DBL’s wonderful world of color

After 10 years of producing two-color catalogs, DBL Distributing, a $55 million business-to-business electronics accessories mailer, produced its first four-color book this fall. But although the change (and a 16-page increase in the size of the book) boosted production costs 20%, the results were gratifying, says director of marketing David Kline. On a 29% increase in circulation, DBL enjoyed a 55% lift in sales.

“The numbers really speak for themselves,” says Chris Berardelli, DBL’s sales rep at Downers Grove, IL-based printer R.R. Donnelley & Sons. “DBL made the right choice to go four-color, because even though color may not be as important as it is in an apparel book, it’s just more pleasing to the eye to look at 372 pages of color vs. black and white.”

Yet the prospect of a sales increase didn’t motivate the shift to four-color. In fact, using black-and-white photgraphy with just one spot color in the past “helped us show customers that we were bare-bones in costs – a good image for us to convey as an electronics distributor in an industry where there’s not much profit,” Kline says. The Scottsdale, AZ-based catalog company, which targets mom-and-pop electronics retailers, made the switch to color simply so it could reuse photos from the book on its color Website without having to reshoot them.

Nonetheless, to produce the first four-color catalog, all the products that had been photographed in black-and-white needed to be reshot in color. That process took nearly six weeks and required DBL to hire a second production staffer. DBL also had to buy three color printers “to enable us to make color corrections on the fly,” Kline says. The cataloger also bought a Mac G3 dedicated server and added a separate 36GB hard drive to store the color images, which take up more space than black-and-white images. All told, the company spent $30,000 on the change to four-color.

To control expenses, DBL performed all color corrections inhouse, which saved the company about $20,000. And DBL opted for the Iris Digital Proof process, as opposed to the Kodak approval process, which would have cost an additional $15,000. “Although the Kodak process gives you a much truer read of what you’ll see in the printed book,” Kline says, “getting exact colors doesn’t matter as much for us as it might for, say, an apparel cataloger. We’re most concerned with getting a consistent look.”

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