I get dumb variable data postcards in the mail all the time. Somebody out there must have convinced marketers that people will buy more of whatever they’re selling if their name appears on the advertising—a  LOT. Once that theory met variable data digital printing, it was largely downhill from there. “Let’s put their name in the Post-It note! Let’s put it in a snipe! Let’s write it in the clouds! Even better, let’s write their name in the sand!” All of these brilliant ideas inspired my fake postcard design, above.

Does a woman want to be reminded that she previously bought clothes in the Big Ladies department? Maybe not! Whether clumsy or downright creepy, it seems to me that if the data is inaccurate or potentially sensitive, you run the risk of turning off your audience. Likewise if the design is simplistic or cheesy.

Whenever printers try to sell me variable data digital printing services, I suggest that they approach strategists and designers, not the production manager. Effective use of this technology starts upstream, at the beginning of a project—with smart use of data, strategy, and design. It can’t be an afterthought.

Disaster Avoidance Tip

I do think there’s great potential in variable text, graphics and photos.

Have you seen variable printed pieces done well?

If you are venturing down the variable data path for the first time, find a specialist such as Revolution Dynamic Publishing, whose staff includes data and web specialists along with experienced printers. They have both the technical and the data know-how to guide you in putting together sophisticated campaigns that avoid the rubber stamped “your name here, and here, and here” look.

Blah blah blah!