What’s Your Sign?
As mergers and acquisitions become the industry norm, margins are getting squeezed and making a consistent profit is a struggle. Advertising is put to the test and companies continue to gamble with marketing dollars to promote brand awareness. Approaches may vary, but most businesses can agree that effective signage goes beyond a storefront window. Otherwise, they will eventually see the "Going Out of Business" sign.
This could explain the push toward wide-format printing (or large-format printing) as a promotional tool. Signage is often reflective of the quality of a store's products and services. In turn, it can influence potential consumers' purchasing decisions. So, why not go big and be seen?
"As companies continue to pull back on the old traditional forms of advertising, they are putting their marketing dollars into 'in your face' graphics," observed R. Scott Schoner, owner of Speedpro Imaging, Piscataway, N.J. "Every empty space is now prime territory for client[s] to get their message across."
Speedpro Imaging has vinyls that can be adhered to almost any surface. The company has wrapped items, including elevator doors, tractor trailers, walls, ATM machines and ice cream freezers. One of Speedpro's locations even produces graphics for caskets.
Glendale, California-based 4over, Inc. also is active in wide-format printing—or as branded by 4over: Grand4mat. While 4over is no stranger to the industry, its Grand4mat division is fairly new, initially dating back to January 2009. Its most recent Grand4mat facility launched in December 2011.
"We try to stay ahead of the wide-format industry and we have introduced some new and exclusive products to the market. For instance, KoroKards and KrazyKuts are giant greeting cards with customized cutouts produced on high quality and durable coroplast material," said Zarik Megerdichian, CEO of 4over.
Despite the many benefits of wide-format printing, it has some disadvantages. Megerdichian pointed to the costly shipping rates that can accompany these oversized products. 4over has solutions for this problem.
"First, we offer free delivery to anyone within an approximate 50-mile radius of any of our locations. Second, we offer all of our customers the opportunity to come to our production facilities and pick up their orders," Megerdichian commented.
According to Schoner, speed can complicate things. "Wide-format digital printing has its pros and cons. A big pro is the speed; we turn around many jobs the same day," he remarked. "A big con is the speed; we have to turn around many jobs the same day. As we become faster, clients expect it faster. It's a vicious circle."
Because wide-format printing allows for the production of better graphics in a shorter time frame, suppliers must invest in the most up-to-date equipment. When Schoner is reviewing new equipment, he looks for quality. As a result, every Speedpro Imaging location has consistency in the quality of its output.
"There are new inks available that dry almost instantly, which allow us to laminate the prints much more quickly and get the jobs out the door faster. We carry new types of vinyls that are so easy to install, the user can do the installation himself [or herself]," Schoner said. "Also, the quality of flatbed printers has gotten much better in recent years, which allows us to produce certain jobs much faster than was previously possible."
Megerdichian mentioned that almost all of 4over's equipment and hardware feature the latest technology since the Grand4mat facilities are fairly new. However, he acknowledged the fast-paced movement of the wide-format sector, so constant upgrades are inevitable.
"We currently have new equipment on order that represent another significant investment in Grand4mat; this will benefit our customers greatly," he stated.
Exciting things are happening in the wide-format sector, but some misconceptions need to be addressed. For example, Megerdichian believes that a lot of the wide-format printing products should not be compared to traditional offset printing.
"A typical banner or sign will usually be viewed while walking or driving from about 50 feet away. While the banner or sign may look grainy in hand, it will look great from about 10 feet away," he explained.
He continued, "[Because] these products will often be viewed by pedestrians or drivers from a distance, and often at speed, small or complicated fonts and text that is hard to read are a problem. We recommend using large fonts and color contrast, especially in outdoor advertising, to get the most bang for your buck. The message that the banner or sign delivers needs to be designed concisely and with [clarity]."
Schoner wants companies to understand that it is not just the printing device that makes the print look good. Using the proper profile is one key component. "We custom write profiles for every type of media that we use. The printer manufacturers provide generic profiles, but these are not nearly good enough for the high-end advertising agency that demands spot-on color," he said.
ADD IT UP
Wide-format printing has become a natural add-on to print brokers' business. Speedpro handles a significant amount of jobs for the offset printing industry. Schoner said if companies turn away requests for large-format printing, they risk losing their customers' offset business.
"Frequently, our products are part of a marketing campaign for the end-user. Whether we are doing a vehicle wrap, a main street pole banner or a trade show backdrop, the look and feel of our product need to match what the offset printer is producing. Large format is already a part of companies' advertising budgets," he noted.
Megerdichian agreed that wide-format products complement advertising and sales campaigns, but feels they also have "carved a unique, standalone spot in the print market."
"The printing needs of small businesses are no longer limited to business cards and brochures, etc. Today's print brokers and resellers are far more sophisticated and competitive and are constantly finding innovative ways to use wide-format products that are independent of marketing campaigns," he observed.
So, how are smaller, local sign and print shops faring against larger suppliers? Very well. "These small shops outsource their large printing needs to companies like ours, and they provide great service to their customers," Schoner mentioned. "Big print companies that sell over the Internet, and by mail, just cannot offer the service that the local print or sign shop can."
Local print and sign stores are able to add wide-format to their product offerings by outsourcing their orders to 4over, as well. Megerdichian firmly believes that 4over is in the pole position to give these stores the confidence to deliver small, medium and large quantity orders on-time and at a competitive price point, with great quality.
"Our view is that local print and sign stores are a big network of print providers and we can all work together to provide a better service. We see ourselves as part of the team, working together to provide superior product mix and flexible options," he concluded. ￼