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Pushing the Envelope Beyond Ordinary

Paper Comes Back (or it never really left)

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jul 19, 2016 12:59:35 PM

One of the most predictable things in life is that changes and trends tend to move drastically in one direction only to be followed by a re-calibration.  It’s part of our nature to become infatuated by something new and different.  But after the full effects are consumed and digested, things tend to settle back into some rough equilibrium.  

Of course this isn’t true in all cases.  Once the automobile came onto the scene, horse-drawn transportation became a decidedly niche activity and stayed that way.  But not all social trends or new technological developments are as obviously superior as the car. 

It’s remarkable to think that the internet as we know it and use it today has really only become widespread within the past twenty years or so. The world has profoundly changed as a result and it’s been a positive change in almost all respects.  

High technology in all its forms has pushed paper aside in many ways and for many reasons; some having to do with convenience, some with cost, some with (often faulty) environmental concerns.  But inevitably, the “digestion” period has begun and people are starting to process these changes, seeing the negatives as well as the positives and acting accordingly.

A few recent examples illustrate this:

Item - In a June 22nd article in the Boston Globe - "Millennial's strange love affair with greeting cards" Janelle Nanos writes about how young adults are seeing the superior personal connection of a written note and card versus a "throwaway" message on Facebook or Snapcha and are buying them in significant quantities.  The demand is mostly fulfilled through small, boutique card companies that market online.  Improved printing technology and lower upfront costs have reduced the barrier to entry in the market.

Item – In a July 10th essay in the Wall Street Journal entitled "I'm Banning Laptops from My Classroom" , Rutgers law school professor Stuart Green makes his case against the use of computers in his class. His reason quite simply is that many students are distracted and doing other things rather than listening and engaging in the lecture.  He seems this as an endemic problem in society as a whole especially among Millennials – a state of perpetual distraction.  Starting this fall, students in Professor Green’s class will have to go back to writing notes on paper.

Item – An article in Fortune magazine from April 16th, "Air Dryers Disperse Viruses" summarizes a recent study conducted by the Journal of Applied Microbiology which showed that hand dryers, in particular the Dyson model where you stick your hands in, spread germs wildly around the restroom as opposed to using a paper towel which confines the germs primarily to the trash.  Now, I’ve read where the methodology of this study might have exaggerated the results. I haven’t read the study. But the conclusions seems to pass the common sense test at least to me.  (Personally, I’ve always preferred the paper towel to the air dryer).

Item – In an Info Trends blog dated June 7th, entitled "Millennials Won't Respond to Printed Catalogs and Direct Mail, Right? WRONG!" data is presented to demonstrate the headline’s thesis.  I have to say that even I was surprised at the findings which showed a very high percentage of the 18-34 age group studied finding catalogs useful and opening direct mail pieces they receive.  The article makes the point that after a period of decline, both catalogs and direct mail are experiencing a resurgence because they get results.  Sound familiar?

So are we seeing a return to paper and printing on paper and envelopes as a general counter-trend?  I’ve presented some anecdotes which don’t conclusively prove the point but I believe they are indicative of the type of re-evaluation I alluded to earlier.  In my experience with Elite Envelope and Graphics, I can attest to the fact that custom made card packages for invitations and other purposes are becoming more and more popular. Some of our fastest-growing customers are in that market.

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I was going through some old photos the other day and mixed in with them were some letters I had received from my mother while in college.  My Mom passed away in 2002. What a joy it was to read those letters written in her impeccable penmanship and expressing herself in the erudite yet personal manner she was known for.  Print on paper can connect us to our past (and present) in a way that the ephemeral digital form of communication cannot. Unless of course, you print them out and save them!

 

Topics: elite envelope, envelopes, printed paper, paper;

Five Perfect Web Printing Jobs

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jun 22, 2016 11:09:08 AM

Web printing has nothing to do with the World Wide Web. (It would be interesting to do a survey to see how many people actually know that’s the term referenced in the “www” in web addresses).   It’s understandable that many non-printer buyers who hear that Elite Envelope & Graphics does cold web printing automatically think it’s something done with a computer.  Well, our 8 color Didde Colortech press does have a computer attached but it’s for assuring the proper balance of CMYK as we lay down another awesome print job.

 The “web” part comes from the fact that the paper printed in these presses starts as a roll. As the roll unwinds through the press, it wraps around a series of rollers designed to keep the paper taut in order to maintain proper registration of the printing.  This creates the look of a “web” of paper; hence the name. The photo just below shows our two web presses from the back and gives you an idea of what I’m talking about.

2013-07-26_02.17.29.jpg Commercial presses print on either individual sheets (sheet-fed) or rolls of paper (web). Most high-end printing is done on sheet-fed presses. There are a lot of reasons for that but suffice it to say, both types of printing have their place depending on the individual job.  Web printing has its advantages over sheet fed for things like long runs of individual sheets; newspapers and broadsheets, booklets and perforated items. There are a lot of different web presses out there and each has its own unique features and strengths.  Here’s a list of five hypothetical jobs that are tailor-made for our particular web presses and which would be suitable for just about any similar type of press. 

  1. Letter size (8 ½ x 11) individual cut sheets for letterhead, statements or invoices.
  2. Postcards for mailing or binding in a catalog or booklet
  3. Buck slips (usually 3 ½ x 8 ½)
  4. 8, 12, 16 or 24 page booklet/self-mailer (ideal page size 8 ¼ x 10 ¾)
  5. Placemats (11 x 17) used routinely by diners and restaurants

The most common stocks for the above jobs would be 50-70# offset or opaque or 7-9 point hi- bulk for the cards.  Since perforating can be done in-line as the item is printed, any of the above items which contain perforated lines make it an even better value and better suited for the web press.  There can be multiple perforations or even cross-perforations on a single piece.   Folding for any of the cut sheets: e.g. a trifold letter size sheet to fit in a #10 envelope, is another ideal characteristic for a web job.  

Any of the above items can be printed from simple black up to and including 4 color process on both sides.  Newer web equipment features high resolution color printing which produces sharp, clear images suitable for all manner of direct mail applications.

The moral of the story is that anyone who buys print should know what works best on a web press versus sheet-fed.  Many buyers we work with will order one or two components out of a direct mail package to print web for the best price.  We hope this helps to clarify where you might start looking to make those buying decisions. It could very well save your company money and make you look very smart. Of course we realize you’re already smart because you’ve read this piece to the very end.  Oh, and you can get further information on our webs from the world-wide web at www.eliteenvelope.com

Topics: cold web printing, direct mail printing, web printing, financial printing, web printing versus sheet fed

The 2 Most Common Envelope Printing Mistakes

Posted by Jerry Velona on May 23, 2016 2:02:33 PM

You might be thinking, “Printing is printing”, right?  Well, yes and no.  Printing processes are pretty much the same regardless of the material.  You’re laying ink (or toner) on top of paper, cardboard, cloth, plastic or many other possible substrates. 

 However, as you can imagine, printing a T-shirt is quite a bit different than, say, printing a paper label.

In the world of printing, envelopes can present some unique challenges requiring some forethought and a bit of knowledge about how the process works in order to achieve the best result.

 So, here are some of the most common errors. Try to avoid them if you can!

1.)    Selecting or Assuming the Wrong Printing Process - As I’ve laid out in previous posts (see here and here) there are a number of different ways to print an envelope. Each method has its own unique characteristics as well as limitations.  Factors such as the size of the envelope, the amount of colors and ink coverage and the quantity will tend to dictate the best process be it offset, litho, digital or flexo.  For a complete explanation of each of those processes, click on either or both of the links at the beginning of this paragraph.

Two examples of how the wrong envelope printing process can lead to bad results are the heavy, dark ink solid and printing up to the window.  On the former, some envelopes will feature a large area of solid dark ink. Maybe some copy is knocked out of the box, maybe not.  If this type of a design is being printed on a stock envelope, it will most likely cause smudging on the back of the adjacent envelope. This happens as the envelopes come off the press onto the moving belt before they are put in the box. The heavily printed part can actually rub off a bit onto the back of the next envelope. The technical term for this is “offsetting”.  An envelope like this either needs to have the solid portion cut back or lightened with a screen effect.  If the heavy solid needs to stay, then the envelope will likely have to be printed on flat sheets and converted after the fact. This will add considerable cost to the job.

Printing right up to the window cut-out can only work if the job is converted after printing.  If you want to print that design on a stock envelope, you have to leave a white border of at least 1/8” all around the window in order to account for print variation and to avoid ink on the window.

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2.)    Improper Design – Envelopes can be printed in a myriad of different ways with lots of color and coverage. However, sometimes the design that looks great on a computer screen will not be the most practical.  One of the most common examples of this is the flap that is covered with ink right up to where it folds. That looks really sharp and it can definitely be done but there is a caveat. This type of design can only be accomplished by printing on a flat sheet and then converting into an envelope.  The converting process includes some inevitable variation. This means that the ink on the flap will only hit the fold exactly about 20% of the time at the most. The rest of the envelopes will either show some white on the front or the ink will wrap over a bit to the back.  That inconsistency is generally not anticipated by the customer.  At Elite, we will always warn a customer about this in advance but that’s not always the case with other companies.  The best way to avoid this is to design the ink coverage on the envelope flap to wrap around to the front of the envelope by ¼”.  You’ll show some ink on the front but at least it will be consistent although still with a little variation. 

Another common example of an impractical design is when heavy ink solids are placed on top of where the envelope folds or where the flap sits.  Envelope presses rely on the pressure of rubber rollers to impart the ink and image.  Because of the numerous folds in the back of an envelope, there is a slightly uneven surface on which to print.  Placing a heavy coverage of ink, especially a dark color like blue directly over these uneven areas can result in small white lines through the printing. These are what’s known as “seam marks”.  Moving that portion of the graphic image to another spot on the envelope or, as in #1 above, lightening the image with a screen effect can usually solve the problem.

In all cases, your best approach would be to deal with a company that specializes in envelopes who would be able to advise you on the best way to print your particular job.  

 

Topics: envelope printing, jet printing, printed envelopes

Printed Bubble Envelopes at Elite Envelope

Posted by Jerry Velona on Apr 26, 2016 1:55:44 PM

Who knew that bubble wrap would have such an interesting backstory?

According to Wikipedia, Bubble wrap was invented in 1957 by two engineers named Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes in Hawthorne, New Jersey. Initially, Fielding and Chavannes sealed two shower curtains together, creating some air bubbles, which they originally tried to sell as wallpaper(!).  Predictably, the wallpaper market did not prove very fruitful.  They then tried marketing it as greenhouse insulation with similar lack of success.

Although Bubble Wrap was branded by Sealed Air Corporation (founded by Fielding and Chavannes) in 1960, it was not until a year later that its use in protective packaging was discovered.  As a packaging material, Bubble Wrap's first client was IBM which used the product to protect one of its large, mainframe computers during shipment.  Fielding and Chavannes were inducted into the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame in 1993 and why not?  Their invention became one of the most useful products in its era.

Eventually Sealed Air figured out a way to line envelopes with its bubble product at which time the bubble envelope or bubble mailer was conceived.  I don’t have any hard numbers on this but I’m guessing that bubble envelopes reached a peak in popularity during the halcyon days of compact discs. There was/is really nothing better in which to mail a CD than a bubble envelope. CDs are not as popular as they once were but bubble envelopes seem to be increasing in popularity from the plethora of small internet companies selling products that require some modest protection when shipping.

Elite Envelope gets a lot of hits on its website from small entrepreneurs who require bubble envelopes. Most of them want printing on the envelopes. A fair number want full coverage printing on the front and back.  This is almost impossible to find in the market for the simple reason that bubble envelopes cannot feed through a four color press. A few years ago we responded with our “Smart Bubble” product. By using a removable bubble sleeve, we are able to print pretty much any type of coverage on a paper, Tyvek or Herculink envelope first and then insert the bubble sleeve.  The protection is exactly the same and it has the added benefit of allowing the bubble sleeve itself to be reused or recycled rather than thrown in the trash with the envelope – hence the “Smart” part.

We’ve had some success with this product but recently, our engineers, actually one of our highly capable staff members Chris Gorman, devised a way to print pre made bubble envelopes by changing the configuration of one of our old presses (talk about recycling!).  Chris is our lead pressman and floor manager for our printing department. He’s forgotten more about printing envelopes than I’ll ever know. We’ve printed these envelopes below on our “bubble press” and the quality is excellent.

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Because printed bubble envelopes and printed bubble mailers are not easy to produce, there are not many sources which, predictably, makes them more expensive with less order flexibility (Not to mention long waits for quotes and deliveries).  Many times a customer will face a 5,000 minimum on a printed item.  That’s usually a lot more than your typical small business can justify.  With Elite, you can order as few as you want.  There will be a minimum set-up charge but we’ll be happy to print as few as 500 for you.  We’ll also deliver in our usual 5-7 work days or sooner depending on when we get the order.

So for pre-made bubble envelopes printed one or two colors up to around 9 x 12 overall size or pretty much any size envelope printed up to four colors with a “Smart Bubble” insert, we’re here to help!

Topics: elite envelope, smart bubble envelopes, printed bubble envelopes, printed bubble mailers

Elite Envelope Bids Adieu to Sweet Lou

Posted by Jerry Velona on Mar 29, 2016 10:14:27 AM

One of the persistent clichés in modern life revolves around the idea of family in other contexts. We’re always trying to describe some group we are part of as “just like family”.  It gets creepy when politicians exhort us to think about society in this way. We need a competent executive to run the country, not a National Daddy (or Mommy!).   Businesses love to use this trope in advertising: “from our family to yours”, etc.  Let’s just stipulate that your family is your family and leave it at that.

That said, at Elite Envelope & Graphics, my partner Dave Theriault and I have always said that we like a family atmosphere at the company. What that means to us among other things is we consider the family obligations of our employees to be at least equally important as their work duties. We’ve also maintained a company size of around 30 employees which allows us to be in daily contact with everyone as well as maintain an open door policy for anyone who has something they need to talk about.

We also have actual family members working together at Elite.  The Gorman brothers, Chris and Steve have been with us almost since we started the company in late 2003.  And then there’s the three generations of paper cutters; Luis Sousa who recently retired, his son-in-law John Verissimo who also serves as a plant manager and John’s son and Luis’ grandson Cameron Verissimo who joined us a couple of years ago and now is one of our best cutters.  Luis recently decided to hang it up after over forty years of cutting paper for various envelope companies including the past twelve years or so at Elite.  We recently threw him a retirement party at his favorite Portuguese restaurant Sagre’ in his hometown of Fall River, Massachusetts.

Luis has an interesting story. He was born in the Azores, the beautiful islands off the coast of Portugal. Luis was one of six children, 3 boys and 3 girls.  His father was a bus driver and his mother a homemaker.  Eventually Luis’ family moved to Brazil where he met his wife Maria. He and Maria had three children and moved to the US in September of 1972, following his parents who had done the same a few years earlier.

At that time, Sousa’s brother Manny was working as a paper cutter at the now defunct Boston Envelope Company in Canton, MA.  Manny set up an interview for Luis who was eventually hired and trained for the same job to work alongside his brother.  Sousa worked at Boston Envelope for many years before moving to Northeastern Envelope in Braintree, Sheppard Envelope in Auburn and eventually to Elite Envelope & Graphics in Randolph.  In 2015 Luis’ beloved wife Maria passed away. Shortly thereafter, he decided it was finally time to retire.

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Cutting paper is a physically demanding job. You’re on your feet all day lifting large and heavy reams of paper onto a cutting bed.  The paper is cut with a large steel die that resembles a cookie cutter.  The die is placed very carefully on top of the paper.  When it’s in just the right position, the cutting bed slides under a metal press which pushes the die through the ream of paper. This creates the individual “blanks” which are then taken to another machine where they are folded and glued to make the envelopes we all use.

It’s a job that can wear down much younger men. But remarkably Sousa was able to keep cutting paper well into his 70’s. His longtime friend and co-worker Al Berardinelli remarked, “Unlike the rest of us, Luis never seemed to age!”  Sousa attributes this to the fact that he enjoyed his work very much. For the past 12 years, he would rise early in the morning and go to his favorite local bakery where he’d get a Portuguese pastry and a cup of coffee before driving about 40 minutes to Randolph to arrive at 7 AM.  In the envelope and printing industries, it’s typical for the production day to start early in the morning.  That never seemed to bother Louis Sousa.     

Sousa’s sense of humor and impish grin were a constant feature on the job. He could also be a bit of a practical joker by his own account: “Years ago my son and I were working side by side on the production floor. I decided to tie a trip wire from my machine to his and every time he would try to operate his machine, I would pull the wire and it would shut off.  He was so aggravated until he realized what I was doing!” he said with a smile.

My partner Dave Theriault spoke about Luis’ value to the company. “We were thrilled to have Luis join us shortly after we started Elite in 2003. We sought him out specifically. He was our first and only cutter for a long time.” Dave went on to rave about Sousa’s skill at his craft.  “Luis is probably the most skilled cutter I’ve ever seen. His many years of experience and the pride he took in his work each day made him a key member of our staff. He solved many a problem for me.”   When Luis wanted to scale back his hours a bit, we gladly accommodated him.  Dave said, “Just having Luis around to answer questions and tackle some of the more challenging jobs was a big help. Plus he’s just a great guy to have on your team. He’s always upbeat and works hard and very productively every day. We miss him!”

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Despite missing his many friends and long-time colleagues at Elite Envelope, Luis says he is enjoying his retirement.  In addition to his 3 children he now has 6 grandchildren and a great-granddaughter. A proud family man, he enjoys spending time with all of them as much as he can.  Sousa still enjoys his trips to the local bakery for coffee except now he can do it at a more leisurely pace and include spending time with his friends catching up on the local happenings.  Ever the jokester, Sousa says he’s teaching his great-granddaughter how to keep herself amused at restaurants by flicking sugar packets with her spoon. Some things never change!  And the family tradition continues at Elite Envelope & Graphics.

 

Topics: envelopes, envelope converting, paper cutting

Pushing the Envelope: Talk versus E Mail

Posted by Jerry Velona on Feb 24, 2016 9:59:22 AM

I was talking to my daughter the other day about something funny I saw on Facebook. Someone had posted a picture of what used to be on the TV screen when the programming stopped in the early morning hours.  Kind of looked like this!  It was accompanied by a continuous low beep that lasted until the early morning hours when the shows would start up again.  Yes kids; that really used to happen.

Now we’ve come so far since then that my 16 year old daughter didn’t see it as such a laughable relic of olden times because in 2016, her connection to television, especially the broadcast variety is tenuous at best.  Most of what she watches these days is on You Tube or Netflix or from links she picks up on social media.  Television; the fantastic gadget that tantalized my parents’ generation at the 1939 World’s Fair is now pretty much consigned by the iGens to “whatever” status.

Another story about the “good old days” that I regale her with occasionally concerns the land line telephone. Yes, my child there were obnoxious sounding busy signals which just kept going and going until you hung up. If the line was busy and you had to speak to someone, you just kept calling until you got through. And when my big sister used to speak to her friends, she had to pull the cord and walk part way down the basement stairs and close the door behind her so she had some privacy.  This maneuver didn’t deter my grandmother who used to gingerly pick up her extension upstairs and listen in while covering the mouthpiece with her hand.  

 

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These days what used to be generational changes are happening within a much smaller timeframe. In the span of the past ten years or so, e mailing, like Facebook, has become more of a middle-aged thing.  My mother used to cut out articles she wanted me to read from the newspaper and magazines and send them to me.  Now I do the same thing with my kids but via e mail.  My older kids – both in their mid-thirties will read and respond. My youngest rarely even opens them. To her, e mails are something you get from school (or your parents!) and should mostly be ignored. If you want to reach her and get a reasonably quick response, you pretty much have to text.

E mail, however, still rules in business – at least in the envelope converting and web printing business.  In fact, the sheer number of e mails I get each day has become somewhat burdensome.  Now, I’m NEVER going to complain about a customer requesting something via e mail, or a prospect for that matter.  Hearing from customers; quoting on jobs, expediting requests and orders, and providing general customer service is the lifeblood of a business. It is something we value and is certainly not a problem.

But reading, considering and responding to those e mails, especially when they require some action on our part, takes up a lot of time.  Which leads me to my point (finally!).   I think we’ve become too used to e mail to the point where we’ll generate a trail of three, four or many more about a single subject when one simple and shorter phone call would do.  Now there is something to be said for typing up a quick note and sending and moving quickly on to the next thing before having to respond. I think we get into a groove with that activity and it gives us the sense that we’re being productive and plowing forward. Trouble is, I’m afraid in many cases we’re wasting time.  Why not just give the person a call and review everything in one (hopefully short) phone call?  Speaking in real time can resolve questions that might take several e mails back and forth as in; “is THIS what you meant?”, etc. Plus an actual conversation can reinforce any type of relationship business or personal much better than trading notes.

My grandmother, who was all about saving time would approve. Of course she wouldn’t be too interested to listen in on conversations discussing the best way to print an envelope or why web presses are the best option for direct mail printing.  My sister’s conversations with her boyfriends were much more interesting!

Topics: elite envelope, envelopes, envelope printing, pushing the envelope, web printing

Envelopes, Paper and “Green Washing”

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jan 26, 2016 11:36:17 AM

At the end of my e mail signature is the line “Feel free to print this e mail. Paper is a renewable resource”.  More than a few people have commented on that and every comment has been in the “atta-boy” category.  Now admittedly, the audience for my business e mails, comprised overwhelmingly of people in the business of making and buying printed products on paper, is not exactly a representative sample of the general population.  But those of us in the envelope converting, direct mail printing, and paper and printing industries in general have been unfairly maligned over the past twenty years or so for doing something that is supposedly bad for the environment so it’s time for a little push-back.

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The notion that not using paper somehow “saves a tree” has become a persistent canard.  The argument goes something like this:  paper pulp is made from wood which comes from trees. So, the less paper used, the fewer trees cut down. Now this is obviously true but like many simplistic and tendentious arguments, it omits many salient points. The most obvious omission is that trees are not a finite resource. When one is cut down, another seed can be planted.  If you own a paper company and your business relies on a regular supply of trees for wood pulp it’s in your interest to ensure that for every tree used, another one or more is growing to take its place.  And while trees can be beautiful and decorative and necessary for the ecosystem, they are also susceptible to disease and blight and will eventually rot and die on their own.  The financial incentive to grow and maintain healthy new tree stock for paper companies is a strong one.  It’s not a coincidence that forests owned by these companies are among the most productive and best managed on earth. You rarely if ever hear of wildfires affecting them.

The demand for paper in the marketplace ensures that these forests continue to flourish and are maintained for the purpose of growing trees.  If less paper is used, many of these wooded areas will be leveled for development of some other sort. So it’s not at all certain that by not using paper, you are “saving a tree”. In fact, the opposite may be true.

Have you ever heard anyone making an argument that not eating fruits and vegetables “saves” an apple or a tomato?  Neither have I. Doesn’t the same logic apply there?  We grow crops season after season in order to supply food to nourish our bodies. Some of this farmland was probably forest land before it was cleared to grow crops.  And yes, I understand that unlike food, paper use is somewhat discretionary. But paper plays an important role in our lives in education and commerce in general. 

And speaking of forest land, it’s a fact that there are more trees in the US today than there were a hundred years or so.  And a recent study estimated that there are over three trillion trees on earth which was a 750 per cent increase over previous best estimates.  Oops!

There is a certain positive social cachet associated with being seen as environmentally conscious.  Corporations eager to be seen in this light by customers have rushed to embrace green issues often as a justification for doing what’s in their financial interest.  Examples of this abound.  For years banks have been suggesting that their customers “go green” by getting their account statements sent on line.  Saying, “get your statements on line and help us reduce our costs and improve our bottom line” just doesn’t have the same impact.

The ubiquitous message below so many e mail signatures imploring us to not print the e mail is part of this desire to be with the spirit of the times.  I don’t necessarily disagree with the sentiment.  We shouldn’t print things for no reason. These days there are fewer reasons to print documents and printing something unnecessarily is a form of waste which should be avoided.  However, the premise underlying this message, as I’ve suggested, is not correct and perpetuating false information should also be avoided. 

One organization that’s taking it upon itself to correct these false impressions is Two Sides based out of Chicago.  Their website provides a trove of information on the topic of paper and the environment and is very useful in putting these matters in their proper context.  The President of Two Sides Phil Riebel will contact individuals and companies who use these messages in their PR and provide them with information that, in some cases, has changed minds.  As their name implies, Two Sides takes a light and logical approach to the debate which I believe is more effective in the long term.  No point in countering one heavy-handed message with another as emotionally satisfying as that might be.

Two sides brings to the argument balance which in all things, including nature, is essential.

 

Topics: direct mail, envelopes, going green, save a tree, paper and trees

New Year’s Envelope, Print & Mail Wishes

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jan 5, 2016 10:18:34 AM

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Random comments on where we sit in 2015 and some hopes for 2016:

2015 was a pretty good year for envelopes and print. Each company has its unique story and set of circumstances but it seems that the print market contraction, greatly exacerbated by the financial crisis of 2008/2009, has leveled off with fewer players which was an unfortunate necessity.

The demand for direct mail components is a big part of where the business is coming from these days.  In the past, the ease and negligible cost of e mail led many marketers to believe that they could solicit new clients on the cheap. In most cases, the results confirmed the adage that “you get what you pay for”.  Despite the higher cost, the ROI for direct mail is greater than e mail which has led to an “all of the above” approach with direct mail firmly in the mix.

Social media has become a big part of business marketing – some say an indispensable part.  While I think that’s true for some companies, I don’t think it’s as true in the envelope, printing and direct mail world at least in my experience.  I’m open to being persuaded that Elite Envelope & Graphics should have a Facebook page and a Twitter account. But I have yet to hear a good argument that takes into account how we (and thousands of companies like us) actually do business on a daily basis. I still believe that my time is better spent speaking to a customer on the phone or meeting or even e mailing with them than Tweeting something out.  Social media stresses a personal connection to the audience. While establishing those close connections where possible and where appropriate have always been a part of building customer loyalty, it isn’t essential in our business.  There’s also the lack-of-time factor: both the time I’d need to spend posting interesting content and the time required by my customers to be checking Facebook or Twitter during work hours in the course of their mostly very busy days.

A noticeable trend in our industries is the movement toward smaller quantities.  The information age allows everyone to be their own corporation with their office in their pocket.  At the same time the revolution in digital printing has “lowered the entry bar” just as the advances in personal and mobile computing have done for start-ups in general. We all need to adjust our business models to be able to produce smaller quantity jobs profitably.

Another boon to the envelope industry in particular related to the many small “Etsy –type” businesses out there is the need for shipping materials.  The demand for heavy duty envelopes like Tyvek and Herculink along with bubble envelopes and board mailers has increased dramatically in the past five years or so.

What end of year blog column would be complete without a New Year’s wish?  Mine is for the Post Office to be reformed in a meaningful way which would allow it be more streamlined and cost effective for the demands of the new century.  As readers of this blog are aware, I favor a complete break-up of the first class mail government monopoly. I think it’s an outdated model and its bloat and inflexibility is a real danger to the direct mail industry which relies on it to move things efficiently at a reasonably competitive cost. While even partial privatization seems like a pipedream, perhaps the younger generation moving into Congress will look at this in a new way and can come up with a compromise that would help ensure the health of direct mail and the envelope and printing businesses that rely on it.

In any event, best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2016. Happy New Year!

Topics: direct mail, elite envelope, envelopes, post office, tyvek envelopes, smart bubble envelopes

Full View Display Window Envelopes

Posted by Jerry Velona on Nov 25, 2015 11:53:00 AM

I try to keep this blog as informative as possible on matters of general interest to those in the print, envelope and direct mail communities.  When I started, I thought that after a while I might have trouble thinking of things to write about.  Well, this is my one hundred and fourteenth blog entry (pausing for awkward pat on my own back) and while finding new topics is getting a little more challenging (OK, so I do repeat myself once in a while; sue me.) I’ve been able to figure it out for the most part. I hope you like reading them and please send me your comments. I love getting them.

Anyway, while I try to keep the blog focused on things you might find interesting, every so often I surrender to the little sales guy perched on my shoulder who will bug me occasionally with comments like, “Hey Jerry, why don’t you let them know what you’re selling these days?  After all, you are in business to make money right?”  (He also bugs me about not making enough cold calls, being out of touch with certain customers and other things I won’t bore you about. Doesn’t everyone have voices in their head?)

elite envelope full view window envelopes

So, to placate this annoying little dude, I thought I would take this opportunity to make you aware of our latest product offering: full view window envelopes also known as display window envelopes.  We've actually been making and supplying these items since our inception in 2003.  But we are now starting to offer on line ordering and fulfillment from our website at www.eliteenvelope.com.  We've just added a window from our home page which will take you to our on line store  where you can purchase 6 x 9 full view window envelopes and 6 x 9 1/2 full view window envelopes. These envelopes have 4 x 7 and 4 x 7 1/2 display windows which allow for the contents to show through.  The purpose is to show off what's inside in order to entice the recipient to open it and take a look. 

At Elite we print and convert envelopes with lots of very eye-catching designs.  Direct mailers have learned that one of the ways to get their mail opened is to create some connection at the point of receipt; i.e. when the letter is removed from the mailbox and held in the hand.  Once it gets put down, there's much less of a chance that it will be opened. Life has moved on and there are other things to think about.  Most likely the envelope will end up in the recycling bin or the trash.  Using a splash of color or a clever tagline or photos or all of the above can help to create interest and encourage the recipient to peek inside. 

Full view window envelopes go a step further by partially displaying the contents thereby indicating what's inside and enticing with just enough of a tease to get someone to bite. There's also something to be said for a good looking package that someone has obviously spent a bit of money on.  Many people will respect that alone and open and read out of courtesy if not for any other reason.  I don't have any stats or studies to back this up but I believe it passes the common sense test.

We can provide full view envelopes in just about any size but the 6 x 9’s and 6 x 9 ½’s are our best deal and you can find great pricing and fast delivery through our website or the links above.  We’ll print them for you too!

Since I’m writing this on the day before, let me take the opportunity to wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving.  I am personally grateful for the success of Elite Envelope & Graphics and thank any of you who have placed an order with us of any size.  Despite all our problems and travails, I believe we are fortunate to live in this great country of ours so, in addition to giving thanks for our personal blessings of friends, family and material comfort I think a special shout-out is in order:  God Bless America!

Topics: elite envelope, custom window envelopes, display window envelopes, full view window envelopes

Elite Envelope & Graphics – The Movie!

Posted by Jerry Velona on Nov 2, 2015 9:32:00 AM

We released our first video a couple of weeks ago.  It’s a “virtual tour” - a look at our plant, equipment, staff and production capabilities and it clocks in at a neat seven minutes and twenty-three seconds.   It’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for years and finally got around to.  The impetus was a talented young director, Sara Robin with whom I worked on a music video in my other professional life.  Sara and I are a good team and we came up with a concept which she executed extremely well along with her crew, Kellen Ryan and Yahna Harris.  All of them either attend or are graduates of the Boston University Graduate School of Film.

Making of Elite Envelope & Graphics video

Elite is certainly not the first company of its kind to use video for promotional purposes.  Video is now required to sell or promote pretty much anything. It’s a vital part of the “quality content” which marketers insist upon in order to give a company the best chance to penetrate the public consciousness with its brand.  Like it or not, we live in a visual world. Ironically, the public’s insatiable demand for video content is one of the things that has contributed to shrinking the print and envelope markets.  So, an envelope converter and cold web printer producing a promotional video might seem to some as “sleeping with the enemy”.

One of the recurring themes of this blog is the need for those of us in print, envelopes and direct mail to enthusiastically embrace the digital world.  I find that some in our industry seem to harbor a grudge against the technology they see as being responsible for the smaller and more competitive market.  They seem to relish being late adopters, almost as a badge of honor and resistance to trends they see as working to their disadvantage.  While I sympathize with the sentiment, I don’t see the sense in it.  The internet has made people less dependent on the mail. But while I yield to no one in my belief that print on paper can often deliver a message with greater impact than moving images on a screen, we need to acknowledge that there’s more than one way to do things. We also need to acknowledge that one of the reasons  digital messages have become so popular is they are convenient and inexpensive.  They allow us to do more in less time.

Not much more than twenty years ago, most of us in print sales were using pagers (or “beepers” as we called them) to receive notices from the office that someone had called us.  The next step was to find a payphone, pull over and park, grab a bunch of coins and make the return call.   Anyone want to make the argument that a cell phone is not superior to that scenario?  So, you have to take the good with the bad. But the neat trick is to use the “bad” to make us more productive.  In other words, you can bemoan the fact that “everyone” would rather see a video rather than read a message on paper or you can use a video to promote the message that reading on paper can be pretty cool and quite effective in selling your products and services.

Those of us in the print, envelope, paper and mail businesses are now in the position of swimming against the tide.  This sea-change (sorry!) is a relatively recent development and has happened quickly – mostly in the past two decades.  Whereas in the past our main job was to compete in the market, we now must sell the value of what we do as well as increase our share of a smaller market.  We also have to deal with the widely-held belief that printing on paper is somehow bad for the environment; a bogus claim that is easily countered but not without additional effort.

In order to ensure the viability of our business, we have to make our case as broadly as possible. Using online video as well as the many other technical marvels of our age will help us do that.  The timeless messages that are delivered in print are worth communicating in any fashion.

Topics: elite envelope, printing and envelopes, direct mail printing, envelope converter, cold web printer

Yet Another Blog Post

From Jerry Velona - co-owner,

Elite Envelope & Graphics, Inc.

Jerry offers pertinent, often useful information on envelope converting and printing, web printing, direct mail, the post office, songs that have to do with mail and letters, digital overload and much more!

(Non-spam) Comments always appreciated.  Spread it around!

 

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