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The Marketing Supply Chain Field Guide: Part 11 – Vendors in the Chain

Vendor Production of Marketing Print Materials - eLynxx Solutions

Over the course of the past two installments, we have identified the various marketing, communication, direct mail, packaging and display material categories that organizations may manage and source through their marketing supply chains. While we can easily say that some form of printing is a critical element in the production of each marketing material category; we can’t simply lump all printing together. Just as there are a variety of marketing material categories, there are a variety of vendors – print and otherwise – with distinct capabilities on whom we rely on to produce and assist in the execution of the projects in our marketing supply chains. Today we will explore some of those primary producers.

When You Think “Printer” You Think About These Guys

Commercial printers are your good old all-purpose printers. Or are they? Variety, demand, expectations and ever-changing processes and technologies mean that specialization is becoming the norm. Sure, there are commercial printers who can and will print anything and everything they can squeeze out of their equipment and resources. There are also many commercial printers that despite technically having the capability to produce on a broader scope choose to specialize.

A vendor may do a fine job of producing a certain material for a good price because it fits their specialty. But given a material they are capable of printing, but that is outside of their area of specialization, quality and price may not be up to par. This is just one of the reasons why knowing the true, objective capabilities, capacities and levels of quality of all of your vendors is crucial to an efficient and effective marketing supply chain.

Consider the Whole Package

Aside from simple boxes, bags and other containers and labels of stock sizes and shapes that are custom printed; the production of most packaging is very specialized. Effective packaging in today’s marketplace often pushes the limits of production methods and materials. Substrates run the gamut from paper and card stocks to corrugated materials, metals, plastics, glass, wood and other organic materials. Every form of printing from digital and offset to silk screening, embossing, stamping, painting and even non-ink methods are used. Die cutting, folding, converting and other forms of physical manipulation are common and multi-part packages made of dissimilar materials are as ubiquitous today as a simple box was in the past.

Packaging is an attractive and lucrative market for printers as well as processors of plastics, metals, glass and other materials. It’s not uncommon to find printers who are able to print on surfaces they never would have considered in the past. It’s also not uncommon to find producers and suppliers of cans, bottles, jars, plastics and other packaging materials with in-house printing capabilities. Regardless of whether the packaging vendor is a printer or otherwise, packaging is the face of the product, and knowing that the vendor’s capability, capacity and quality are a precision match to project specs is of the utmost importance.

Creating Something with P.O.P.

If marketing materials were a family, point of purchase, or POP, displays and packaging would be first cousins. In fact much of the same that was already said for packaging above can be said for displays, signage and other materials intended to attract attention where a product is being sold. POP materials can essentially anything from uniquely-printed and constructed boxes, to permanent or semi-permanent merchandising fixtures, electronic displays, simple printed signs, banners, shelf-talkers and the like or anything in between. That means vendors of point of purchase materials can range from printers, to box and packaging specialists, to fabricators, cabinet makers and more. Elaborate POP displays may even require working with several vendors such as a commercial printer, a fabricator and a sign manufacturer.

Seeing the Big Picture

With the advent and subsequent growth of digital design and printing, one specialty area of the graphic communications industry that has grown by leaps and bounds is large or wide format printing. The capabilities of printers who specialize in the large and wide format area open a whole new world that goes beyond billboards and signage. This specialty is one that makes covering vehicles, walls, floors and other large objects with beautiful, detailed graphic images easier and more cost-effective than ever. Large and wide format printing is, however, definitely a specialty and something where capability and quality should be well-vetted. It is also an area of production where close, consistent communication and mutual attention to detail in project specifications is a must.

Join us next week when we wrap up our exploration of vendors you may encounter in the marketing supply chain with a look at some of the important yet often overlooked supporting vendors and partners.