Concord Litho is a $42 million Northeast printing firm with 170 employees, six presses, full-service bindery, mailing and fulfillment services center, and a Fundraising Division that caters to non-profit organizations (including strategic planning and creative design). Its Direct Mail Division is powered by heat-set web presses with extensive in-line finishing, including inkjet imaging of names, addresses, barcodes, and other variable data, while its Sheetfed Division annually produces more than a million large-format point-of-purchase displays up to 64 inch and more than a billion greeting cards.
Founded in 1958, Concord Litho, which is wholly owned by brothers Tom and Peter Cook in Concord, N.H., serves national clients, including TV Guide, Rodale, Publishers Clearing House, TD Bank, Dunkin Donuts, and the World Wildlife Fund. Concord Litho is one of 30 firms nationwide to earn G7 Master Printer status for both sheetfed and heat-set web printing.
“Coupon use is skyrocketing thanks to the recession, and we’ve found our largest variable data projects are leveraging the increased trackability of barcoded coupons, combined with the ability to include relevant, personalized offers to various segments in the customer’s database based on factors like age, gender, location and past purchase history and preferences,” explained CEO Peter Cook. “A recent project for a major big box retailer involved printing more than 3 million trackable coupons that were imaged and perfed inline on one of our heat-set web presses; another included inkjetted information customized with local store locations, hours, and contact information.”
“A major grocery client is really taking advantage of the ability to provide customized offers and coupons based on household income and geographic location,” he added. “Putting the right coupons in front of the right people at the right time to drive redemptions . . .they’re getting solid results by optimizing their communications this way.”
While Cook said he doesn’t believe the use of direct mail will be expanding this year, he does feel it is maturing to a degree that is good for the industry. “We are innovating to hold onto the direct mail business that we currently have from our customers,” he noted. “We’re not adding color to all our pieces, but we are personalizing throughout the pieces, adding barcodes and QR codes.”
“We service two markets,” explained Cook, “commercial business and non-profits, and we also have a large-format press for point of purchase posters.”
Cook noted that his tactic with clients is not to tell clients how to design and create their direct mail pieces but to offer recommendations to improve response rates based on what works. “We offer creative recommendations,” he explained, and it appears to work since his business has remained steady in an extremely challenging year for the printing industry.
Concord will continue to expand in 2010 after a “decent year” in 2009, he said. “We’re planning to add lettershop and personalization equipment this year.” Personalization and segmentation are key advantages for Concord Litho’s non-profit clients, too, he added. “It’s a powerful, cost-effective combination of test strategy, data, inkjet, and traditional print.”
In December 2008, the company added inline inkjet imaging. This $2 million investment meant Concord could now image and address high-volume direct mail and marketing projects inline on its heat-set web presses, saving time and money—and opening new opportunities for affordable personalization, segmentation, campaign tracking, and testing.
Powered by a Kodak Versamark DS 6240 Printing System, the company’s new inline inkjet equipment allows it to image 25.5 inches per project in one color at a 240x240 dpi fidelity, with no slowdown in speed; print a variety of text, graphics, charts, barcodes, autonumbers and tables throughout a printed piece (both sides may be imaged); and print variable messages and images based on selective or conditional logic in a database (for example, one graphic for men and another for women on a mailing list, or print a barcoded coupon offer based on a customer’s most recent purchase).