Quad/Graphics: A Focus on Defining the Future of Customer Communications

By Barb Pellow  Published: August 25, 2016

Industry innovator Quad/Graphics (Sussex, WI) has been in business for 45 years. In all of that time, the company’s sole purpose has been to do things differently and more effectively. To that end, Quad/Graphics has set course to redefine print in today’s multi-channel media world by helping marketers and publishers capitalize on print’s ability to complement and connect with other media channels. This is not an easy task.

Marketers and corporate executives face many obstacles when communicating with consumers. Reaching customers is more difficult today because with more channels, marketers often struggle to determine the right media for their audience and message. According to InfoTrends’ study entitled Service Expansion Opportunities for Document Outsourcing in 2016, developing a seamless experience across all communication channels is a top challenge for many enterprises. This challenge represents an opportunity for service providers as enterprises are seeking external support in channel-agnostic delivery of customer communications, as well as assistance with creative services, data management, analytics, and other value-added services.

Which of the following operational functions present the biggest challenges in terms of the customer communication lifecycle and/or marketing processes?

The Opportunity for Service Providers

Another important finding from InfoTrends’ study is that nearly two-thirds of enterprise respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they would consider working with a provider that offered a bundled service offering including data, creative, digital media, and printing (or print management) services if it saved time and money. Print and marketing service providers are expanding their core competencies to accommodate client demands for delivering a multi-channel customer experience. Savvy service providers are broadening their offerings to include agency-type services that help clients effortlessly unite digital, print, and other media options. Providers are expanding into these new services by making investments to provide them internally, forming partnerships with others to outsource them, or a combination both.

When attempting to determine if adding more agency services is the right move, many print service providers will ask themselves, “will my customers entrust their creative and agency-oriented services to me?” According to Joel Quadracci, President, Chairman, and CEO of Quad/Graphics, the answer is a resounding yes! He explains, “Our customers have trusted us with photography and page layout. We have access to CMOs and CEOs and are demonstrating that we can help them not just with print, but with effectively allocating media spend. The concept of a partner that can help most efficiently to manage online and offline channels has started to resonate with marketers of all sizes.”

Quad/Graphics: Adding Multi-Channel Agency Services

Quad/Graphics has made many investments to evolve its service offerings to meet customers’ expanding and ever-changing communication requirements. Quadracci elaborates, “As the digital landscape comes together, marketers are looking for partners to help them orchestrate and measure the effectiveness of their marketing initiatives across digital and traditional channels.”

In early 2015, Quad repositioned its existing BlueSoho business as an integrated marketing agency that bridges the gap between analog and digital channels to transform marketing investments into results-driven, revenue-generating programs for retailers, publishers, and healthcare companies. The new company was comprised of three Quad companies:

  1. Nellymoser, a mobile marketing agency (which Quad/Graphics acquired with Brown Printing Company in May 2014)
  2. BlueSoho, a high-end creative and production boutique (which Quad/Graphics launched in New York City in 2004)
  3. The Quad Media Planning and Placement group (which Quad/Graphics acquired with Vertis Communications in January 2013)

BlueSoho is an independent brand that enables Quad/Graphics to capture new print business. Most recently, Quad expanded the BlueSoho capabilities through a strategic partnership with Rise Interactive, an award-winning digital marketing agency. As part of that agreement, Quad has made a minority investment in Rise.

According to Joel Quadracci, BlueSoho will help overcome a strong digital-only bias among agencies. He states, “With BlueSoho, we bring together a company that’s an expert at optimizing spend across all media by using robust analytics to deliver highly relevant, consistent messages across print and digital channels. We have been investing resources in BlueSoho so we can offer campaigns that are more relevant and better integrate online, offline, and in-store programs to increase consumer response and revenue.”

The Portfolio of Services

BlueSoho expands Quad’s marketing agency capabilities to include campaign development, shopper activation, and mobile/digital programming. Eric Ashworth, President of BlueSoho and Executive Vice President of Product Solutions and Market Strategy for Quad, notes, “The ultimate objective is to reach the right individual at the right time with the right message so Quad’s and Rise’s clients can invest marketing dollars more effectively and create a seamless experience for the end consumer.” The portfolio of services includes:

  • Insights and analytics
  • Media planning and placement
  • Mobile and digital activation
  • Creative services
  • Workflow optimization and on-site management
  • Full-service photo and video studio
  • Point-of-purchase signage and merchandising
  • Strategic account management

BlueSoho Multi-Channel Marketing

Making Multi-Channel Technology Work

Eric Ashworth highlighted an example of how the combination of BlueSoho and Quad/Graphics can drive results for its customers. Quad/Graphics has printed Sunday supermarket circulars for a long time. These circulars provide advertisers with an affordable advertising vehicle that enables precise targeting capabilities. Printed advertising circulars are an effective way to promote a brand’s message while also reaching budget-conscious consumers who seek value and reliability in the products and services that they purchase. In today’s environment, marketers want to increase consumer spending and improve consumer loyalty.

After finding significant savings in a grocery chain’s media spend (which included advertising circulars), BlueSoho partnered with Rise Interactive and SOLOMO, a company that fills analytics gaps using passive sensors to collect location data in and around physical locations, to activate a highly successful multi-channel campaign for three categories of food in its stores. The campaign surpassed all key program metrics. BlueSoho handled the creative, media planning, and mobile activation for the campaign; Rise Interactive handled online paid media. Using beacons, SOLOMO tracked new and repeat shopper traffic in the store locations. Point-of-sale receipts made it possible to track actual sales activities, and the supermarket chain saw a double-digit growth in the sale of the featured items. Of equal importance, the effort brought new customers through the supermarket’s doors and doubled its loyalty program sign-ups via e-mail and mobile.

Ashworth states, “This is one example of the solutions that we can develop for our clients. The focus has to be on intelligently engaging with consumers and utilizing the right channel. Print is and will continue to be an important part of the media mix, but our success will depend on optimizing that media mix to deliver the best results.”

The Bottom Line

As marketing communication options become even more complex, new areas of opportunity are opening up all the time. Joel Quadracci sums it up by saying, “Although BlueSoho only represents 3% of net sales, every dollar of revenue that it creates has a significant multiplier effect on the rest of our business.” Print service providers of all sizes need to deliver multi-channel data-driven communications that are highly relevant. The ability to support a client with more advanced services can be a key differentiator in today’s market. Customers are willing to listen, and Quad/Graphics is a company that is firmly capitalizing on that opportunity!


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