Why Vistaprint has designs on small business

Printing business looks to reposition its brand to realise its acquisition of 99designs

When a brand is well known for doing something, it can be hard to educate people that it also does a whole lot more.

For custom printing company, Vistaprint, success in satisfying small business’ printing needs had overshadowed its investments in other digital design services, including its acquisition of the Australian-born freelance design marketplace, 99designs, in October 2020.

“We are incredibly well known for the traditional customised print products around business cards and marketing materials,” Vistaprint senior director of marketing, sales and customer experience, Caroline Swarbrick, told CMO. “But that opportunity has expanded in line with the needs of our customers.”

Armed with a new design digital capabilities and backed by extensive research into the needs of small and medium businesses, Vistaprint has embarked on a global repositioning exercise to inform small businesses of all the other ways it can help them.

This centrepiece of this initiative was the launch of Vistaprint’s US$1.5 million Save Small Business Fund, designed to support small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis, and its associated ‘99 Days of Design’ initiative, which has provided a diverse group of 99 small business owners with $15,000 grants. Vistaprint awarded six grants to Ausrtalian businesses, selected from close to 2000 nominations, with all nominees receiving a one month 30 per cent sitewide discount.

Vistaprint undertook an extensive research program through 2021, with Swarbrick highlighting one of the key insights as being that design will be important in helping small businesses to emerge from the crisis.

“We have been growing our services offering in digital and design, so we can be the marketing partner they need,” Swarbrick said.

In June this year, Vistaprint released its Small Business Recovery Report for Australia, which found more than 1.1 million Australian small business owners had made significant sacrifices in the past year to keep their businesses afloat.

The report formed the basis of Vistaprint’s ‘Ready for Anything’ marketing campaign, which showcased unusual situations small businesses could face, and how Vistaprint could help. The local implementation of the campaign was rolled out with support from the integrated communications agency History Will Be Kind (HWBK) and was carried across various digital channels and connected TV sponsorships with Lego Masters Australia and Celebrity Apprentice Australia, and also featured TV presenter, author, and small business founder Sally Obermeder.

“We identified that the audience of Lego Masters Australia, as well as lots of different sporting events, particularly resonated with our small business community in Australia, which also then led to this campaign being run around the Olympics as well,” Swarbrick said.

Swarbrick said the success of the campaign is reflected in the volume of nominations for the grants, and the overall brand buzz created.

“This was a new direction for us, to be talking to small businesses about design rather than just about marketing materials,” she said. “We learned so much from this campaign. Working in this brand space is so new for Vistaprint. We are pretty good at lower funnel, but we haven’t done a lot of talking to Australian communities and business communities about who we are and what stand for.”

With the initial positioning work done, Swarbrick said Vistaprint will continue telling the story of how important design is for small business.

“It is about how can we make it easier for small businesses to do what’s important to them and what they love, because we know a lot of the marketing and design support can also be the peripheral for some people around their business,” Swarbrick said. “Being able to help small businesses to look and feel legitimate and to feel like big brands, but at the appropriate level of support and price point for them, is something that runs through the heart of all of our marketing.”

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