University of Minnesota

Printing Services


Variable Data Printing

Variable data printing (VDP) combines the power of your database with the effectiveness of Printing Services’ variable technologies and high-quality digital printing to successfully connect with prospective students, alumni, donors, and key stakeholders. VDP automates the direct mail process so that each direct mail piece can look as if it’s been expressly designed and printed for a single person. Targeting each recipients with a personalized message and unique imagery that strike an immediate connection allows University departments to build lasting relationships and significantly increase response rates for donor appeals, event invitations, and other important calls to action.

The potential for variable data printing is limited only by the imagination of the creator. Printing Services’ team of printing consultants and designers are experienced at analyzing data and designing targeted printed campaigns that creatively reach your audience with effective personalized messaging. Powerful customized messages are developed for each recipient, catered to the reader’s age, gender, educational interests, giving patterns, location, or alumni status.

Forms of VDP

Basic Customization

Basic customization is the simplest form of variable data printing. Standard information such as the name and salutation of the recipients are variable, and standard layout is static. While the names and addresses change from piece to piece, content of the message remains the same across all printings.


Versioning consists of several pre-designed layouts that are selected based on variable criteria. For example, in a national mailing to prospective students, a unique layout could be designed for each student’s state—based on database information—and the correct layout is automatically selected for each recipient. Versioning usually produces higher response rates than basic customization, but lower than full customization.

Full Customization

With full customization, individual components throughout the entire piece are customized based on multiple criteria. Images, text, and layout structure can be customized for each recipient in the entire mailing list, maximizing relevancy for the readers, and consequently returning the highest response rates.

Why VDP?

Return on investment: Various studies suggest that he returns for variable printing vary from double the normal return at the basic level to 10-15 times the return for fully variable campaigns. With this type of ROI, personalized variable printing is worth the energy of long-term planning, obtaining and maintaining accurate databases, and designing effective variable printed pieces.

Additional benefits of of producing targeted mailings include:

  • Accurate print runs: Choose your specific target audience based on database information and print only as many as you need.
  • Simple test-marketing: Test the effectiveness of a variable piece with a small split A/B test run using a portion of your database. Split testing can help define your audience and make your VDP campaign more successful by personalizing it more completely. Based on tracked response rates, adjust the design and messaging and finish the run at a later time.
  • Seemless mailing: Print addresses directly on the piece. There is no need for labels, hand-addressing, or working with a separate mailing service, thus reducing mailing costs and increasing fulfillment efficiency.