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Special Report

Embossed Holography Made Affordable in Low Production Runs

by Peter Scheir

November-December, 2004
More than 20 years experience in the holographic industry has helped me to identify a number of recurring themes in potential customers’ objections to using holography. I have made it my goal to create a path of lesser resistance, and to make holography “a solution rather than a new set of problems.” (Comment made by Doug Miller while president of Holographic Design.) In this article, you will read about what many customers perceive as obstacles to using holography, and a description of at least one solution - customization of stock image embossed holograms.

Due to its unparalleled visual impact, there exists heavy marketplace interest in the use of holography for promotion. For the most part, fully custom embossed holography carries set-up (origination/tooling) costs, which are many thousands of dollars. Making embossed holograms affordable in low production runs (runs too short to amortize the tooling costs associated with fully custom embossed holography) is the key to tapping this marketplace. I have found that the best solution to this problem is the use of stock images.

Impact is the word, in my mind, which best befits graphic holography. It is the visual impact of the medium that gives it such great power and generates so much interest. Companies of all sizes are constantly searching for means of promotion, which will set them apart from their competitors and get them noticed. Holography adds three distinct advantages to any promotion:

  • Impact: holograms are eye catching. People will look at holograms for significantly longer periods of time than other graphic mediums. If a customer’s name or slogan is on the hologram, that information is enforced!
  • Pass around value: people are often impressed with good holograms, and they are likely to bring them to the attention of colleagues and associates.
  • Retention: people tend to keep holograms. We receive new leads from potential customers who have holograms on their desk that were created more than 10 years ago!

Given these three factors, it may be hard to understand why holography is not found in much wider use in the promotional marketplace. I feel that it is largely due to false perceptions about holography and its costs. Unfortunately, in the minds of many, affordability has never been a word associated with holography. It would be impossible for me to count the times that I have heard potential customers say “holography is great but too expensive,” “we can’t afford to use holography for our project,” or “holograms are only for large runs.” Can they really afford to ignore the impact of holography? These decisions are made before a price quote has even been made!

Objections such as these are sometimes based upon past experience; but more often than not, they come from an incomplete or incorrect conception of the holographic industry and what it has to offer. Mainly, objections of this sort stem from experiences in which an inappropriate solution was applied to a project. For instance, a customer may have been looking for 5,000 hologram labels to give away at a trade show. Calling a company found in the phone directory, they were told that there would be a set-up cost of $8,000; or that the minimum run had to be 50,000 pieces. This type of incomplete information creates obstacles in customers’ minds. After such an experience, further exploration into the use of holography would be limited due to the customer’s presumption that holography could not be cost effective.

I have found that there are a great number of projects that fall into the category of ‘not cost effective given the high set-up costs of fully custom holography.’ One solution to this problem exists in the utilization of stock image holograms. Stock image holograms have just as much impact as fully custom holograms, without the high set-up costs. Stock image embossed holograms can, with great ease, add huge impact to most any promotion. Direct mail can be enhanced with a foil stamped registered hologram or stock hologram label. Powerful brochure covers, pocket folders, annual reports, magazine covers, advertisements, etc. can be produced with the addition of a stock image embossed hologram. Packaging can benefit from the draw and appeal of a stock hologram. New life can, in fact, be breathed into almost any promotion with a stock image hologram.

Many hologram production companies have existing stock images. Sometimes images are created ‘on spec’ for projects that do not come to fruition, and the originator retains the rights of ‘replication’ (embossing the image). In other circumstances, originators create holograms for self-promotion or for retail markets that can then be utilized as stock images for advertising and promotional projects. These images often can be customized to suit individual customers needs. Customizing a stock image can take a number of forms. A simple after-printing stage adds a customer’s logo, ad copy, or slogan to a stock image, making it (for all practical purposes) a custom image. Stock images also can be foil stamped to specific shapes and/or sizes by cropping what is stamped with the hot stamping die, which can give them a custom appearance. Placing ad copy around the image on the literature or product can enhance the design further and make a stock image unique.

Generally, stock images are more expensive per piece than custom images due to ‘short run costs’ and/or royalties (paid to the owner of the image) that are included in the price per piece. This higher cost per piece is deceptive. Since no custom tooling costs need to be amortized, the total cost for the production run is low enough to make the project viable where a fully custom hologram would have been out of the question. Though the average ‘total dollar value’ of stock image jobs is lower than for fully custom projects, the lack of high set-up costs and the availability of low minimum runs create a much greater conversion rate, so there are more jobs. Just as important, customers see the image before the project begins, eliminating the long, potentially problematic proof stages and chances for image rejection.

Qualification of customers is often complicated in fully custom holography. It can take a long conversation and an expensive packet of samples just to determine that a customer does not have the budget for a custom image. Stock images offer an excellent back-up option. If the budget does not allow for custom work, the project may often be salvaged with a stock image hologram. Furthermore, offering an affordable alternative with stock imagery can remove the obstacles in a customer’s mind, and they may want to move forward with their own custom hologram. As the customer looks further into the project, he may find that a custom hologram is really more attractive and a budget is ‘created’ that includes custom tooling.

In the photographic industry, stock images have long been a well-used alternative to custom photography. Various collections of stock photos offer a dazzling array of imagery, so images can be found to suit even the most obscure project parameters. Holography has not yet developed into such a serviceable industry as photography. If you believe that a stock image may work for your particular project, request a list of available images from your favorite hologram supplier; or look to one of the recently developing compilations of stock images. If you are shopping for a stock embossed hologram, be sure to see if it is available in the form you require (i.e.- hot stamp foil vs. pressure sensitive, logo add-ons, custom cut sizing or cropping, roll vs. sheet, etc.).

It is important to recognize that short runs and low budgets are not restricted to small companies. Many large corporations make use of short runs for specific projects, which have relatively small budgets but are extremely important nevertheless. These projects can be high profile, and they can create an ‘in’ because your company was supportive on the smaller project. The customization of stock holographic images ultimately makes them custom images. The majority of those viewing the images will never know that they were not created specifically for the company using them, particularly if holographic diffraction imprinting is employed.

In summary, customized stock embossed holograms add a powerful new dimension to the sales of holograms and holographic products. Consider the benefits:

  • The visual impact of custom holography without the high tooling costs.
  • Affordability in low production runs.
  • Multiple applications from print advertising to premium items.
  • Additional sales to customers who are presently turned away.
  • Ease of presentation and higher lead conversion.

All in all, the best solution I have found to the question of “how to make high impact embossed holography affordable in low production runs” is the customization of stock images. More and more customers are turning to stock images to enhance their promotions. In the future, the use of stock imagery will be wide spread. Companies dedicated to the promotion of stock holography will increase their image selection continually, and begin targeting images to particular industries. Eventually, stock image holography could become as inexpensive and as common a graphic element as stock image photography is today.

Peter Scheir is founder and president of A D 2000 INC., a 17-year-old company dedicated to the marketing of commercial holography. His extensive knowledge of holography and experience in the many facets of its marketing led him to introduce the HoloBank® Stock hologram collection in 1993. HoloBank® is the world’s leading purveyor of customizable stock image embossed holograms to the promotional, advertising, and security fields. For more information, visit: www.ad2000.com

References for Stock Holographic Images:

A D 2000 Inc., (203) 624-6405, www.ad2000.com

API Foils, (800) 255-4605, www.api-worldwide.com

Crown Roll Leaf, (800) 631-3831, www.crownrollleaf.com

ITW Foilmark, (800) 942-9995, www.itwfoils.com

Kurz Transfer Products, (800) 950-3645, www.kurzusa.com