CMYK+: Who Really Cares?!

Consumer purchasing preferences push boundaries of CMYK+ direct mail



Eve Padula, Marc Mascara


As digital printing continues to move along its adoption curve, we have witnessed an explosion of new equipment and finishing devices that are capable of producing exceptional applications with CMYK+ and embellishments. Although this is an idea that might be becoming all too familiar during COVID-19, print service providers (PSPs) and brands may be experiencing CMYK+ fatigue.


Today’s PSPs are being overwhelmed by hardware vendors pitching the capabilities of their equipment. So when they hear about CYMK+, they might be tempted to respond with “who really cares?” Although this might sound somewhat cynical with a touch of humor, the question itself is actually quite valid. Who really DOES care? 



In the evolution of the adoption curve associated with digital CMYK+, the next logical question (at least from a consumer perspective) would be how is CMYK+ moving the sales needle?


CMYK+ Re-Enters the Spotlight

In 2016, Keypoint Intelligence published a groundbreaking study entitled “Beyond CMYK: The Use of Special Effects in Digital Printing”. This put CMYK+ front and center as one of the top high-value applications that printers could consider as they explored ways to expand their revenue stream. It was quite clear that brands were willing to pay more for personalization with special colors, textures, and embellishments; data from the survey determined that these embellishments were more likely to grab the attention of consumers—thus leading to a higher sales potential.


Since our last study, CMYK+ had four years to flood the consumer space with increased adoption among brands and PSPs. The question is, how did this play out with consumers or, once again, who really cares? Keypoint Intelligence’s research works to understand how certain printing techniques can make consumers more likely to engage with a direct mail piece. According to our most recent marketing communications survey, consumers are still quite responsive to CYMK+ and textures…and some are more interested than others!


The Figure below outlines the age breakouts of consumer respondents who are likely to engage with direct mail pieces that include full color, CMYK+, and textures. Although full color direct mail was more universally appealing to consumers between the ages of 25 and 54 years old, CMYK+ and textures more commonly resonated with 25-to-34-year-olds. Additionally, textures were particularly appealing to consumers under the age of 25.


Engagement with Direct Mail Features by Age


Diving further into the survey data, the gender split for consumers who engaged with direct mail featuring CMYK+ was 64% male versus 36% female. It is now more important than ever for marketers to leverage artificial intelligence so they can single out the individuals that are most likely to engage with their offerings. Based on the results of this survey, men between the ages of 25 and 34 should be key targets for direct mail with CMYK+. Another interesting finding from this study is that although direct mail and e-mail were the top communication channels for total respondents, those who were more likely to engage with CMYK+ gravitated more strongly toward direct mail and social media.


Thanks to ongoing advancements in technology, direct mail incorporating full color, CMYK+, and textures is more prevalent than ever before—and certain people are more likely to notice these embellishments and make purchasing decisions as a result! Although these preferences may change over time as the adoption curve shifts, it is clear that direct mail enhancements can drive consumers to digital communications in our omni-channel world.


The data points discussed here are just the tip of the iceberg regarding the depth of Keypoint Intelligence’s survey data. Understanding how CMYK+ or other embellishments can affect consumers’ purchasing decisions is key to prospering in the next evolution of the digital CMYK+ adoption curve. All of this information and much more is currently available in our recently released “Annual State of Marketing Communications Consumer Research” for 2020.


As the adoption curve of digital CMYK+ continues to progress, more and more consumers are encountering high-value direct mail print applications. The discussion is no longer about black & white versus full color. It is now about the battle for attention that is brewing between full color communications and CMYK+. Although earlier research confirmed that consumers noticed communications with certain embellishments, our most recent surveys offer more granular findings that uncover the consumers who are most likely to notice and respond to direct mail with print enhancements.


The Bottom Line

So, to return to our original question, who really cares? Well, businesses and brands alike should care because our survey data clearly shows that certain aspects of print are driving consumers’ purchasing decisions. By understanding which consumers care about certain print embellishments, where they are located, and how much they purchase, businesses and brands can be better positioned for sales success in the future. In today’s hyper-connected world that includes a mix of e-media and print alike, it is now more important than ever for brands and businesses to understand and accommodate consumers’ communication preferences and all of their nuances.



Although Keypoint Intelligence’s 2016 CMYK+ study provided valuable information on the burgeoning digital CMYK+ market, our soon-to-be-released CMYK+ study will offer a deeper understanding of our next level of research and a fresh perspective on this topic with the backdrop of COVID. To learn more about our newest CMYK+ research or any of our customer communications surveys, please contact Deanna Flanick at