Five Qs: Margaret Fitzgerald on the Evolution of Printing

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Allied Printing in Ferndale recently launched its Rethink Ink campaign — including a revised brochure and website, new logo, and advertising — as part of its initiative to grow the company’s business. Margaret Fitzgerald, vice president of finance and a member of the firm’s executive leadership team, spoke with DBusiness Daily News about how the printing company has stayed relevant in today’s technology-driven world.

1. DDN: What is the significance of Allied’s new tagline, Rethink Ink?

MF: It really speaks to the role that print still plays in our world today, how it integrates with technology, and how (Allied) has come to be viewed as a leader when it comes to how to use print intelligently and effectively enhance communication in a marketing campaign.

2. DDN: What is an example of an alternative way to use print?

MF: We have an application called POPcolor. It allows us to take a file and enhance the color in a particular way. We’ve used that application with stores that want to replicate a product (on paper) — think bathroom or kitchen tiles. The client wants to have samples available in stores across the country, but the cost of putting actual samples out there, the shipping costs and the material costs, are high. By replicating the tile with a paper sample, you cut down on the weight, the shipping, and the freight — on all of those factors. And then all of a sudden you’ve cut (a large percentage) out of the cost. The sample pieces look like the real tile, but they’re paper, and nobody knows.

3. DDN: What challenges have printing companies faced with the increasing use of technology?

MF: I think the stumbling block for most companies is coming to the realization late in the game that they had to bring more to the table than just pure print. If you didn’t start making investments into other technologies or services seven or eight years ago, it’s awfully hard to catch up. Allied developed a suite of services that support print over the last 15 to 20 years. We’ve been doing direct mail for a long time, and we’ve been doing fulfillment and distribution since the mid-’90s. We do a million pieces plus of mail per week, and that’s going to continue to grow. That’s an unusual metric for what’s considered to be a printing company to put out there.

4. DDN: What has been your experience in Michigan?

MF: The auto industry as a whole carried a lot of companies in the southeast Michigan region. Between the OEMs and the suppliers, there was a lot of auto-related print for the agency world. But when those guys ran into the problems in 2008, everybody’s marketing budget shrank and everyone trying to understand the role that technology played. Companies (that only did printing) didn’t have anything to supplement their services.

Our saving grace was we not only have a print operation that provides us with the ability to produce hundreds of thousands of pieces at one time, but we also have a digital print application that allows us to do short runs. It allows us to do very targeted personalized mailings. And because of the investment we made in our IT infrastructure, our software platforms, and just our talent base, we were able to sit down and say, “What’s working with your marketing campaign and what isn’t?”

5. DDN: What’s next for Allied?

MF: We’re in the midst of planning for a significant growth and expansion of our direct mail business. We’re still in the preliminary planning stages, but that is certainly a very strong growth area for us. For us, it’s meant that we’ve started to revisit our physical format in terms of our facilities’ footprint and just decide what operations we’re going to have in which of our facilities. There’s a lot of growth potential there, and there’s some pretty exciting things going on in the equipment side and the technology side of that coin. I’m pretty comfortable saying that in the next 18 months or less, we will be a much more prominent player in the direct mail field.

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