Share a Coke with Your Name on it: Getting Personal with VDP and Integrated Marketing



Personalized CokeAfter success in Australia, South Africa, the UK and dozens of other countries, Coke is finally releasing personalized Coke in the US this summer of 2014 – and it seems to be a social media hit (at least judging by my Facebook newsfeed.) 250 of the most popular names for millenials and teens will be found on 20 oz. bottles of Coke, Diet Coke and Zero. You can check online to see if your name will be on the bottles, and you can personalize virtual bottles to share via social media as well. But don’t get too creative – to avert potential viral disasters, the website will not generate any name not in their approved database! 😉
So why not get variable?

(The following article was first posted in 2013.)

Variable Data Packaging?
(Source link:

Variable Data Printing is a proven catalyst in effective marketing – when properly executed, research indicates that response rates can be increased by as much as 30% with VDP. Now corporations are discovering creative new ways to combine personalized content with both online and print communications for a truly integrated marketing outreach. With the dominance of social media, consumers are beginning to expect (or in marketing-speak, “demand”) a personally targeted appeal from their advertisers. And who is more successful at branding and effective marketing than Coca-Cola?

But, VDP packaging? Well, in a way…. In Australia, and now the UK, Coke is putting out millions of bottles bearing, rather than their iconic logo, 150 names as a way to “personalize” their packaging. Coke enjoys such a universally established brand recognition that they can even remove their logo from their products and still count on consumer loyalty. The campaign is called “Share A Coke”, and as a truly integrated concept, it combines the product packaging with an online site where you can create a “virtual personalised Coke can” if you are unable to find the name you are looking for among the 150 choices. Outdoor ads, and social media also drive the campaign. The video below shares how Coke anticipated the buzz generation on Twitter to further build consumer interaction:

After a successful run in Australia, Coke is repeating the project in the UK. Now, a true VDP product packaging would require the Coke bottles to be printed with the customer’s name before rolling out of the vending machine – an expensive proposition – but the success of this semi-VDP approach highlights some important ideas:

  • the power of variable data personalization in affecting consumer choice,
  • an increasing consumer expectation that we can share a personal interaction with what was previously an unreachable corporate entity when it comes to our consumer purchasing power. The buzzword is “engagement,” and consumers are realizing their new role involves more than passive consumption, but can also include interaction and influence.
  • the value of finding ways to initiate the power and outreach of social media outlets like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to your marketing advantage


Share a Coke campaign
Image Source:


Printers understand communication and design. Your printer should be able to provide you with the latest information, inspiration, technical advice, and innovative ideas for communicating your message through print, design and typography, signage, apparel, variable data printing and direct mail, integrated marketing and environmental responsible printing. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

Call us at 828.684.4512. ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your print and marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

Getting Ready for Big Data: Take a Look at Your Mail List

Mail Lists, Databases and Big Data

Our privacy is shrinking… or at least our concept of privacy is certainly evolving into something new in a world where just about everything we do, think, read, buy, eat, spend, or consume is digitally tracked. In such a world, your small business database of information on your customers is gold. It is not only how you stay in contact with clientele for invoicing, shipping, and marketing, but in the new world of “BIG DATA” it will increasingly define your profits and growth. Up until now, your data on each customer might be as straightforward as name, address and phone number or email. But as progress continues, you will be presented with the opportunity to gather FAR more data on individuals such as purchasing history, income, political and social affiliations, their avenues of consuming information and purchasing goods, their interests, dislikes, lifestyle and so on. Being able to organize, interpret and manipulate this data for more effective marketing will be at the core of your business’ success.

For now, even if your database is essentially a spreadsheet with customers and their contact information, spending the time to get all this information correct, organized, delimited and “usable” for various marketing efforts is time well spent. Standardization for every entry and every category of information is critical. If you have many folks all entering data into your system about customers or transactions, they all need to be doing so in the exact same way… the “rules” need to all be standardized so that, for instance Mary J. Sawyer, Mrs. MJ Sawyer, Ms. M. Jane Sawyer, Sawyer Mary J., and M. J. Sawyer are not all entered in your database like 5 different people! At a very basic level, that is an important first step.

We do mailings and variable data printing for many clients, and to receive what could be called “clean” data for a mailing is truly the exception rather than the rule. We have methods to “correct” and clean up data, but the sad part of that is usually clients do not want the “new”, corrected data back… so the errors continue to live and repeat in their database – a costly shame.

When you do a mailing, the USPS requires that the address information meet NCOA requirements. NCOA is the National Change of Address program that makes available to mailers the last 48 months of updated addresses where folks have moved or changed address. It flags duplicates and corrects out-of-date address information. Further sorting and certification software for mailing will standardize address spelling, zip codes, street numbers and other inaccurate information. But it is essential that once you have paid your printer or mailhouse to correct and use your database list for a mailing, that you recover that new information and reintegrate it into your database. It is the first step toward “cleaning house” and starting a good first step into the world of “big data” manipulation.

Be sure to ask your printer about how to best streamline the process of supplying your mailing list to them AS WELL AS them returning the corrected, updated list back for reintegration into your database. They will help you set up a routine that makes the file transfer flawless and easy. The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!


ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

Beginner Email Marketing Tips

Beginner tips for email marketing

Perhaps because everyone is use to having an email account and has figured out how to “cc”, “bcc” and send an email to all their friends at once, people seem to have developed over-simplified assumptions about what email marketing will entail for a small business. In order to begin email marketing in an efficient, trackable and LEGAL manner, you have to do some preparation. Below are some beginner tips that might prove helpful:

USE AN EMAIL MARKETING SERVICE. Using Outlook or a similar program to do regular email marketing or e-newsletters will quickly become overwhelming. That’s when you need the help of an email marketing service that will, among other things, maintain your lists and ensure you are meeting all legal obligations about not spamming. They will also provide you valuable reports and feedback on click and bounce rates and the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. MailChimp and Constant Contact are two excellent services used by many to manage and grow their marketing efforts online.

KNOW THE LAW. You MUST HAVE permission from every single person you send email marketing to and you must keep that information current. If you do not have their express consent to receive your marketing emails, you are sending out “unsolicited commercial email” or UCE, which is known as spam. The Federal Trade Commission can prosecute you for violation of the CAN-SPAM law. Let MailChimp, Constant Contact or other such services help you develop and maintain your mail lists to comply with this law and keep you off of spam blacklists.

THINK OF EMAIL MARKETING AS A RELATIONSHIP. When you send email marketing to the public, you do so with their permission. In order to keep them interested in allowing you that permission, give them something they want and can use – useful information, details on products, sales, upcoming advancements. And learn to read and study the reports you will receive back from your email marketing service so you can continuously hone your message. Take in the feedback from these customers and learn what they are telling you.

LEARN HOW TO WRITE A GOOD SUBJECT LINE. Subject lines, according to the CAN-SPAM Act of 2011, cannot be misleading or contain false information. Beyond that, the subject line should be interesting enough to make someone want to open it. MailChimp studied their clients emails with the best and worst open rates and found that the best were often the most straightforward. They tell what is in the email, rather than using pushy or catchy sales phrases. If its a newsletter, they call it a newsletter. Overly creative or catchy emails scored lower on this study. Read more from MailChimp about how subject lines work.

LEARN HOW SPAM FILTERS THINK. You want your email to be opened and read, but for that to happen it has to get by the customer’s spam filter on their email account. If you write like spam, you will be identified as spam. So avoid the common tricks of the emails that you hate receiving yourself: using all capital letter in subject lines, using lots of exclamation points or colored fonts, and using the words “Free” or “Test” in the subject line. Sending your email as one large image rather than html coding will get you identified as spam also.


ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

If You Have The Right Printer, You Have Your Marketing Consultant

Printers are Communications and Marketing Experts

Running a small business demands expertise in many, many divergent fields. You must excel at finance, employee relations, marketing, sales, and of course the specifics of the type of business you went into in the first place. In a large corporation, each duty or specialty is handled by an expert in that profession – or an entire heirarchy of experts: production, sales, marketing, human resources, R & D. As a small business owner, that’s all on you. Technology is only making that landscape even more challenging, daily.

To bring in help or advice on any of these areas is costly and risky. When it comes to marketing, however, your best resource is right at hand. And – this is by far the best part – it is FREE! If you have the right printer, you already have a highly trained marketing consultant who knows print, branding, direct mail, web strategies, social media and has years of experience in both high and low tech marketing approaches that work for businesses just like yours. The most assuring part of this partnership for you is that the print/communications company only succeeds when your marketing succeeds! Start taking advantage of this asset – the print industry itself has had to reinvent itself in this new high tech economy. They know what works.

Even if you have a background in marketing, the rules of the game over the past 10 years have changed DRASTICALLY. (Check out this amazing and exhaustive infographic on the History of Marketing.) The marketing success that got you and your small business to where it is today will most likely not take you to future success in the emerging economy and IT world. Do you have the time and resources to become an expert in web design, SEO (search engine optimization), interactive online marketing, web metrics or analytics, to position your operation to embrace the new and as yet unknown technoligies that are right over the horizon? In most cases, the answer is no – and unless your business IS marketing, you should not have to. Turn to your printer for help.

The term “printer” is misleading. Today, printers do far more than put ink on paper. They have become marketing and communications specialists, and they are your closest and most knowledgeable sources for consulting with you on your overall marketing strategy. A good printer will understand your budget, your marketing goals and be able to suggest many options for creating results: integrated marketing strategies, direct mail, targeted variable data printing, promotional products, signage, branding, website development and e-commerce, social media marketing techniques, and unique design ideas. Discuss with them your target audience, who your consumer is, what your mission and specific goals are for the year. These are the facts your sales rep needs to recommend specific marketing strategies that you can use to translate into profit and customer recognition of your brand and your work. So the question is: why drain your energy trying to learn the new world of marketing on TOP of running your business when you already have a marketing consultant waiting to talk with you?

ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

Print & Proofing: Typos Make Way for the Photoshop FAIL

If you work in the print or design business for any length of time, you will acquire a few stories to tell about typos, mistakes, and gaffes that escaped undetected by the proofing process. We proof carefully, and we encourage clients to be diligent in proofing before signing off on even the simplest of jobs. But even the sharpest proofreader lets a mistake slip by occasionally, and we are powerless once the ink hits the paper and the paper leaves the building. It says something about the power of print that once these mistakes are out in the public domain, they seem to carry so much weight. Today, with Photoshop and the ease of photo editing, the problems that use to exist with typos and misspelled words have now moved into the realm of images. Careless photo editing can result in some really humorous and costly mistakes.

The New Typo: the Photoshop Fail
Glad I saw these legs hiding among the pool furniture before showing the client a proof.

My most recent flub involved the photograph above. This time, I caught it before it made it’s way to the client or, even worse, the press. In removing a person from the background of a larger photograph at the customer’s request, I neglected to remove the bottom part of her legs. There they stand amongst the deck furniture, smirking… an innocent, though sloppy, oversight.

Many times, however, edits are not the result of mistakes, and are viewed by the public in a much more negative manner. The fashion industry receives harsh criticism for their over-zealous use of the Photoshop edit in their print marketing. Many have taken already thin models and edited them down to impossibly thin results. Magazine covers routinely edit away the size and curves of women. The effect of these industry practices on the body image of young girls and women is troublesome to many. Companies like Ralph Lauren and Ann Taylor have suffered negative effects from public backlash by going too far with these edits. (Check out this video, Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women.)

In an odd twist on the topic of “Photoshopping,” the New York Department of Health recently fell under fire for using a stock photo of an overweight man from Getty Images and digitally “removing” his leg to make him look like an amputee. The photo was used as part of a controversially graphic ad campaign that sought to link soda consumption to Diabetes. In this case, the photo edits were done well, but the fact that the photo was assumed to be non-edited drew the complaints of many who thought the ad campaign either inaccurate or too graphic.

We seem to want to trust that photographs are telling a story of fact – that they are evidence of a slice of reality. Yet we know photographs can be altered in perfectly convincing ways to tell whatever story we want them to. The result is we take some satisfaction in spotting the mistakes of a sloppy Photoshop guru – almost as if we uncovered someone trying to dupe us by the manipulation of the photo.

Check out these sites for some really entertaining photo gaffes: the “11 Biggest Photoshop Fails of All Time” and “The Funniest Photoshop FAILs of All Time,” courtesy of the Huffington Post. There’s even a website (of course) that keeps you up to date with the latest Photoshop disasters.

ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

Print: The Heart of Integrated Marketing Campaigns

Variable Data Printed and Integrated Marketing Campaigns

Tangible, portable, engaging, accessible, user-friendly, multiuse, renewable, versatile and creative… all great reasons to make print the foundation of your marketing campaign. Its very nature as a physical, rather than digital, object makes it effective and respected in the consumer’s mind. With advances in digital printing, the cost of print is even more affordable than ever for short or long runs. But by combining print with the new tools available online for personalized, trackable, interactive communication, you can boost your ROI with a truly integrated marketing campaign.

Print is user-friendly. All market segments feel comfortable viewing and reading information in print — therefore it can be used to lead those who are reticent about online purchasing or digital communications to check out your webpage, ‘click’ and follow a QR code, or visit their own personalized landing page (PURLs). Print is an easy stepping stone that works in coordination with online marketing to guide interested customers into a more interactive realm of communication and commerce. At the same time, print will reinforce your brand and online message in a concrete way.

With variable data printing (VDP), print is more user-friendly than ever. It speaks to each recipient in your database individually. From the printed contact, lead them to respond with more information about themselves and their interests, either online or by mail. With that information you have enriched your database and can target each customer in an even more personal way — trackable, multitouch, measurable results from your marketing dollars.


Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.


Targeted Mailings Maximize Your Return

Direct Mail – How to Ensure You Get the Most “Bang For Your Buck”

Direct Mail Art
Direct Mail, a vital part of cross-media marketing campaigns

Direct mail is still a great way to reach your customers and prospects. Web-based marketing (e-newsletters, Facebook, etc) is a great addition, but printed pieces still prove to get the best return. However, with postage rates increasing, you’ll want to narrow down the mailing list to get the most “bang for your buck”.

Eye-Opening Statistics

Research by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) shows:

  • 73% of consumers prefer direct mail over email, 18% prefer email
  • 79% of households read or skim their “junk” mail
  • Spending on direct mail is expected to increase 3.6% by 2014

(Read more: Mythbusting: Is Direct Mail Dead? | National Mail Order Association)

Researching Your Market

The trick to a successful direct mailing is to do a little market research to determine who is your target audience:

  • Geographic Qualifiers – where does your target audience live/do business? In your state, county, zip code… or maybe within 1 mile of your location?
  • Demographic Qualifiers – who makes up your target audience? What is their age, gender, household income… are they homeowners?

Once you have these questions answered, call or e-mail ImageSmith to do a FREE list search for you. We can tell you how many contacts are in your target list and the cost for purchasing the list. Then let us design, print, and mail your campaign… all Under One Roof!

We know direct mail, and we want to show you the benefits of integrated marketing – call us at 828.684.4512 or check us out online.