Back in November, I attended a terrific NEDMA event (New England Direct Marketing Association; I’m a proud member!). One session was all about breakthroughs in direct mail. Soon after, I wrote a Print Tip called How Direct Mail Packs a Punch in 7 Ways – thanks to Karen McCormick of Fulfillment Express, who presented in that session.
Another speaker was Kevin Gilligan, VP of Sales for Structural Graphics in Essex, CT. The samples Kevin showed us were remarkable in a number of ways. I had to follow up and learn more about his company’s specialty.
Before I forget: there’s something refreshingly cool about their web site. The bios of their leadership team don’t focus on the ho-hum professional pedigree we see on most industry sites. Rather, their personalities shine through as we see what makes each leader a true individual. From firefighter to bagpiper, golfer to swing dancer, they all appear to have 3D personalities – to match the 3D of their products. Bravo!
When you visit their site, take the time to check out some of the videos. They have a YouTube channel that features a Solution of the Week. Structural Graphics produces pieces that make a big statement. Just a few examples I’ve seen: boxes that, when opened, 3-D cubes jump out; pieces with pull tabs; dimensional paper megaphones; and automatic changing pictures. It’s one of those instances where you must see examples to appreciate their magic.
MD: What makes Structural Graphics different from other commercial printers?
KG: Well first, we don’t consider ourselves a printer. We are a Marketing Services company that partners with our agency and advertiser clients to create designs that are totally focused on the marketing message they are trying to deliver. We help them create designs that get opened and present their message in a compelling way that is impossible to ignore.
And, it doesn’t have to be dimensional. Many of our creations are flat pieces that are also very interactive. For example, you pull a tab and something changes or is revealed. Our products have movement, high impact, and engagement.
MD: Tell us a bit about the mechanics of how your products are made.
KG: We have a great design process geared towards making it easy for our customers to adopt our products. We are experts at giving clients an initial template for what they are envisioning. We also have a proofing process that provides customers with a fully assembled, lo-res proof so there are no surprises.
As high-impact is our specialty, we always look to give recommendations to customers. Our pieces may take a bit more time to produce than standard printing, but not excessively so, and their effectiveness is worth it.
MD: Do you do all the manufacturing at your facility?
KG: All of the design is done here and in California, and most of our printing and die- cutting is done in Dallas, where we have a production team on the ground. Then we move the product into Mexico, where we own a hand-assembly plant.
Our Essex headquarters houses proofing machines that are calibrated to our main printer’s in Dallas so we can quickly review hi-res contact proofs. Designers provide hand assembly instructions to our Mexico plant, which are thoroughly reviewed before assembly begins. Production always signs off. All of this happens within the first two days of assembling. After assembly we move the pieces back across the US border and ship or mail as the project demands.
Our assembly plant is Code of Conduct certified by some of the most prestigious brands in the world, including Disney and Hallmark. This means we have met their highest standards for quality, safety and professionalism. We are also data certified by a number of financial services firms, meaning we have met their standards for safety, security and disaster prevention in the handling of their mail data.
We give surveys at the end of each job to get customer feedback and have over a 98% satisfaction rating.
MD: How about a short history of the firm: how old is it? Was it always a specialty firm in dimensional printing?
KG: The company is 35 years old. It was initially created with the idea of bringing the engagement of children’s pop-up books to advertising pieces. The company’s founder was a very inventive and creative personality, and he had the vision to see the potential of combining the two.
We’ve created approximately 40,000-plus designs since the beginning. Some designers have been here for 15+ years, and in this specialty field, their experience really helps.
MD: They don’t sound like your typical designers – am I right?
KG: Our designers are called paper engineers. It’s really a learned skill, part engineering, part art, and a whole lot of invention. There are structural design courses in college, but not a full-fledged degree so much of the learning comes on the job with us.
MD: Tell us a little something about the piece we’re showing with today’s Print Tip.
KG: This design is called our Flat Cube. It is cost effective to mail since it mails flat but it definitely has the feel that there is something special inside. When it is opened, rubber bands pop the piece into a dimensional cube that gets the recipient’s attention and is usually kept – keeping the message alive. This piece often receives response rates that are 4-5 times higher than traditional response rates.
MD: I noticed lots of videos on your site. It’s a natural!
KG: Videos make sense, you’re right. Our creations are fun to play with and they perform – they actually do something, so videos are the best way to feature them on our site.
MD: Are all of your products done offset?
KG: The majority are, but we’ve sized a number of templates to work on digital presses and some pieces have been both!
MD: What are the “hot industries” you’re serving these days?
KG: Financial services (credit card issuers) and automotive come to mind. Our pieces are created to help drive folks online for more information or, in the case of a car manufacturer, into a dealer’s showroom.
MD: Do you do stuff for the fashion industry?
KG: We’ve done some gift card packaging and some specialty packing as well for Victoria’s Secret.
Thanks, Kevin! If you want to reach Kevin, he’s at 860•767•2661 x230.
© 2012 Margie Dana. All rights reserved. You’re free to forward this email. However, no part of this column may be reprinted without permission from the authors.