10 Creative Ways to Go In-line
In-line finishing is like in-line skating in that it satisfies a primal urge: the need for speed. In-line finishing also has the “cool factor,” like in-line skating. And in-line printers get to wear those cool clothes, too. But what is in-line finishing exactly, and what are the best ways to use it?
In-line finishing condenses the web printing process, the bindery process and the lettershop process into one continuous operation. One or more webs—or rolls of paper—are printed, cut, folded and addressed in a single step. And a wide variety of creative options are available to embellish the printed piece, as I’ll mention later.
The advantages of in-line finishing are its low cost, speed-to-market and numerous creative options. First, in-line finishing generally is more cost-effective than other production methods when running large quantities. The higher the quantity, the more advantageous in-line production. Depending on the print format, quantities of 250,000 or more pieces can be most cost-effectively produced in-line. The in-line process also provides speed-to-market advantages over conventional methods. Since there usually are no post-press operations, shipping or mailing can begin as soon as print production begins, and production quantities of 1 million or more pieces per day are common.
But creative options are what really drive in-line finishing’s effectiveness in direct marketing. Here are today’s top 10 creative ways for marketers to use this tool:
1. Add variable imaging. Variable imaging is printed copy that varies continuously from one piece to the next. It allows the marketer wide latitude in personalizing direct mail, catalogs and other publications. Variable imaging also allows the marketer to create multiple versions on the fly by imaging the changes between versions. Besides saving time and money by running multiple versions as one, this technique allows multiple versions of a direct mail piece to be run as a single mailstream, thereby reducing postage costs. Variable imaging is available today in any and all locations on the printed piece.
2. Insert pieces into press-formed envelopes. In-line envelope packages can be created with the internal components and the outer envelope all created from a single web of paper, or they can be created from multiple paper stocks. Variable imaging can be applied on all elements and synchronized electronically for in-line production of personalized envelope packages.
3. Create unique die-cuts. Unique die-cuts such as those along the contour of graphic images, odd-shaped windows and pull-tabs all can be created in-line on press. A die-cut might follow the shape of the marketer’s logo or other dramatic element on either the inside or outside of the piece. Window die-cuts might be created to entice the consumer to discover what is inside. Pull-tabs can be created to heighten the anticipation and involvement of the consumer.
4. Produce a pop-up. In-line finishing allows economical production of a variety of pop-up devices, usually including a 3-D die-cut shape that moves or pops up when the consumer opens the piece. These products can be created as self-mailers and personalized on press, so that the piece is ready to mail at the end of the press.
5. Form envelopes, cards or pouches. Business reply envelopes, business reply cards, postcards, faux credit cards and pouches all can be created in-line on press, and tipped on or perforated off of the finished product.
6. Apply unique coatings. Unique coatings such as UV varnish, scratch-off and textured varnish can be applied in-line on press. UV gloss or dull varnish might be used to highlight a particular product or to protect the outside of the piece during mailing. Textured varnishes generally are used to create a unique tactile feel to the printed piece that increases consumer appeal. Scratch-offs are great ways to hide a message or image from consumers and entice them to get involved with the piece to view the hidden image.
7. Incorporate stickers. In-line printing allows the creation of stickers on the piece. These might be created from a repositionable adhesive, for multiple-use stickers, or a permanent pressure-sensitive adhesive, for a single-use item such as return address or gift labels. The labels can be any size or shape, and can be incorporated into direct mail, inserts, magazines and catalogs.
8. Apply labels, cards or repositionable notes. Label application equipment on in-line presses allows the addition of preformed pressure-sensitive or dry release labels to in-line-printed pieces. These might include membership cards, discount cards, yes-no stickers and repositionable “sticky” notes. These items also can be personalized after their application to the printed piece.
9. Use multiple paper stocks. In-line production also allows you to vary the color, weight, coatings and textures within one piece. For example, different colored stock can be used to create interest or draw attention to one piece, like a reply form; a heavier, coated stock can be used for a full-color sales piece, while the letter is printed on lighter, uncoated paper; and textured stocks can help an outer envelope to stand out in the mailbox. Many options are available.
10. Create booklets without stitching. Many different page counts and sizes of booklets can be produced in-line by spine gluing the pages. These booklets can be standalones, like self-mailers, or can be incorporated into envelope packages. Booklets and folders also can incorporate unique folds and shapes that are difficult to produce in a conventional bindery setting, such as multiple roll folds and Z-folds.
And these are just the top 10! The creative options available with in-line finishing are practically unlimited. In-line finishing gives you economy, speed and the cool factor … and skating is too dangerous, anyway.
Barry Bogle is vice president of business development for Quebecor World Direct, one of the nation’s largest direct marketing production and services providers. He can be reached at email@example.com or by phone at (770) 234-6399.