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Business Opportunities

Promotional Print

With flyers, leaflets, and business cards all being a staple of the industry for decades, David Osgar looks at the ways in which the sector is evolving and staying relevant in a more digital age

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Make an impact

For many, promotional print may be the first type of printing that comes to mind when asked about the industry. Everybody’s experience of printing, using invites, leaflets, and flyers, means print has become synonymous with promotion.

Many consumers and businesses have used the power of print over the decades to spread messages and vital information.

With the need for promotional materials of different shapes and sizes, the sector is certainly a competitive one. However, the changes in e-commerce, customisation, and digital printing have still opened up a lot of potential for new markets.

With so many potential avenues and changes in the space due largely to the emphasis on digital solutions, what are some of the best ways printers can move into the world of promotion?

Knowing the industry

As events, businesses, and rising markets open up, the days of free branded pens, promotional leaflets, and tote bags are back. In order to supply this huge market, businesses are always in need of partners and printers to provide this underestimated service.

The beauty of promotional items is their ability to perform subliminal and subconscious advertising, in which a branded product or printed flyer can influence a person’s thoughts or actions.

The beauty of promotional items is their ability to perform subliminal and subconscious advertising

With more and more big businesses looking at ways to diversify, and smaller businesses rising through the ranks of websites like Etsy, Instagram, and TikTok, promotional offerings can be a great way to attract business and demonstrate professionalism.

One way to do this is through direct-to-garment printing, which helps promote businesses and messages through printed apparel.

Suppliers of embroidery machines and digital print equipment, YES Group started to supply DTG Digital direct-to-garment print equipment in 2004, along with Compress LED UV printers in the commercial promotional print market in 2010.

YES Group supplies the Compress iUV-600s which can print on a variety of surfaces

Managing director, John-Paul Burton, says: “While products become more digitised online reducing the production of flyers and tactile printed documents, the requirement for promotional printing for apparel and workwear garments is rapidly expanding, which is creating high quality branded workwear and promotional clothing.”

Speaking about YES Group’s investment in DTG digital, Burton says: “We believe the DTG digital Q Series is destined to become the investment companies have been wating for.

“It is increasingly clear that to continue to establish new business you must have the ability to change, and produce orders often with minimal mistakes, otherwise you risk falling behind your competitors.”

The variation and innovations seen in the direct-to-garment sector demonstrate what can and has been achieved in promotional print. Metallic materials, 3D effects, and detailed prints have meant printed products have stood out more than ever.

Burton says: “It’s no surprise that Compress LED UV print technology is becoming increasingly important.
“Compressed LED UV printers are celebrated for their exceptional photo realistic colour and quality print image, therefore, ideally suited for display signage, 3D effects, giftware, souvenirs, personalised water bottles, and even distinct larger items that can be instantly printed on a compress UV flatbed.”

Speaking about the role of direct-to-garment machines, Burton adds: “The new DTG Q series hybrid digital printers are better engineered, with the advancement of ink management that produces brighter prints, at faster speeds for greater production and flexibility. They are easier to use without the maintenance levels currently experienced in the marketplace.

“The fact remains, the acceleration of digital direct-to-garment production can solve challenges in all manufacturing areas resolving all kinds of issues within the value chain, from time, resources, less waste, low machine maintenance through to quality production, quality prints, leading to amazing profits.”

A changing market

While direct-to-garment printing has become a big part of the industry, the inclusion of premium effects and integrations with digital solutions, has now meant printed documents are still a massive part of the industry.  
Sellers of flyers, leaflets, business cards, and brochures, Solopress, a company based in Southend-on-sea, Essex, has seen the evolutions of print and trade over the past 20 years, since being founded in July 1999.

Managing director, Simon Cooper, says: “At Solopress, our core business was and remains paper and large-format print. However, listening to customers has directed us towards providing a more diverse range of products beyond paper and signage. Our aim is to be a trusted partner for customers and resellers by catering for all their mass-customisation needs.

“We recently overhauled our range of branded pens and water bottles as well as introducing new products aimed at events marketing including printed tablecloths, gazebos and pop-out banners.”

By moving into a larger range of products, Solopress has been able to make itself more appealing for those who want a one-stop shop of branded goods.

“We see our website as our biggest USP,” says Cooper, adding: “By offering a huge catalogue of products in one place, we make it easier for customers to acquire a consistent suite of marketing materials from a single supplier.

“Our scale and experience in the print world means we have services in place like artwork support and free UK delivery which are of great benefit to anyone ordering promotional products.”

On top of offering a large range of products, the way they are sourced and made is also a big factor for any company working on promotional items. Cooper states: “The movement that we’re most keen to pursue is the shift towards sustainability. A survey that we conducted at the end of last year identified environmental concerns as one of the key factors driving procurement behaviours among our customers.

“Following on from the Solopress Green range of print products that we introduced in 2020, we have sought to introduce recycled and recyclable products wherever possible. Our new range of water bottles, for example, contain products made from Ocean Prevented Plastics, which are recycled from material recovered from within 50km of ocean coastlines.”

The way that customers think about print has changed significantly over the past few years, with sustainability being one key component. Greenwashing from companies that are looking to cut costs has made huge impacts on public opinion when it comes to products such as leaflets, flyers, and brochures.

A company that has experienced the height of this change is Visual Print and Design which was established in 2009.

O Factoid: Visual Print and Design’s promotional merchandise sales have risen by 34% over the last 12 months  O

The company has offices situated in both Lincoln and Glasgow and offers a range of services including green print options, as well as packaging, point-of-sale, and promotional merchandise.

Founder and managing director of the company, Graham Hunstone, says: “When the business was set up over a decade ago, you couldn’t predict how much the print industry would change and over the last few years - even with the pandemic - we’ve seen an increase in premium, creative print campaigns.”

“Companies are not dismissing print; they’re rethinking its purpose and using it more creatively as part of a multi-channel marketing approach.”

Visual Print moved into promotional merchandise in July 2018 by partnering with different suppliers throughout the UK and Europe. Hunstone adds: “We were able to bring several products in-house in February 2019 with the purchase of a Mutoh ValueJet VJ-626UF flatbed printer.”

Graham Hunstone founder of Visual Print and Design has worked in the print industry since the age of 16

The investment from Visual Print paid off when sales increased and products brought about new challenges that expanded the business.

“It was a learning curve expanding into this market, especially when you begin working with new materials and have to identify which products which will be popular. However, it was certainly worth the investment as our sales for promotional merchandise have steadily increased year-by-year with them being up by 34% in the last 12 months.

“My advice for commercial printers moving into this market is to identify key products by speaking to your customers, ask them what they buy currently and establish a core selection of products that will appeal to them.”

Staying relevant

The products and solutions that laid the foundation for many printers are promotional prints such as leaflets, business cards, and flyers. For generations they have acted as an effective way to distribute information and attract customers to businesses with offers, coupons, and discount codes.

Though digital marketing and QR codes have made a big difference in marketing strategies, printers are still seeing big demand for this traditional medium.

“Flyers and leaflets are still very much relevant,” says Hunstone. “We are about to send 66,000 to print as part of a campaign for a local authority.

“Today, it’s about how you use them, what key message you are trying to communicate and how you can make them stand out. We always advise our customers to look beyond a simple A5 flyer and recommend special finishes and folds if they really want to wow people.”

Personalisation is also a big component currently