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Variable Data Printing Explained


Welcome to the Dove Direct Print and Marketing Blog. Today's post, "Variable Data Printing Explained," highlights various methodologies digital presses utilize to achieve what is known as Variable Data Printing or Variable Digital Printing, aka VDP for short. In today's world, when we speak of direct mail marketing, we refer to a process that engages variable data printing. VDP provides marketers with an in-depth overview of data statistics that can be input into a digital press to deliver a more personalized experience for the recipient. The result is a plethora of customized information detailing recipients and their interests. It all depends on the data accuracy, the amount and types of data points collected, and the organization of that data to efficiently target the recipients in a curated list.

Our Quote of the Day
: "Personalization – it is not about first/last name. It's about relevant content."

Dan Jak, Head of Email and SMS

We have noticed that both prospects and a new generation of print buyers that represent firms in the business of buying print understand some, if not all, of the complexities of the print world. Here is our definitive take on VDP and other related questions surrounding the ongoing quest to deliver personalization.

Data Feeds the Process

Before getting to the creative side of variable data printing, believe it or not, the data compilation process is where the work begins. Without quality data curated and separated into various targeted lists, there is no real reason to book a variable data printing job, as data feeds the digital presses. For example, if your business targets a single most likely to purchase demographic segment, then the data that defines that group needs to be collected and organized into a list. Naming that list will allow the saved data file to be retrieved, reused, or edited for future print runs.

If your organization targets various demographic and psychographic groups, marketers can create multiple lists through the data collection and organizational process.

  • Tip: If your organization is marketing on social media platforms, collecting and categorizing user data can be helpful. For example, you can capture user comments, also known as "social listening," whereby the users' comments reflect what they care about most, what they prefer, the products they recommend, and possibly, what their pain points are. This type of data is a treasure trove when you understand how your targets feel about the products you are offering or, for that matter, your competitors.

Lastly, there is a third option to collect data, whereby you purchase the required lists.

How Does Variable Data Printing (VDP) Function

VDP is a technique whereby digital printing software can modify the output of a digital printing press to achieve personalization on an individual or group level by passing on unique information for each printed piece to be generated by a database or spreadsheet. The VDP process generates digitally printed output for every data point fed into the print software. Therefore, depending on the complexity of the data, you can customize each piece to include messaging, graphics, and color treatments, thus providing the intended recipients with personalized marketing communications. This technique offers a best-in-class approach for creating direct mail print collateral that will resonate among the targeted recipients on a given list. In short, the resulting creative print output will speak their language, or better yet, on the ROI scale, should generate higher response and engagement rates.

Variable Imaging Explained

Variable data printing (VDP), variable information printing (VIP), and variable imaging (VI) are a type of digital printing that offers on-demand printing, in which components such as text, graphics, and images can be modified for each printed piece in succession. This process does not stop or slow the printing process, as a database or external files provide the necessary input. Once again, this process depends on the data quality, which you curate into a list.

What is Versioned Digital Printing?

Variable data printing technology provides another benefit for print collateral to be output as a version of the original. We define versioning as having multiple versions of the same piece. Adding this versioning information is cost-effective and requires minimal additional expenditures. However, the piece's appearance can be significantly enhanced; by keeping it uniform, there are no random labels, handwritten info, or smeared rubber stamping.

Versioning affords various benefits:

  • It eliminates the shipping label requirement and the need to customize a mass-produced piece. Each piece will contain custom information and provide an appearance that gives the impression that it is original and meant to be there.
  • VDP is a cost-effective solution when compared to traditional offset printing.
  • Version quantities can vary.
  • Versions can be unlimited.

What is a Variable?

A variable can contain any number of characteristics, including a number, a quantity, or a measurement. A variable is also known as a data object or point. Examples of variable data points include age, sex, household size, income, revenue, expenses, country of origin, investment expenditure, purchase history, grade point averages, eye and hair color, types of owned vehicle(s), and more. A variable is also a programming value that a marketer can alter based on information passed to a program or even a conditional aspect. Typically, we refer to variables and constants as particular data types.

How is Variable Data Printing Used?

On-demand variable data printing offers organizations a high degree of flexibility and affordable printing solutions. VDP options encompass a wide range of applications, from simple mail merges to various versions for customized printing strategies that target different markets associated with overall marketing initiatives.

Thanks to VDP technology, organizations can use this variable data printing technology to create a plethora of personalized, custom materials and data points that best speak to the intended recipients in a direct mail marketing program. In addition, variable data printing also allows marketers to quickly and easily edit future marketing campaigns to increase ROI.

Businesses and marketers that incorporate variable data printing solutions can print a myriad of custom, personalized print collateral, including:

  • Direct marketing materials, customized flyers, mailers, brochures, booklets, and more
  • Unique labeling and tailored packaging collateral
  • Personalized documents, letters, and correspondence that are perfect for CRM strategies or invoicing
  • Postcard campaigns that are personalized and unique for each recipient

Why Variable Data Printing Increases Response Rates

In an overabundant media universe, where television, radio, email, social media, banner ads, blog posts, and billboards are all screaming for attention, consumers and prospects find it challenging to respond to those intrusive communications. And now, especially since internet traffic is overcrowded due to work from home initiatives brought about by the pandemic, using direct mail marketing is simply a no-brainer.
That said, marketing professionals are certainly on the hunt for a better solution that can cut through the internet campaign clutter. Therefore, it should be easy-peasy for brands and marketers to consider direct mail marketing, backed by VDP technology, to deliver personalized marketing communications to customers' non-cluttered physical mailboxes. Studies have shown that direct mail marketing increases response rates and ROI across all channels.

The Net-Net

Variable Data Printing, aka VDP, is steeped in print technology that opens the door for opportunities to deliver customized, personalized communications in an efficient, affordable manner. Given this overview of VDP, the technology behind it, and how it works, we contend that your marketing efforts will go a lot further by including variable data printing technology with your direct mail marketing instead of addressing prospects by just first and last name. We contend that this post only begins to touch the tip of variable data printing. However, it is nonetheless a good starting point. We hope this article sheds light on the subject, and thanks for reading "Variable Data Printing Explained!"

Let's talk about integrated business solutions and how they can move your messages forward, help grow your business, change behavior, and improve the customer experience. Let us show you how to improve your document processes to optimize your workflow, reduce costs, and maximize your organization's printing, letter shop, and mailing capabilities. Dove Direct has an official USPS certified bureau located within our offices to save you time and money. We can even create a demo file for you. For more information, call Carla Eubanks at 404-629-0122 or email Carla at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Dove Direct, your Atlanta based print and mail solutions provider, offers organizations end-to-end data, printing, and mailing solutions:

  • Data Management
  • Variable Digital/Data Printing
  • LetterShop and Fulfillment
  • Digital Mail Scanning Services
  • Fully Automated MLOCR Presort Bureau
  • Marketing and Production Management Support
  • Secure Data Life Cycle Management

If you don't want to wait, you can reach Dove Direct today by calling 404-629-0122 or complete the Contact Form.

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