For over 20 years Joe Turba has been turning heads in the printing industry, most notably for his work to develop and expand gift card programs for brands across the country. From offering creative solutions to developing strategies and systems that set trends, his ultimate goal has always been to guide brands through what it takes to stand out on the shelf, leading to increased sales and unparalleled brand loyalty time and time again. As American Litho announces the rollout of our complete, sustainable gift card program, we are extremely proud to offer Joe’s support and guidance as the Director of National Accounts.
An incredible asset to our customers and a kingpin to the program, we sat down with Joe along with Executive Vice President of Sales at American Litho, Frank Arostegui, to share more about our new offerings, how the power of print and Amerilytics come into play, and why sustainability is key to a brand’s future success not only on sales reports, but in the eyes of the customer.
How will your industry intel and experience benefit the ALitho customer as we rollout our new AmeriCard gift card product line?
JT: With over 20 years of experience in the industry, it’s safe to say that the foundation of what I can do for customers, and what our team here at American Litho will be able to do, is rooted deeply in problem solving. In the world of gift cards, the value we can provide for customers ranges from developing a sustainable program to meet the demands of today’s eco-conscious consumer, to innovating a complete program that stands out without losing brand voice. The name of the game is continuously elevating the gifting experience, and that is what we are here to do for our customers. We’ve invested wisely to and developed a strong strategy to make life easier, while the offerings become stronger.
Share your vision for the AmeriCard gift cards at American Litho – how does it stand out from the rest?
JT: We are bringing a complete, sustainable gift card solution to the marketplace. While other major players are heavily focused on PVC card production, our offering of paper products and our functionality to handle production all under one roof stands out in many ways – from convenience to color consistency, lead time and more. The benefits are astounding, and our vision is to make the process as seamless and powerful as possible for our customers.
We take pride in offering what we like to call “one point of contact.” Simply put, from start to finish on the entirety of the job, we have one of our team experts dedicated to serving your needs. Not only is this a serious time-saver, but a crucial element in times where businesses are operating on lean teams.
Take us through what the initial product offering will look like and the value it will bring to ALitho customers.
JT: Our Gift Card offering will include a full suite of gift card solutions for clients to take advantage of. A variety of offerings are on the table including CR80, die-cut cards, oversized cards and more. We’ll have the capabilities to produce nearly anything with a mag stripe application, secure wraps, unique carriers and packaging, store signage and displays, and most importantly the power to pair any offering we create with the power of our direct mail and digital marketing strategies to prove a greater ROI than traditional to a gift card campaign.
FA: As mentioned, sustainability is the number one challenge many brands out there are facing. A question they’re coming to us with is, “how do we, as a brand, demonstrate that we’re conscious?” The number one value this new division brings to the table is the solution to that question. We’ve developed a traditional manufacturing process that is as efficient and effective as production of previously sought-out plastic cards, but we’re focusing our efforts on the future. Paper cards add immense value. They demonstrate eco-consciousness to the consumer and is an excellent selling point for a brand to leverage from a PR perspective.
As a seasoned trend-setter in the industry, what are key elements in a gift card program ALitho customers can take advantage of? How will the team best apply these trends?
JT: The top trends that are absolutely critical for a gift card program team to consider are sustainability, security, and innovation. With the ever-increasing focus on reducing single-use plastics, we are ready to help our clients determine the best alternative solution to their current product base. Now more than ever, security is crucial. By nature, gift cards are branded currency, and we take seriously the responsibility to keep our clients’ information safe throughout the process. We employ strict controls on the transfer and housing of the data itself, along with the equipment needed to ensure 100% verification and integrity from start to finish. As we all know, innovation is the key to brand development, and our commitment to introducing cutting-edge products and services that aim to improve efficiency, effectiveness and competitive advantage will do just that. Throughout the years, American Litho has been known for its continual investments in innovation, and our gift card offering is no exception. With streamlined production capabilities, not to mention our world-class creative and design departments, we strive to push the envelope so that our customers can improve on their businesses.
You mentioned earlier the term “branded currency”. How can brands take advantage of their gift card offerings to dovetail their marketing efforts?
JT: Almost every retailer, service provider or the like has a gift card program. The realization that the impact a program can have has become incredibly real since the gift card industry was developed. When a gift card program is well thought out and well implemented, there’s no telling the increase in customer loyalty, store traffic, customer retention, increased sales number and even positive cash flow the program can bring. Our job is to identify those elements for our customers while incorporating the elements of their branding to create a seamless program that packs a punch.
With respect to loyalty-building for a brand, there is a major opportunity to take advantage of as well. As we all know, the person that purchases the card is not the end consumer. As they gift the product to someone else, it becomes a key customer acquisition tool – our research has shown that the party gifted the card is, on average, spending 30% more than what the card is for, and in most cases are highly likely to come back. Another reason a healthy, forward-thinking program is crucial for capitalizing on a gift card program – the brand exposure is a powerful way to allow branding to shine outside of a storefront in a thoughtful way.
How can brands employ American Litho’s “giftable solutions” to expand on a current offering?
JT: One of the most important parts of a gift card program is to continuously elevate the gifting experience in a matter that proves to resonate with customers. A “giftable solution” in our book can be anything from ultra-unique packaging outside of the gift card itself to a box, sleeve, envelope, or other ultra-unique vessel to bring the gifting experience to life. Bottom line, sharing our ideas when it comes to cutting-edge is what we’re here to do for our partners.
The firepower in the print platform that we have here at American Litho is robust. Many of the gift card providers and manufacturers in the industry are so heavily focused on PVC, that when it comes to paper gift card programs, not everything is done in-house. If you want a unique attribute, whether UV gloss, texture or soft touch, you’re adding another layer of cost as they most often have to source these things out. The platform we have at American Litho is unique because we can handle the sought-after unique attributes on a paper gift card, on a carrier or packaging, in-house. It is something special and something that we’re excited about.
FA: Here at American Litho, we are always looking to add value. To Joe’s point, we can also demonstrate for our customers, with statistics, that when we add these effects to a direct mail piece or to a gift card or carrier, we see increases in both response and redemption.
Let’s talk sustainability. Why is this such an important element to a campaign, and how can brands elevate their sustainability profile with respect to a gift card offering?
JT: Brands are under more and more pressure to find and utilize alternative substrate solutions to PVC. From the top down, companies are feeling the pressure to go green and demonstrate that they are eco-friendly and environmentally conscious. In addition to this, these transitions help eliminate tons of matter that would typically find its way to landfills or our oceans, something consumers are showing to find increasingly important in purchasing decisions between brands. As 90% of gift cards are redeemed within 30 days of receipt, we are finding that paper can absolutely be a viable solution for our customers to look to when it comes to their cards. We’ve done extensive R&D, along with testing of different substrates to ensure print quality exceeds expectations. We will have a wide range of substrate options for our clients to choose from, offering flexibility where the options are traditionally few and far between.
How does American Litho stand out when it comes to the big picture of a fully integrated campaign?
JT: American Litho is especially unique as we recognize brands can leverage our services to incorporate gift cards into their overall sales strategy. Gift cards are frequently used alongside incentives and rewards programs, and with ALitho’s proven direct mail and digital marketing capabilities, a fully integrated strategy is most often the answer to cutting through the noise. As we can manage the full scope of a program and campaign all under one roof with one point of contact for the customer, brands that choose to partner with us will find their lives made much easier, and the efficacy of their investments even stronger.
FA: What we’re excited about is that we’re going to market with an enterprise solution. This means we can walk into any retailer across the country, and we can talk to them about their branding efforts, their strategies specific to gift cards, direct mail, store signage, packaging, and rest assured that we will be able to not only meet their brand specifications, but always exceed their expectations. We can allow our clients to leverage their overall spend here at American Litho in greater ways than our competitors. We are most excited to be able to have these high-level conversations as it relates to all our services and how they might power one another for a successful campaign.
In addition to developing a standout gift card program, how can retailers leverage American Litho’s expertise to gather data and use it to their advantage with a fully integrated marketing campaign?
FA: Amerilytics is a huge asset retailer can add to their digital tool set when it comes to customer acquisition and developing a well-rounded marketing campaign. We use it to build new audiences for brands, utilizing our proprietary predictive modeling algorithm. It covers everything from addressable geo-fencing to trigger programs. It’s particularly great for brands looking to gather data as to who has been in their stores over time – as far back as a year. With this data, we can most effectively market to customers in any location on any device.
How should brand partners take advantage of American Litho’s “All Under One Roof” approach?
FA: I love talking about this because it is such an important element of the service we provide. To share an example, previously we worked with a large financial organization on a project. For each project they did prior to working with us, they found themselves employing five separate vendors to get the job done. Five separate phone calls, five kickoff meetings, five purchase orders, five invoices, so on and so forth. They had to manage it all. Strictly speaking as a resource, in today’s market we are seeing teams that were once ten people down to two or three. They simply don’t have that kind of bandwidth, nor is it the best use of their time by any means. Our “all under one roof” approach is a huge value add to our services. When you look at the timeline on the creation of a gift card, the process includes everything from printing the cards to die-cutting, laying mag stripes, coding, affixing cards to carriers. Point being here, there are multiple areas that things can go wrong when it comes to timing or resources. We’re able to bring all of these things together under one roof and most importantly, we’re always conscious of brand consistency no matter the specific service we’re providing. The American Litho team works closely with each customer, learning the nuances of the brand, to make sure that we exceed time and time again.
Tell us a bit about how American Litho will benefit customers when it comes to turnaround times, reordering and keeping the flow going.
JT: This really goes back to all the benefits of being a single-source supplier. Since we are centrally located in Chicago, we’re close to major hubs and distribution centers as it relates to streamlined fulfillment, immediately reducing lead times on each job. Benefits of a long-term partnership on your offering with our team are substantial. Our relationship ensures consistency and eliminates hassle. No need to go out for bid, retrieve new pricing and compromise timelines to complete a single order – ultimately starting from scratch with new color proofs, worrying about consistency from plant to plant. As we run more and more programs for a client in-house, not only do we have the key elements of the order down to a science, but we get familiar with the goals of the campaign, volumes, and cadence of orders. We anticipate we will be able to be proactive with our clients to ensure necessary planning to strategize and reduce possibility for missed revenue with a delayed delivery or issue with production.
FA: Exactly. By continuing to work on a project long-term, we learn the manufacturing efficiencies, which we always take back to the client. If we are able to offer these suggestions, we can reduce cost and reduce cycle time which is key in this market regardless of the vertical. Employing our services as a partner vs. seeking out a printer enables us to have our customers’ back and guide them along the way, which is our passion. It’s truly a win-win situation.
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