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It’s the thing no one really likes to talk about – but it’s the question on the tip of a lot of our clients’ tongues, so we thought we’d tackle it. In this blog, we’re answering the question of why large format printing comes with the price tag it does, and explain that there’s a very good number of reasons why cheaper is most certainly not always better.
Before we begin – a couple of quick disclaimers. We think it’s fair to say that for all of us in business, regardless of what stage we occupy in any given supply chain, costs will always play a fundamental role in who we choose to work with. As such, this post isn’t intended as a sales pitch – we aren’t writing this as a means of justifying our own costs, or smearing the value of suppliers with lower price points – we’re writing this as we think an explanation of why some print solutions cost more than others would be really helpful.
In this difficult and tumultuous economic era, it can be very tempting to simply opt for the most affordable option, and while this can sometimes be a perfectly suitable solution, there are times when it pays (in more ways than one) to be in the know about costing. So, with that out of the way, here’s precisely why quality large format printing can be so expensive…
Can you put a price on experience?
Short answer – no. But you can almost guarantee it makes your services worth more. For the most part, tenure in the industry carries with it decades of experience in everything from materials, to projects of every variety – when it comes to large format printing, this means that a supplier will likely know how to save a client money in the long run, or maximise their ROI on a given project.
In turn, this tends to mean that print suppliers with the most experience, both in terms of how long they’ve been offering their services and their versatility in terms of their print capabilities, justifiably charge more.
Take, for example, a vehicle livery printing brief. While a small organisation may charge an individual delivery driver a comparatively smaller fee per-van for a custom set of decals, a large organisation with a more complex, thorough service will be able to provide the quality of product and expertise required for much larger-scale projects.
The choice of substrates (such as vinyl that can withstand adverse conditions for longer), the time and nature of installation and the preparations for removal/replacement will all need to be considered, and it’s in these areas that an experienced printer will be able to recommend not only a product that’s ‘good enough’, but one that’s perfectly suited to the application for which it is intended.
The result? The client won’t need to worry about their graphics fading or falling apart, and they won’t be forced to pay to replace them sooner than planned. It’s in this sense that the accumulation of years of shrewd hindsight can lead to astute foresight – and save a client money down the line.
This expertise, stemming from vast portfolio of previous work, essentially allows a print business to act as a consultant as well as a supplier.
Quality and consistency
The design of a large format campaign is only one part of the puzzle when ensuring the finished product looks right to the consumer – the printing process itself will determine just how accurate, clear, and detailed the final installation is, and this can vary dramatically.
This is particularly important when it comes to ensuring brand guidelines are met: if a business uses a specific and distinct shade of red and yellow in its branding, it would be something of a catastrophe if their printed outdoor advertising arrived with a faded pastel pink background, and a gloomy orange.
This comes down to the precision and quality of the printing equipment used, and as with most things, the best results come with the best quality kit. In this regard, opting for a cheaper provider might suit smaller brands, for one-off projects or where pinpoint consistency and colour accuracy isn’t paramount – but for big projects, or for businesses with a need for top-quality printing that is 100% on-brand, it’s always best to choose a supplier who can guarantee the best results – even if this involves a higher price point.
This will come down to a combination of specialist skill and equipment. Specifically, colour management software such as GMG. The best print suppliers will be able to write specific media profiles, and calibrate these using specialists spectrophotometry equipment (which measures light absorption across various materials and colours). For the very best quality, a print supplier will be able to maintain this consistency across various substrates – and this level of precision does involve a slightly higher investment The results are noticeably better, though.
Horses for courses
Large format print is such a multifaceted industry, that any given project usually involves a huge number of variables – many of which the average business won’t necessarily be aware of. This is understandable (after all, why would a retailer have a detailed working knowledge of the different types of vinyl and their applications?), but it is often this variability that leads to a vast difference in cost.
This is particularly true of substrates. It’s easy to assume that all printed vinyl, for instance, is the same – but the reality is that there are a wide range of types that are available, each with a specific intended purpose.
For example – a client may need a set of hoarding graphics for an upcoming construction site. If the site is in a heavy urban area, it might be appropriate to use an anti-graffiti vinyl, to prevent any acts of would-be vandalism resulting in wasted budget on graphics that would be rendered useless.
Similarly, if a set of graphics for a campaign are set to be installed outdoors (on a billboard, truck, or behind a window) in direct sunlight, throughout the height of summer, an experienced print supplier would likely recommend a variety of vinyl that doesn’t deteriorate quickly – and will last the duration of the campaign whilst retaining the same visual clarity.
These variations will naturally impact the price of the vinyl, but opting for a slightly more expensive supplier with the knowledge and experience to recommend the right products for the right projects is a far wise choice than choosing a cheaper supplier who might not be able to provide the same service.
Unique and unusual options
Print suppliers on the slightly higher end of the budget spectrum are also more likely to be able to offer clients a wider range of unique or impressive solutions. This can vary wildly, but things such as mirror vinyl or printed reflective surfaces require advanced equipment to produce, and providers with a lower price point often won’t be able to accommodate this.
For a truly stand out campaign, this can make all the difference. Experienced suppliers will know what types of substrate will suit your campaign, they’ll be able to provide them, and will likely be able to point you in the direction of products you wouldn’t otherwise have considered.
For a festive campaign, for instance, a shiny mirror vinyl might work perfectly as a background substrate – this will involve special printing equipment, as well as some smart colour correction and technical skill, but it can make a campaign really stand out.
In an era where retailers and advertisers have to consistency break the mould in order to ensure their campaigns are memorable and maximise their reach, opting for a supplier with the ability to accommodate this is almost always a better option. It does, however, mean that prices will be comparatively higher, purely because the materials and underlying costs into producing something so unique are higher.
A lengthy supply chain
As in any industry, the nature of how the supply chain operates in delivering any given product has a big impact on overall costs to the client. When it comes to large format printing, this supply chain is fairly extensive, and this inevitably influences the underlying costs involved.
Some of the stages of this chain are self evident. Print suppliers need to order and stock the substrates used for any given project (the materials that the print is applied to), the inks for the print, and run and operate the print equipment itself. Also involved in the process, however, is a whole team of account or project managers, installers, designers, and more.
The logistics of organising, printing, cutting/finishing and then installing a large format print campaign can be fairly complex – more so than it may initially seem. And while the best large format print suppliers (such as PressOn, if we do say so ourselves…) are able to execute this seamlessly, to tight deadlines, the underlying costs of being able to facilitate these kind of products effectively are still present.
Commitment to the environment
This may be a less pertinent point for certain clients, but as we move ever closer to a greener society, concerns about the sustainability of marketing campaigns will likely become more important. Large format printing is, traditionally, not a hugely environmentally-friendly process, but large and established print suppliers are taking steps to change this.
From solutions that eliminate (or at least very nearly eliminate) the use of PVC plastics, such as soft signage tension fabric systems, to adopting machinery that minimises the use of solvents (such as the HP Latex printers PressOn use) – there are an ever-increasing number of ways large format suppliers can improve their carbon footprint.
These solutions and processes can sometimes come with a price tag, and this can sometimes mean slightly more expensive product offerings. A 3D tension fabric box may, for example, cost more than a simple PVC banner – but it’s also reusable, recyclable, and a lot more eye-catching!
For the most part this will come down to the preference of the individual client, but for those who want to ensure their physical marketing efforts cause as little harm to the natural world as possible, this can mean a slightly increased price tag.
Sometimes, things don’t go to plan. Fortunately, with most good printing companies, this happens very rarely, but on those few occasions something does go amiss, the way a supplier responds to the problem is extremely important – particularly the if the issue is arguably no one’s fault.
If a material fails, or don’t meet expectations for any other reason, fixing this problem should be a matter of urgency. While all decent companies will do their best to rectify any issues, not every supplier has the resources (or sadly sometimes the dedication) to fix any issues as soon as possible.
The very best suppliers will factor this potential into their price point – and while this might mean paying slightly more initially, if the unforeseeable does occur, these companies will leap into action at the drop of a hat to resolve the issue swiftly, minimising any problems quickly and efficiently. Some print companies, such as PressOn, even go so far as to negotiate deals with their suppliers to provide their clients with unique warranties and guarantees for their products. (For further details on this, please contact us)
Ultimately, if there’s one thing that ties all of this together, it’s choice. The most experienced printers, with access to the widest array of substrates, machinery, and technology, will naturally be able to offer their clients the very best print solutions – and this will usually mean charging more for the privilege.
But these aren’t needless luxuries. There is a distinct and noticeable difference in how good a large format print product can look and function, and for the very best solutions, that last the longest and deliver the most effective ROI, the old adage of ‘you get what you pay for’ rings true.