Adcraft Labels Expresses Passion Through Print
There was something different about one of the recent monthly “State of the Union” lunches Adcraft Labels holds for its employees. Instead of the company’s management just providing an overview of how the company had performed that month, a table covered by a mysterious curtain welcomed staff members.
Then, the unmistakable growling intro to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” started pumping through a set of speakers. With the music cranked up to full blast, the curtain was removed, revealing 16 awards the company won in the 2016 Printing Industries of Southern California Print Excellence Awards — a surprise to all of the employees.
Keith Mottram, president and CEO of Adcraft Labels, explains that the gesture was an expression of gratitude for the whole team in helping to build Adcraft into a leading label converter with a footprint in several markets. Award-winning work, he explains, involves an entire organization to buy in and commit to the same vision. Since the first big “reveal” ceremony, Adcraft has raked in several more awards from around the industry, cementing its reputation as a high-quality printer.
“The team here — this is not a one man effort or a two-man effort,” Mottram says. “I have such a good group of people working with us and they all have this mindset that the client is our partner and we all look at each other as clients. We really have a good collaborative effort to get the highest possible quality and to get a good quality product out there that’s going to be competitively priced.”
Now in its 40th year of business, Mottram explains Adcraft has come a long way from a medical and electronics label printer that was grown out of the family garage. With a state-of-the-art facility in Anaheim, Calif., featuring the latest technology, including a Mark Andy Digital Series hybrid press, Adcraft has expanded into several markets, encouraging brand owners to think creatively about how they want to share their message to consumers.
Moving Beyond Medical
It was 1980 when Dick Mottram, Keith’s father and the founder of Adcraft Labels, bought and installed a Mark Andy 830 press in the family garage in Tustin, Calif. At its inception, the company focused entirely on printing labels for the medical and electrical markets, producing jobs in one, two or three colors.
Keith Mottram explains that at the time, there were several medical manufacturers based throughout Southern California, so it made for a good fit for the fledgling company. But, as manufacturing began to move out of the area, Adcraft had to seek out other opportunities and added a six-color press and ventured into process printing.
“We started going after various different marketplaces, expanding what we were going after, getting into personal care and nutritional supplements,” Mottram says.
After making the leap into markets beyond medical and electronic devices, Mottram says the company’s leadership began to notice the growing importance these marketplaces were placing on label and packaging embellishments. As Adcraft began to expand its fleet of printing presses and add capabilities such as flexible packaging production, Mottram explains the company developed a mission to not only help its clients maintain its brand integrity over multiple products, but to stand out visually.
From a consistency standpoint, Mottram explains that Adcraft harkened back to its days in the medical and electronics markets, integrating the color consistency practices that his father had instilled in the company. No matter the substrate, Mottram says, Adcraft developed a system to ensure brand colors could always be replicated.
But most importantly, he explains that the company took a staunch stance on quality, striving to not become the type of company that places most of its value on quantity.
“We really focused on brand management, color consistency and quality,” Mottram says. “This is one of the things that really separates Adcraft from a lot of companies in my opinion. We were never a production house. Our goal or focus was not on getting something on or off the press as fast as possible.”
Discovering Purpose and Passion
While Adcraft has gained a reputation for producing strong work, there is a stark difference between doing a good job printing a customer’s files versus helping them develop their packaging in a way that is authentic to the brand.
According to Ken Collins, Adcraft’s VP of sales and marketing, Adcraft makes a point to dig a little deeper in its conversations with customers to gain a full understanding of what makes them passionate about their brand. Then, the company can combine that information with the knowledge it has gained in its various markets to collaborate on a package that both speaks to the brand story and is optimized to perform well in the marketplace.
“There’s a culture at our company … to actually listen to what the brand owner is trying to get across as their message — their why, their purpose, their passion — and help them to take their ideas and concepts and bring them back in house,” Collins says. “We’ll set back as a team and we’ll take our experience within the multiple different markets and help that brand enhance their image.”
One area that brands often struggle in, Collins says, is marketing their products to the millennial generation. He explains that Adcraft has made a point to understand the buying tendencies of this new generation of consumers that values authenticity and personalization in the buying process, and helps brands develop packaging that piques those desires.
Additionally, Collins explains that social media is a growing force impacting packaging and Adcraft often considers how a package may look when shared in an increasingly connected world.
“You might not think it’s a big deal but if you have a package that doesn’t reproduce well in photographs then Instagram is not going to help you,” he says. “These are all points where you have to help that brand owner develop. Our team does a very good job of going shoulder to shoulder with them going out to market to get it to the end user and then keep it current.”
One Pass Production
When the Adcraft leadership team ventured out to Labelexpo 2014 in Chicago, it brought along a list of objectives it garnered from conversations with clients. The company was in the market for a new equipment asset to help its customers better achieve their goals and attended the trade show to gather ideas on potential directions to go in.
As they stopped by the Mark Andy booth, a presentation was underway unveiling the beta version of the Mark Andy Digital Series — a hybrid press, incorporating flexography, inkjet and in-line converting. Mottram recalls that the press was the closest any solution came to checking off the items on Adcraft’s list.
“Ken and I looked at each other and it was like an epiphany,” he says.
Before diving head first into the new technology however, Mottram says Adcraft did its due diligence in researching the equipment and studying the offerings from other vendors. While he ultimately had the final say in deciding on the new equipment, Mottram ensured he received input from the full Adcraft team.
“I included the whole team in the decision process,” he says. “The core team worked on our decision process and the process revealed the single best choice. We determined the Digital Series was the best path to allow us to achieve our list of objectives.”
In addition to the technological capabilities that the Mark Andy Digital Series promised to offer the company, he states that the service provided by Mark Andy helped shore up the decision to spring for the hybrid solution.
“Our company has a give what you seek mentality,” Mottram says. “We want our clients as partners and we want to perform like a partner to our clients and we expect our vendors to do the same thing.”
The press was installed in September of 2016 and the company hosted a launch event in November. Since that time, Adcraft has been successfully migrating jobs to the Digital Series that make the most sense for that type of production. Collins explains that one of the advantages the hybrid press provides is that it not only accommodates the short runs that are best suited for digital production, it provides a cost-effective manner of finishing and converting those digital runs.
Prior to this technology, he says that many of the jobs that lent themselves to extensive embellishments were the large production runs often printed by larger companies. But because the Digital Series can leverage its hybrid printing and in-line converting, smaller brands that lean toward shorter runs can take advantage of the in-line
embellishment opportunities the press provides.
“It’s actually allowing the medium and small sized companies to come out with a beautifully reproduced label they could never afford to do before,” Collins says. “Somebody could never come out and afford to do a six-color, screen-printed no look label in the past. Now we’re able to do that in medium sized runs and put in cold foils and put in metallic inks and things of that nature, which were never possible before.”
It’s All About Education
Because hybrid printing technology is so new, Collins explains that Adcraft has to spend time with its customers educating them on what the press can do and explaining that they are no longer limited by the constraints of conventional printing.
Mottram says that in traditional flexography, printers often have to keep their customers’ expectations in check. But as flexo print quality has improved to match that of offset, combined with the capabilities that hybrid production provides, Mottram says Adcraft has made it a point to understand its customers’ businesses and align their needs with the company’s capabilities to create the ideal packaging solution.
“We genuinely have a good time finding out what our clients need and what they need to do,” he says. “I like to get in there and see how things work and get involved in the production process. We try to figure out how we can streamline things and focus on how we can help that brand.”
As brands continue to seek ways to break down barriers and differentiate themselves from the competition, Mottram says Adcraft now has the experience, passion and technology to take their clients to the next level.
“Now we have something that can push the barriers and the edge of what people’s previous limitations kept them from even thinking about,” he says.