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Design Trends and Manufacturability

As technology continues to touch just about every aspect of our lives, it also has an impact on how we perceive the physical payment card. Over the years, the card has been continuously evolving. The origination of the payment card started with a single paper or cardboard slip. Shortly afterwards, it was common to use a metal charge plate. The plastic charge card emerged in the mid-century, and since has held steady as the material most commonly used for cards. In recent years, it has become common for cards to come equipped with smart technology such as antennas, contact chips, digital displays, and lights. The security elements on the card are key components to keep cardholder information safe and ensure that fraudulent cards are unable to be reproduced. The design goes much deeper than the graphic printed on the face of the card. Strategically, it is important to be mindful of the things to come, but we also need to keep our eye on the present and the reality of the card in the market today. What happens today drives tomorrow’s trends.

When designing cards, it is very important to be cognizant of industry guidelines. These industry guidelines specify parameters the payment card must meet such as size, thickness rigidity, the magnetic stripe, signature panel and contact chip technology. It is imperative that these guidelines are followed to ensure that the card will function properly in the field. They also provide structure that helps to confirm the card is constructed in a way that will last. A credit card travels with us wherever we go. Cards must be able to withstand being taken to the top of a ski hill in freezing conditions as well as tolerating very warm humid climates. Sometimes they are carried loose in our pocket, they get wet or could be exposed to abrasives such as sand. They will need to be able to function to make payments and still get us into our hotel room at the end of the day all while maintaining a look that speaks well to the brand marks that it possesses. The long list of industry and association guidelines can be enough to quickly overwhelm any designer. There are so many things that need to be considered when you actually dissect the card that it is important to create a design that will not cause an adverse effect to these items. The key is keeping the integrity of these elements while finding a differentiator for the look and feel of the card. The card needs to have something to make it stand out from the others.

Finding that differentiating factor starts with determining the overall look and feel of the card. Graphical elements certainly play a role, but it's the materials and the processes the card goes through in manufacturing that makes it a reality. It is extremely important to be cognizant of materials such as the PVC and the inks that are used. This is where the importance of innovation and research and development comes into play. If a new material, ink or process comes into the mix, it is crucial that it is run through a full gamut of testing to confirm that the card will meet industry guidelines. In many cases the cards are constructed in multi-layers. It is common practice to sandwich the front and back of the card together along with the overlay material and then laminate the card using heat and pressure to fuse it into one solid form. The lamination could mute out the effect. It is all a result of how the materials work together and how they withstand the heat from lamination. Another important aspect in designing the card is to consider the smart technology that is present in so many of today’s cards and how it interacts with the materials that have been selected to construct the card. Sometimes the strongest differentiating factor can be a simplistic detail, something sleek and elegant that can catch the eye and set the card apart from the rest.

Current industry trends have been cards that possess a metallic element, or emulate depth in some way. Cards with brightly colored edges have become a popular identifying factor that sets the card apart from other cards in the wallet. Processes that create depth or visible layering of inks on the card can be an effective way to add pop to the graphical elements of the card, or create a subtle visual effect or texture to the card. The best part of designing on plastics is the various combinations of inks, materials, processes (foil stamping, lamination or silkscreen treatments) that add sparkle or texture to the card. Many trending effects in card design are effects that determine the surface reflectivity of the card. The key items that determine the surface reflectivity are the materials that the card is composed of, the silkscreen inks and how they are applied within the design. Matte finish has become more and more popular. Hot foil stamping can be an effective way to add a metallic element to a card. Most importantly, lamination, and the plates used in lamination, can be the single most important factor that determines if the card will have a glossy high shine or a smooth matte finish.

Overall, when designing a card, it is very important to be mindful of trends. Trends can work for or against a card design. A trend can become popular very quickly and used in many types of cards. The differentiating factor can easily fade when trends take over, and all of the sudden many cards possess a very similar look and feel. It’s important to respect trends. They become trends for a reason. The ultimate goal in card design is that people are more likely to gravitate to a particular card. The card makes a statement about the brand that it represents. It is important to remember where card design started, back with the metal charge plates. Sometimes the most impactful designs and processes have been there all along.

Card Power: The Core of a Successful Loyalty Program

The question facing most brands is: How do you increase the spend and frequency from your consumers? The purpose of our research was to uncover data and best practices around the use of cards within a loyalty program. We found interesting information on how to increase sales in a market where the “the next big thing” always seems to be changing.
Keeping your brand present, and prevalent, in the minds and buying behaviors of consumers is becoming more challenging. Consumers are bombarded with marketing messages, in multiple channels, and ensuring your message is heard and acted upon is every marketer’s desire.
Multi Packaging Solutions, Producer of loyalty and gift card programs, is seeing this trend become the new norm. Tony Haugen, Senior Vice President remarks, “We are hearing from many clients how important it is for them to keep existing consumers shopping, and bring them back to purchase more often. The value of having and executing a good loyalty program has become more critical and in-demand than we have ever seen before.”
Loyalty Program Market Update
It is well documented that the average consumer is in as many as 14 loyalty programs, and 80 percent of consumers state loyalty programs impact their purchasing decisions. There are many facets to obtaining loyal consumers, yet there is no question that by retaining your existing consumer base, you can achieve the biggest band for the buck.
Certainly there is a cost to running a loyalty program; however, the upside is great.  Members in programs tend to spend 30 to 100 percent more than non-members, and are more frequent in their purchasing. Furthermore, you should see a real profit uptick as well; research shows that a five percent increase in customer retention can result in a 25 to 100 percent increase in company profits.
In the marketplace, the conversation all seems to be about mobile, digital and social. Without a doubt, technology is adding exciting channels to engage consumers, and their impact will play a factor in the market, so it is definitely smart to incorporate these in your strategy. Saying that, here is the caution; these topics are new and cool, yet that doesn’t mean you will spend the majority of your budget in mobile or digital loyalty solutions. On the contrary, a blended strategy and one that is “back to the basics” might bring you the best results.
Give Them a Card
Cards have been around for decades and may seem like old news, but the market shows that cards are still trending, id they help power programs to success! Carrying a physical membership card gives consumers a sense of belonging, that they are part of something special. This has recent strategies seem to only want to run to mobile wallets and email blasts. Maybe it is time to reconsider the power of giving consumers a branded welcome to the program.
This past year, one brand tested a card-based program (one in which a card was given) compared to a card-less (digital only) program to a see if having a card in hand versus none offered had any impact on the activity and excitement from the consumer. They found that the consumer participation rate was 8 times greater in the card-based program versus not offering a card at all. Even though there was a savings by not producing a physical card; this was far outweighed by the participation and ultimately financial churn of consumer activity.
Mil Really Does Work
Yes, with all the excitement of social marketing, emails, SEO, SEM, texting and so forth, direct mail is still one of the best ways to engage consumers. In a recent channel preference study, the data supports this claim, as 51 percent of U.S. consumers stated they pay more attention to postal mail than email, 73 percent prefer direct mail for brand communications, and 73 percent receive emails they simply do not open.
Research by Ball State University concluded that in some cases, 70 percent to 90 percent of respondents made a purchase based on receiving direct mail. When a card is in the direct mail piece, response rates are even higher. Multi Packaging Solutions has seen this with several clients, as response rates have increased as much as 30 percent by combining direct mail with email marketing campaigns.
With this type of information, direct mail is a marketing channel that brands simply cannot ignore and should be a part of your strategy moving forward.
Gift Cards as Incentive Rewards
Gift cards have become the number one gift in the U.S., and continue to provide a tremendous revenue lift for brands. As far as loyalty programs, great (and successful) convergence is underway. The big idea is to use gift cards as incentives within your loyalty program.
How impactful can a physical gift card be? It has been found that gift cards are ten times, yes ten times more effective at driving incremental customer visits. A further look into why this is the case reveals that consumers find a plastic gift cards to be “something of value.” They place worth on a gift card and therefore on a reward card that acts like a gift card.
Card Power: The Core of a Successful Loyalty Program
A recent study shows that consumers who received a physical card as an incentive spent 43 percent more than the card value, and 55 percent of those consumers redeemed their card within 30 days. Another survey revealed that over 84 percent of consumers would rather receive a physical gift card than a virtual card. With this type of data, marketers need to continue to focus their strategy on what the consumers want, and are doing today.

Adding value with card packaging: Sleeves and envelopes


Do Customers See Your Logo Each Time They Open Their Wallet?
It was estimated that during the 2013 holiday season, nearly 81 percent of shoppers purchased at least one gift card, how they are packaged can often be an afterthought. One of the most economical packaging options for gift cards are envelopes and sleeves.

Flat packaging such as envelopes and sleeves are most commonly manufactured using paper, Tyvek ArmorShield™ (an RFID shielding substrate) and light weight board. Sleeves in these materials fit nicely into wallets and purses and are a valuable and inexpensive marketing tool while protecting the cards. Card sleeves and envelopes are easily custom printed so your message is right where it needs to be—in your customers’ hands!
So what is the best material for card sleeves?  That all depends on the application, for short term cards that are not subject to constant use, paper is the most economical material. Lightweight board stock is also a popular and provides a little more durability over paper. For cards that are used frequently or will be stored for a longer term, Tyvek® will perform better and is extremely durable, tear resistant, and is non-abrasive. Armor Shield sleeves are best used to protect the data on smart or contactless cards, passports and enhanced drivers’ licenses.

Some of the typical uses for card sleeves and envelopes include gift and loyalty cards, debit/credit cards for banks and credit unions, identification/government ID’s and access cards, healthcare-related cards, and key card sleeves for hotels and the hospitality industry.
Gift card sleeves and envelopes are the perfect companion to retail gift cards and give customers another avenue to market their business. We all know the popularity and benefits of gift cards. Gift card envelopes provide another opportunity to market your brand, highlight other services or products, list locations, hours and phone numbers, or give another discount all on a carrier which typically stays with the card until redemption. Gift cards are most often packaged in paper or a light weight board stock-these are the most economical options and best for short term use cards and holders.
Protective Tyvek® card sleeves are often used in banking and financial markets. Tyvek® provides excellent durability and protects magnetic stripe cards from damage and scratching. About 70 percent of the top 100 U.S. credit unions provide Tyvek® card sleeves to their members. To protect contactless bank cards from unauthorized skimming, sleeves should be manufactured using an RFID blocking material such as ArmorShield™. About 100 million credit cards currently have RFID technology embedded into them. However, over the next two to three years with the migration of EMV, credit card issuers plan to replace magnetic stripe credit and debit cards with new contactless smartcards. ArmorShield™ sleeves provide a barrier to the radio frequency signals necessary to communicate with contactless cards. Complementing electronic security measures such as encryption and authentication, the sleeves provide an additional layer of protection against unauthorized or unknown access. Custom printing on sleeves can also list additional bank Custom printing on sleeves can also list additional bank corporate branding.

Another large application for RFID shielding sleeves is in the area of governmental in the area of governmental identification, enhanced drivers licenses, and contactless building access cards. Information contained on the chips embedded in these cards can also be skimmed by hackers and other identity thieves. RFID blocking materials, such as the alloy in ArmorShield™ are designed to shield ISO 1443 A/B and EPC Gen 1/Gen2 contactless smart cards. This encompasses any contactless card that operates at 13.56 MHz and above. This material will not shield the older 125 kHz proximity cards. On cards that include a secondary 125 kHz antenna added for backward compatibility, only the newer 13.56 MHz interface is shielded. The newer 13.56 MHz interface is generally the only one with personal data.

Custom printed card sleeves are also used by many companies in the healthcare industry. Medical groups, doctors' offices and healthcare insurance companies use the card sleeves to communicate important information to their patients. These sleeves not only protect medical cards from scratching, dust and debris, but help to instruct patients on routine care, urgent care, and life threatening conditions. Phone numbers, hours of service, address of locations, and websites can be printed on the sleeves to provide additional information to the end users.
Hotel key card envelopes are used in motels and hotels to identify the room number and to provide valuable hotel information. Different sizes are often used to hold one or two cards as well as different styles that have flaps or enclosures. Most styles have no flaps to make it an easy access to your hotel key card. Key card envelopes are generally produced from paper, but Tyvek is occasionally used for high-end resorts or hotels requiring a more durable card sleeves. Tyvek is a great application for protecting hotel key cards when used around the pool or ocean.
Many hotels are switching door locks to contactless systems and use RFID cards or contactless cards to gain entry into guest rooms. These RFID cads should be protected by using RFID blocking sleeves. These sleeves prevent skimming or unauthorized copying of the key card, which would allow thieves the ability to gain access to your room.
Card sleeves and envelopes make great promotional and give-a-way items. Many companies, sports teams, and charitable corporations provide sleeves as give-a-ways at events with the intent the sleeve will be used with the end users current plastic card regardless of the card itself. Other companies provide the envelopes with the cards to provide the users with additional information. Want something a little different? How about a small envelope with a flap, or a window, or use a specialized material or unique shape? Keep your message in front of your target audience with custom printed card sleeves and envelopes.
Card sleeves and envelopes are a valuable and inexpensive marketing tool while providing protection and security for your cards and a complimentary addition to the cards themselves.