining direct mail marketing with display ads result in 46 percent higher brand recall than a display ad-only campaign.
  • Integrated campaigns drive 39 percent more attention than single-media campaigns.


Direct mail marketing also makes it possible to reach customers that you can’t reach digitally.

“People are more protective of their digital contact information,” says Sheldon Popiel, Dissolve’s co-founder and creative director, who notes that renting a mailing list might give you names and demographic information, but no email addresses. There are also regulations around using email for unsolicited marketing materials.

Direct mail campaigns solve those issues. “We’re able to find very highly targetable lists and send pieces that are relevant to them to promote our offerings,” Mak says. “You’re able to reach people that you are otherwise not able to reach by digital means.”

Dissolve’s print campaigns, such as flipbooks, lenticular brochures and photographic prints, have delivered impressive results, even generating sales months after a project is mailed. The key is that Dissolve is careful to create campaigns that resonate.

“We like to really look at ourselves as our customers. We’re creatives, too,” says Popiel. “If we’re not feeling something, if we wouldn’t want to keep that piece, if we think it’s a waste of paper, then we think they would as well.”

Done right, direct mail marketing has tremendous potential to influence customer choices. That’s because:

1. It Commands Attention

Digital marketing can be very effective, but it comes at a price. Readers can be easily distracted by pop-up ads, email and social notifications, breaking news alerts and more. Such distractions can draw them away from the experience before they have a chance to respond.

Print marketing, on the other hand, is a much more focused experience. It’s read when and where desired, and recipients have greater control over how much time they spend with it.

2. It Creates a Greater Sense of Trust

A recent study from the Finnish research company VTT that surveyed people in 13 countries found that 90 percent of respondents prefer direct mail marketing to social media, and 63 percent said they thought print ads were more trustworthy. Perhaps as a result of this perception, 92 percent of shoppers in another survey say they prefer direct mail when making purchasing decisions.

3. It’s Fun

Picking up the mail can be a highlight of many people’s day, especially if there’s a card from a loved one or a catalog from a favorite brand. Why? Because mail is tangible and permanent.

Studies have shown that our mood improves by 29 percent when exposed to a positive tactile feeling. Direct mail marketing certainly fits the bill, especially when designed to create an enhanced sensory experience through textures, folds, die-cuts and other unique treatments.

4. It’s Personal Without Being Creepy

Unlike a banner ad that calls you by name, personalized direct mail feels friendly and exciting. In fact, it can generate appreciation for the business it represents because many consumers recognize that personalizing print requires more effort than personalizing digital ads.

In an increasingly digital world, direct mail marketing stands out as an effective means to influence customer choices. For more information on how to optimize print in your next campaign, visit our Blueline Blog.

Five Tips for Looking Beyond Paper Specifications

Published paper specifications won’t tell you everything you need to know about paper performance. Use these tips to find the right paper for the job.

When it comes to choosing paper for your next project, just look at the paper specifications. They’ll tell you everything you need to know. Or will they?

In truth, the published paper specifications tell only part of the story. Information about basis weight, caliper, brightness and smoothness can help you narrow your search to give a starting point in considering the type of paper that is right for your project, but it won’t guarantee how a specific paper will perform compared to a similar product from a different manufacturer.

Lori Slovik, technology manager for Domtar’s Printing and Publishing Papers, notes that many papers with the same published specifications will behave quite differently on press. As an example, she recalls testing a new Domtar cover stock. Once the printer had the press settings correct for Domtar’s stock, they tested a competitor’s product with the same paper specifications.

“Immediately, we saw a significant drop-off in ink density and an increase in print mottle,” she says. “This was indicative of differences between the papers that were not related to the published paper specifications. Even though the printer had optimized the press for both sheets, the print quality differences could still be seen when looking at the sheets side by side.”

Slovik offers five tips for looking beyond paper specifications.

Choose Your Grade Carefully

Manufacturers usually offer multiple paper grades, with premium grades delivering better results than base grades.

“Domtar offers three brands in our commercial printing portfolio to give customers a variety of options for various projects, priorities and budgets,” Slovik says. “Husky® is our baseline offset printing grade. It’s going to print very well, but if you are looking to amplify a brand with high resolution printing that boosts details in imagery or graphics, you may want to step up to a higher grade of paper in the same basis weight.”

Look at Formation

How uniform is the paper structure? The more uniform it is, the more consistently it will print. “If you go into a press room, you’ll actually see printers hold up the paper and look through it with a light to see how uniform it is,” Slovik says. “That’s something that all mills try to control through fiber selection, how the fiber is refined and other variables in the manufacturing process. Just because a paper has the same opacity, brightness and smoothness as another product doesn’t mean it has the same sheet structure.”

Ask About Guarantees

Domtar guarantees that its products are designed to perform well in a variety of applications. “For example, if a customer is designing letterhead, they should choose a paper that been designed to be offset printed, cut into letterhead and then run through a laser or inkjet printer,” Slovik explains. “The sheet will have been engineered to have better curl resistance and static control, and it will be designed for other post-offset processes like folding and inserting. Another type of paper may not perform as well.”

Pay Attention to Cleanliness

If the paper’s surface is covered in fibers or if the edges aren’t cleanly cut, it won’t print well; debris creates voids in the printed images. “We have stringent processes in place to help us prevent that,” Slovik says. “If something we’re making isn’t up to standard, we’ll stop making it until we resolve the issue. We want to make sure we put our best product out there at all times.”

Demand Consistency

Look for a paper brand that delivers consistent results within and across its product lines. At Domtar, we have a detailed process that ensures each roll looks and performs the same from beginning to end, and that each brand is consistent across rolls and mills.

“We’ve seen situations where other brands have different mills producing the same product line, and there are differences in color, consistency and other factors between those facilities,” Slovik says. “We do a good job of managing consistency across our mills.”

The project may start with paper specifications, but it shouldn’t end there. Contact us to discuss factors that might impact print results so you can ensure the best paper is chosen for the job.

Xerox®: Choosing a Trusted Paper Brand

Which paper brand do you use in your business or home office? And does it even matter?

The debate over the importance of brand loyalty is a constant among marketing experts, with some people decrying the loss of brand loyalty in the digital marketing era and others welcoming it. But studies show brands are still important among consumers; in fact, one survey found that 77 percent of U.S. adults return to the same brands over and over again.

“When creating brands, the goal is to build loyalty and establish credibility,” says Meredith Collins, Domtar’s brand marketing manager.

The Xerox® Paper and Specialty Media Difference

In our industry, the Xerox® paper brand stands for quality, consistency and a high level of performance — a reputation that matches Domtar’s own priorities.

“As the exclusive North American trademark licensee of the Xerox® Paper and Specialty Media Line, those qualities really show who we are as a company,” says Collins. “We put our focus on our customers and strive to make great products across the board.”

The Xerox® paper brand is backed by Domtar’s performance guarantee. We’re confident in our products because our quality is proven through rigorous testing and strict guidelines.

Customers recognize that the Xerox® paper brand has a strong reputation, and they feel confident buying it for their businesses and home offices. As a result, Xerox® brand loyalty can pay off for office supply retailers.

Domtar offers two products within the Xerox® Paper and Specialty Media Line, each with its own characteristics that help it stand out from the competition.

Xerox® Vitality® Multipurpose Printer Paper

Made to run well in all types of printers and copiers, this paper is a good choice for creating a crisp, professional look on everyday documents. The high-performance qualities of Xerox® Vitality® Multipurpose Printer Paper not only help with productivity, but also help extend the life of a printer or copier by reducing daily wear and tear.

Compared to the competition, Xerox® Vitality® Multipurpose Printer Paper:

  • Is whiter and brighter, offering better contrast to documents

  • Offers higher opacity, creating less show-through on two-sided printing projects

  • Is stiffer, which means this paper not only feels better in hand but also runs more efficiently through high-speed printers

  • Features ColorLok® Technology for bolder blacks and vivid colors with inkjet printing and better quality and performance with laser printing

Xerox® Bold Professional™ Quality Paper

When your customers want to make a good impression, Xerox® Bold Professional™ Quality Paper is a smart choice. Great for important documents, it is intended to be used for presentations, proposals and other projects that include a lot of graphics.

Xerox® Bold Professional™ Quality Paper is thicker, whiter, brighter and smoother, resulting in vivid colors, crisp images and a quality feel. It is specifically designed for optimum output on both laser and inkjet printers, eliminating the need to choose paper based on printer type.

Paper Brand Matters

For people looking to purchase paper they can trust, brand really does matter. The Xerox® Paper and Specialty Media Line delivers proven results. Our Xerox® Vitality® Multipurpose Printer Paper and Xerox® Bold Professional™ Quality Paper also are backed by a 99.99 percent jam-free guarantee.

“The Xerox® Paper and Specialty Media line is all about giving customers better choices and better results,” Collins said. “Its performance and reliability are time-tested and proven, and we’re proud to stand behind these great products.”

Domtar Brings Your Brand to Life

Private label office papers are a key differentiator and growth driver for many independent dealers. Find out why creating a private label might be right for you.

Brand matters. But who says the brand has to be a national brand? More retailers and independent dealers are finding that private labels make excellent business sense. Private label products are a great way to differentiate their business from the competition. And, as the sales data shows, private labels are increasingly popular with customers.

According to the Private Label Manufacturers Association, private label product sales grew at four times the rate of national brands in 2016, ending the year with a total market share of 19.7 percent. The organization estimates the total size of the private label market in the United States is now more than than $150 billion.

More good news comes from millennials, who have overtaken baby boomers as the largest living generation. A Cadent Consulting Group study found that 51 percent of millennials have no real preference for private label vs. national brands, compared to just 39 percent of baby boomers. This bodes well for the ongoing growth and consumer acceptance of private labels.

“There’s no longer a stigma attached to buying private label products,” says Michelle Selders, president of Brand Verbalist, a brand strategy firm. “For many consumers, it’s now the smart choice. … For retailers, a private brand can be a big win, too. They have more control over the product, can better meet their customers’ needs and can optimize their profit margins.”

Domtar’s Private Label Office Papers

As the largest producer of uncoated paper in North America, Domtar has a unique perspective on paper products, along with more than 40 years of experience with private labels. We have partnerships with some of the biggest office supply companies in the world, but we also work with independent dealers who may be interested in building a private label program.

“We have a lot of expertise on the paper itself, not just the industry, so we are able to offer a customized approach to every private label program, based on each client’s needs,” says Marium Dossaji, Domtar’s customer marketing manager for office supply. “We can take their private label from concept to market, but we can also help them grow their reach as their business grows.”

Domtar’s industry, marketing and brand experts help clients:

  • Understand whether a private label is right for them

  • Develop a brand identity for their paper products

  • Optimize private label and branded product assortment to meet their customers’ needs

  • Create eye-catching packaging that promotes the brand and the business

  • Manufacture and ship private label products using Domtar’s robust distribution network

  • Develop inserts, sales flyers, sample packs and other tools needed to introduce the new brand to customers

  • Cross-promote their private label products with other products and services in the business

  • Continue promoting, improving and growing the brand as volume grows

Looking Beyond the Paper

Our private label programs also go beyond logos and branding to help clients build their businesses.

“It’s not always about the paper in the box,” says Meredith Collins, Domtar brand marketing manager. “It’s about what Domtar can do for you, what we stand for and what we believe in as a company. We’re passionate about what we do and about our customers. We want their brands and their businesses to succeed, which is why we offer such robust marketing support.”

Dossaji agrees. “It’s not about the transaction with us, but about how we can help you grow your business. A win for our clients is a win for all of us.”

Domtar’s customizable and scalable private label programs are well-suited to a variety of companies, from big chains to local retailers and independent dealers. In fact, private label programs are a great way to grow smaller businesses in challenging times.

“It’s been interesting to see these creative and forward-thinking independent dealers embrace private label programs in order to not just survive but also to thrive in an ever-changing industry,” Dossaji says. “We’ve seen these companies grow because of their private label, and we’ve been able to grow their program along with them.”

Here’s what some of our clients are saying:

“Atlas Stationers has experienced fantastic success with the Domtar private label program. The packaging design is better than many of the national brands. It really helps us stand out in the marketplace. We have experienced strong positive response from customers supporting local branding.” — Donald Schmidt, president, Atlas Stationers, Inc.

“Domtar has been a fantastic partner to work with. From representation, concept and design to launch and marketing support, they’ve guided us through the entire journey, and that’s been a key part of our success with the growth of our brand.” — Al Kemp, general manager, LB Office

“Domtar has gone the extra mile in helping us promote the brand with web banners, sample packs and package inserts to cross promote our other products. I can’t say enough about how Domtar has supported us with an awesome brand that we are proud to go to market with. It’s a huge competitive advantage for us.” — Ken Henderson, president, Chicago Office Products

Contact us to learn more about building your brand with a private label.

Office Paper Brands Customers Can Trust

National paper brands, such as Xerox® and EarthChoice®, help office supply stores and paper retailers build loyalty and drive sales.

Quality products build loyalty, establish credibility and enhance business reputation. At Domtar, we bring excellence to our nationally recognized brands and the private brands we develop for our customers. Having the right combination of national and private brands can drive store traffic, influence customer behavior, generate category interest, maximize incremental retailer margins and deliver value to customers.

“When we create brands, the goal is to build loyal customers that will look for that brand, regardless of where they’re buying paper,” says Meredith Collins, Domtar brand marketing manager.

Domtar offers two nationally recognized brands for its customers, each with a reputation for quality and consistency.

Xerox® paper brand — The name Xerox® has been associated with reliability and consistency for many years. “It’s like a halo effect,” Collins says. “People know that Xerox® is a good company; therefore, they will associate products bearing that name with high standards.”

Domtar acquired the trademark license rights to the Xerox® Paper and Specialty Media brand in 2013, and today we market three different paper lines within the brand. Xerox® Vitality® encompasses multipurpose office papers, providing quality and consistency in a variety of printer, perforated and multipurpose papers. Xerox® Bold Professional™ offers brighter, thicker options for professional projects. Xerox Revolution™ offers a wide variety of specialized paper, films and materials that allow customers to create professional-looking marketing and business-building tools.

EarthChoice® Office Paper — Domtar’s EarthChoice® Office Paper line provides choices for customers concerned with sustainability. “There is good brand recognition with this product line, which is known for its environmentally responsible production,” Collins says.

Paper Brands Offer Choices

Providing a variety of paper brands is important when building your paper assortment, in part because there are typically two types of customers: people buying everyday paper and people looking for premium products. Having an assortment of private label and national paper brands helps fill out your product line and drive traffic to the store and website.

“The important thing is to give customers a choice,” Collins says. “Some people will want to buy the more premium paper, while others are looking for value but still want quality products. Offer an assortment so they can choose the brand and product that’s right for them and their specific jobs.”

Contact us for more information about Domtar’s products and help choosing which brands are right for your business.

Domtar’s Inventory Replenishment Network Delivers More Than Paper

Paper merchants can reduce costs and better serve their commercial printing customers with help from Domtar’s industry-leading inventory replenishment network.

When commercial printers need to print a job, they typically rely on a local paper merchant to deliver the paper they need. Domtar’s inventory replenishment network ensures that paper merchants have fast, reliable and affordable access to the paper they need to keep their clients printing.

“Our network serves paper merchants who redistribute our product to thousands of commercial printers, copy centers and in-plant print shops across North America,” says John Parke, customer marketing manager for merchants at Domtar. “The printing equipment that these companies have come in a variety of formats, ranging from presses that require cut-size sheets to those that use large folio sheets to high-speed web-fed units that use large rolls. These customers need a reliable supplier that can provide the variety of finished formats they need while helping them manage their inventory costs and inventory turns.”

Ordering and receiving full truckloads allow merchants to be more efficient in their purchasing and warehousing operations. It limits the number of inbound trucks to unload and the accompanying paperwork associated with shipments, like bills of lading and invoices. And since Domtar stocks everything our customers need, it is easy to build full truckloads.

“Our inventory replenishment network also offers a lot of flexibility in combining a variety of products in a single order, making it easy to build full truck orders with Domtar,” Parke says.

When it comes to distribution, Domtar’s warehouse network offers three key advantages over the competition.

More Locations

Domtar’s system includes 10 regional replenishment centers (RRCs) located throughout North America — more than any of our competitors.

RRC locations include:

  • Charlotte, North Carolina

  • Chicago, Illinois

  • Dallas, Texas

  • Jacksonville, Florida

  • Delran, New Jersey

  • Los Angeles, California

  • Kent, Washington

  • Richmond, Quebec

  • Toronto, Ontario

  • Winnipeg, Manitoba

It Offers More Variety

Because Domtar is a leader in uncoated free-sheet printing-grade paper, we offer greater product variety than our competitors.

“In uncoated white printing paper, we offer three options with Cougar®, Lynx® and Husky®, all well-known brands in the industry,” says Parke. “We manufacture uncoated colors in a variety of basis weights across bond, text and cover. The RRCs also stock multiple brands of business papers, including papers made for color copiers and inkjet devices. More than 7,000 SKUs in the RRC network make it convenient for merchants to replenish their inventory and offer flexibility in how they combine products within each order.”

It’s Faster

Most merchants carry a lot of inventory at any given time. But a lot of their sales are transactional, meaning that a quick-turn job might come up that requires more of one item than the merchant has on hand.

“With our network of warehouses, we are just one day away from more than 80 percent of the North American market, so we can fill those last-minute orders quickly,” Parke says. “It puts the merchant in a better position to serve their customers. We have the inventory to back up their inventory, and we can get it to them quickly.”

Do Business Better With Domtar

With a larger inventory replenishment network, greater variety and faster service than competing suppliers, Domtar offers a clear advantage to paper merchants looking to optimize their operations. We can help merchants streamline their inventory, reduce carrying and acquisition costs, increase profitability, turn orders quickly and get more products into the hands of their customers.

Contact us to learn more about how Domtar’s warehouse network benefits merchants and their customers.

Making the Case for Domestic Paper

Domestic paper, imported paper — it’s all the same, right? Actually, it’s not. Your decision to buy domestic paper matters to our economy and our communities.

Does it really matter where your paper is made? Actually, it does. Domtar has advocated for buying domestic paper vs. imported paper for a number of years. Our previous Paper Made Here campaign raised awareness about the importance of buying North American paper.

So why does it matter whether you buy domestic paper or imported paper? And what does Domtar bring to the equation? Take a look at these four reasons why your purchase decision matters — to your business and community.

  1. Secure Supply — Domtar’s network of 13 pulp and paper mills across the United States and Canada, as well as 10 regional replenishment centers means:
    • No long overseas shipments
    • Minimal supply chain disruptions
    • Dependable delivery
    • Optimal shipping costs
    • Quick response times

    Domtar paper is made using sustainably harvested local fiber. Our production schedules ensure your paper supply won’t run out, and our respect for our natural resources means we help preserve our forests and water supplies for generations to come.

  2. Quality Paper — Domtar end-user paper research conducted in the United States and Canada by Isobar, an independent third-party research firm, showed consumers prefer domestic paper. “Our research indicated that people perceive domestic paper supply as having higher quality than imported paper,” explains Cristen Taylor, research analyst with Domtar’s Strategic Marketing and Research team. “It’s a perception that buying within your area means better quality, and that’s important.”
  3. More Jobs —Did you know that Domtar employs more than 9,000 people in North America? We have facilities in 31 states and four Canadian provinces. For every 100 jobs that we create at a paper mill, we help create 325 more jobs in the local area. Domestic paper is good for the local and national economy.
  4. Strong Communities — One paper mill can change a community, not just because of the jobs it creates but because of the positive impact it can have on local social, environmental, educational and wellness initiatives. As a company, Domtar gives nearly twice as much to charitable organizations as the average corporation, as a percentage of U.S. corporate pretax profits. But within each community, our colleagues also invest their time and resources to make their towns better places to live. Eric Ashby, manager of Domtar’s Windsor Mill, says, “Giving back to the community is an important part of who we are. Whether we’re supporting local charities, taking part in community events or creating more jobs, we are building a better future for the families who live and work here.”

Contact us about the benefits of buying paper that is manufactured in North America.

Know Your Customers: Tips for Optimizing Your Product Assortment

Creating the right product assortment can be tricky for office supply retailers. Here are some tips for knowing which papers your customers need most.

As a retailer, you know that having the right product assortment is essential. But is it possible to have too many choices for your customers?

Unless you’re an expert in the industry, choosing the right paper can feel a lot like choosing an ice cream flavor at the local soda shop. Faced with three dozen flavors and an endless variety of toppings, customers might just end up choosing plain old vanilla.

With different brands, colors, weights, finishes and environmental standards available, the large product assortments seen in many stores can be overwhelming to customers. They count on their office supply retailer or paper supplier to sort through the options and provide what they need, when they need it.

So how do you create an ideal paper product assortment?

Communication Matters

Good communication will help you determine which products your customers need. Asking the right questions can help you figure out the types of paper-based projects your customers have, what industries they work in and whether they’re printing in-house or outsourcing.

Here are four tips for getting the answers to these and other questions.

  1. Talk — Face-to-face communication is a tried-and-true way to find out what your customers want, to build relationships and to gain greater customer loyalty. Talk to your customers while they’re shopping or when they’re checking out. You’ll learn important information about their paper needs, and they’ll learn that you care about offering the right product assortment.

  2. Conduct a Customer Survey — Free survey tools like Survey Monkey and Google Forms make it easy to conduct customer satisfaction surveys. Just be sure to keep them short.

  3. Take to Social Media — If your store has a good following on Facebook or Twitter, you could use these outlets to conduct a poll or ask for feedback. Offering an incentive may encourage your followers to participate.

  4. Study the Data — In addition to new data from surveys and in-store conversations, take a look at your past inventory records, customer data and sales information to see what you can learn about what types of paper sell, what types don’t and who’s buying what. You may already have the information you need to start fine-tuning your product assortment.

Optimizing Your Product Assortment

Knowing how many types of paper to carry can be tricky — you want to offer enough variety to meet the needs of your customers, but you don’t want to overwhelm them with too many choices. Optimizing your product assortment means eliminating products that aren’t selling and adding new items to fill any gaps in your coverage.

“Ask yourself if you are missing a product that could help you better serve a certain audience,” says Meredith Collins, brand marketing manager. “It’s important to make sure your offering covers the range of needs and uses for all your customers.”

A good product assortment will serve business customers as well as hobbyists, teachers, students and other customers who value a wide range of colors, stocks and applications.

It’s also important to remember that the way people use paper is changing. Multipurpose paper will always be popular for copiers and printers, but thanks to advances in technology and improvements in digital printers, inkjet printers and design software, many companies are doing more printing jobs in-house. These customers are looking for premium and specialty paper as well as different paper sizes, such as the 12-inch-by-18-inch size used by many digital printers.

Contact us if you have questions about what your product assortment should look like. We can help you identify which Domtar papers are right for your business.

Making the Most of Variable Data Printing

New technology makes variable data printing an option for just about any marketing campaign. What is variable data printing? And how can you maximize your results?

It’s not news that variable data printing delivers results. As printing technologies have evolved, customizing print marketing campaigns based on customer demographics and/or buying patterns is easier than ever. With the rise of inkjet and digital printing, it’s even possible to produce 1:1 print marketing campaigns, where each piece is unique to the recipient.

Variable data printing works because it delivers results — anywhere from double to 15 times the return on investment of a traditional campaign. And compared to generic print marketing, personalized print marketing:

So what is variable data printing? And how can you maximize your return on investment with this technology?

What Is Variable Data Printing?

Everyone has received personalized direct mail advertising — perhaps a postcard with a tailored message or a catalog with an exclusive offer. But variable data printing can — and should — be so much more.

“When the average person thinks about variable data, the only thing they think about is name and address,” says Vanecia Carr, director of customer and brand marketing at Domtar. “We’re focused on not just customer names, but also customer preferences, demographics and buying behavior. As people shop more and more online, websites can capture all of that information, so companies can really use that data to deliver highly targeted marketing.”

Variable data printing can be as simple as name and address fields printed on static shells or preprinted forms. Or it can be as complex as images, offers and other content that is unique to the individual. And it’s all based on the type of data companies already gather on their current and prospective customers.

Carr shares a personal example of shopping at a major outdoor retailer. “I primarily cycle, so I’ve bought cycling shoes and seat pads and that kind of thing, and that’s what they market to me,” she explains. “But one time I bought some hiking gear, which is out of the norm for me. And wouldn’t you know, they started sending hiking and outdoor information to me. I started getting mailers with different types of images and products based on my purchase history.”

The trend in direct mail marketing is shifting from mass campaigns to more targeted, segmented communications that speak to customers when, where and how they prefer.

“One-size-fits-all messaging is so irrelevant these days,” Carr says. “You have to figure out how to adjust your content to match the needs of the customer, which may mean varying the channel as well as the data.”

Best Practices for Variable Data Print Marketing

Printers, researchers and firms that specialize in direct mail marketing offer the following suggestions for making the most of your variable data printing and marketing efforts.

  • Think Solution, Not Technology — Variable data printing technology is just that — a technology. By itself, it doesn’t do anything to drive sales. It’s how you use the technology that makes a difference. Variable data printing should be part of a well-planned, well-executed marketing campaign that is based on solid research and well-defined business objectives.1

  • Stick to the Facts — Don’t make any assumptions about ethnicity, gender or other consumer traits; use only facts that are currently available and verifiable.2

  • Mine the Data — The more data you have, the more you can target and segment your variable data campaign. Consider all available customer information when determining how to approach a campaign.2

  • Get it Right — Accuracy is absolutely critical. Variable data printing requires higher quality control than traditional printing. Put steps in place to check for accuracy at every step of the project, from design and list generation to printing and mailing. The success of the campaign will depend on getting every element right.2

  • Test Everything — Segmenting and targeting campaigns with variable data printing is great, but if you don’t test which offers work best with which audiences, your efforts could go to waste. An educated guess based on solid data is a great starting point, but real success comes with testing that delivers lessons for future campaigns.1

  • Rethink Cost — Variable data printing drives greater results than static campaigns, but sometimes upfront and/or per-piece costs can cause marketers to avoid it. Experts recommend looking at this type of campaign through a different lens. Greater response conversion rates, lower costs per lead and higher revenues per sale all factor into a return on investment that can far exceed traditional campaigns.1

  • Make a Long-Term Commitment — Look at digital printing and variable data print marketing as a shift in your overall marketing model, rather than a single experiment or a series of campaigns. Some benefits are immediate, but others accrue over time. The marketers who see the greatest success are those who have a deeper, longer-term commitment to the idea of targeted, personalized, 1:1 communication with their customers.1

For more information about variable data printing, print marketing, design trends and related topics, follow the Blueline by Domtar blog and subscribe to Blueline magazine.



Maximize Your Use of Inkjet Printing Technology

What should you keep in mind when designing a project for inkjet printing? Take a look at three tips that can improve results on your next project.

High-speed digital inkjet printing technology opens new doors for designers – from building more personal connections with audiences to printing unique projects more cost-effectively. However, inkjet printing technology is not the same as offset printing or toner-based digital printing and requires some different design approaches.

If you’re new to using inkjet printing technology, follow these best practices to ensure your finished project looks as amazing as you envision it.

Three Steps to Better Inkjet Printing

  1. Keep an Open Mind — The guidelines for designing and printing an inkjet project are not the same as those recommended for offset printing, and the learning curve can be steeper than you might expect. The ink formulation is different, the machines might be unfamiliar, and you may need to use paper that has been treated to accept inkjet inks. Approach your first inkjet project with an open mind and a willingness to adjust your expectations.

    A great resource to consider is “The Designer’s Guide to Inkjet” by Elizabeth Gooding and Mary Schilling, providing valuable insight to understanding the potential of inkjet printing technology.

  2. Shop Around — Think about the intended purpose of your printed piece, and evaluate what’s most important. Is crisp detail essential? Is color matching a must? How long will the piece be used? Is personalization and variable imaging a top priority? Discuss your goals with your printer to determine whether inkjet printing technology is a good fit for your project. You can also check samples of similar jobs printed on inkjet machines to determine whether the print quality is right for your project. Also consider ink type. “The Designer’s Guide to Inkjet” explains that there are two types of inkjet inks: dye-based and pigment-based. Results for each type of ink can vary depending on the machine and type of paper used. In general, dye-based ink is more scratch-resistant because it sinks into the paper. Pigment-based ink tends to sit on top of the paper and can appear more vibrant. Pigment-based ink can also be more colorfast than dye-based ink, providing a longer shelf life.

  3. Talk to Your Printer — Once you’ve chosen the right print provider, schedule a call or visit the facility to discuss project specs as early as possible. Share your design and communicate your color-matching requirements. As with any type of printing, your results with inkjet printing technology will improve if everyone is on the same page from the beginning.

Other Design Considerations for Inkjet Printing

Before you get too far down the design path, consider other factors that can impact project results. Discuss these issues with your printer, and take them into account when creating a design for inkjet printing technology.

Paper Options

A wide variety of inkjet papers are available today. Ask your printer for suggestions based on your project goals, design, budget and timeline. Domtar’s collection of inkjet papers offers several readily available options in a variety of weights, calipers and finishes from the brands you trust, including LynxJET®, LynxJET® Premium Card, LynxJET® Dye and HuskyJET®.Whatever your project, priority or budget, Domtar has created an intentional offering of inkjet brands to meet the needs of the transactional, direct mail and commercial printing markets.

Depending on the project, you also may need to consider post-processing performance. Is the paper engineered to withstand the rigors of post-processing applications, such as folding and insertion? Ask your printer to recommend a paper that will not only print well but also perform well in any other required applications.


Inkjet performance can vary widely depending on the particular machine, paper and ink. Ask your printer about linearization, a process that optimizes the paper and machine combination to identify the best settings for your project. Without this process, your piece will be printed at the same settings as the last job on the press, which may have had different specifications. Linearization helps deliver the best possible results for your project.

Color Gamut

Inkjet printing technology continues to improve, but its color gamut remains narrower than offset and toner machines. If your design includes colors outside the reach of the press, results might not meet your expectations. To improve quality, share your design with your printer and provide specific direction. For example, you may want to specify how skin tones look or which colors must be exact.

Color Matching

Some inkjet machines can print Pantone colors, which can help finished pieces adhere to brand standards. However, the results on one paper may not be an exact match to the same color printed on a different paper or a different type of press. Your printer can help you choose the right paper and printing specifications to get the best color match possible.

Font Considerations

“The Designer’s Guide to Inkjet” notes that inkjet printing can be prone to higher dot gain than offset printing, which can close in letterforms and make copy more difficult to read. Therefore, reversed type may not be ideal for the body copy of a project designed for inkjet printing technology. Ask your printer for additional font guidance based on paper type, machine type and ink type.


Inkjet machines may not use the same paper sizes as other printing methods, especially if you’re using a sheet-fed press. As early as possible, discuss the dimensions of your project with your printer so you can avoid having to resize it later.

For more information on inkjet printing technology and best practices for production and design, read “The Designer’s Guide to Inkjet,” written by Elizabeth Gooding and Mary Schilling and distributed by Canon Solutions America. For regular technology updates, follow the top inkjet press manufacturers on Twitter (@Canon_Solutions, @RicohTweets, @HPGraphicArts, @XeroxProduction, @KodakPrint and @PitneyBowes).