Selecting a Print Location for Your Catalog Version
Choosing a print location for your international catalog requires more than throwing a dart at a world map while blindfolded.
When marketing overseas, should you print and mail your catalog in the United States or in your target country? An economical solution is based on production, distribution and your marketing strategy, according to Tim Ohnmacht, manager
of international business development for printing company Quad/Graphics.
Your marketing strategy and mail volume largely dictate your printing and mailing location. For example, if you’re banking on the cache of being an American company, consider printing your catalog in the States and mailing your piece using the U.S. Postal Service’s International Surface Airlift Service so your catalog bears a U.S. indicia.
In general, U.S. printers provide the lowest printing costs and offer the highest degree of technology, says Ohnmacht. Many U.S. printers also are technologically advanced in the use of ink jet printing, which allows for greater personalization.
For example, many U.S. catalogers ink jet special offers or messages on their back covers and inside order forms, as well as on pages throughout the catalogs. Outside the United States, however, ink-jetting capabilities often are limited just to back covers and in a few cases, to inside order forms, Ohnmacht notes.
“Overseas printers don’t have the complexity or degree of personalization that we do in the United States,” he says. However, U.S. printers are helping to elevate the level of printing sophistication overseas by investing in international satellite locations.
If your marketing strategy involves a local or regional approach, you have two options: You can print your catalog in the United States and inject it directly into the domestic postal stream of your target country or region with the help of a remailer or foreign postal authority. Or, like cataloger Eddie Bauer, you can both print and mail within the region you’re targeting.
Executives at Eddie Bauer print and mail about 400,000 catalogs in the German market. “Our time schedule is always very tight,” says Luise Babl, director of marketing at Eddie Bauer GmbH & Co., explaining why the cataloger prints and mails within this target market. “We don’t lose time for transportation, there are no additional [transportation] costs and no customs [requirements].”
Pump up the Volume
Logistics is another key element in the “where” equation. How many catalogs are you mailing? If you’re sending fewer than 100,000, it could be more economical to print and mail from the States. However, if you’re mailing more than 100,000 catalogs in, say, Europe, it’s often more cost effective to print and mail from a central European location than to print and mail from the United States.
If you’re printing several editions of your catalog in different languages, build volume and take advantage of scale economies by working with one regional printer and exporting catalogs to their individual countries rather than working with different printers in each country.
“If you’re mailing a localized version of your catalog in four or five European countries, it’s more efficient and cost effective to print in one location, even if you’re doing four color plate changes, because the press is webbed up and prepared to print your catalog,” Ohnmacht says.
When business-to-business cataloger New Pig began printing British and German editions, all catalogs were printed at one U.K. location. Both editions were printed on the same press, using a black plate change to switch from the English to the German language.
However, as its business grew, New Pig could no longer print color plates at the same time because each book had its own mail plan. Plus, it cost more to ship catalogs from the United Kingdom to Germany than it would to print its German-language catalogs in Germany.
A Hybrid Solution
Today, New Pig does its prepress work in the United States, which gives it the convenience of being able to supervise color corrections and page assembly locally. It then sends page files for the Dutch and German versions of its end-user catalog on a CD to its Belgium-based printer who, in turn, sends blue prints back to the United States, where they’re reviewed.
To shave time off the production cycle, changes and approval are relayed to the printer by phone or fax. The total process adds four days to the cataloger’s print schedule.
An advantage to working with local printers is that foreign vendors often act as your liaison to the region or as a consultant, points out Edward Engle, international product marketer at New Pig. “They can help with language, certain printing styles and cultural differences, as well as assist with mailing and preparing mail for distribution in the country,” he explains.
The Internet has also revolutionized the way catalogers print foreign editions. Digital files now can be uploaded to an FTP site and printed by your overseas vendor.
“Your prepress operation will need to know what file formats are acceptable for your foreign printer so it can output files in an acceptable format, and ship color proofs in an expedited manner,” Ohnmacht says.