By Peter Scheir


Over 15 years experience in the holographic industry have helped me to identify a number of recurring themes in potential customers’ objections to using holography. I have made it my goal to create a path of lesser resistance, – to make holography “a solution rather than a new set of problems” (comment made by Doug Miller while president of Holographic Design). The aim of this article is to outline what many customers’ perceive as obstacles to using holography, and to describe at least one solution. That solution lies in the customization of stock image embossed holograms.

Due to its unparalleled visual impact, there exists heavy marketplace interest in the use of holography for promotion. For the most part, fully custom embossed holography carries set up (origination / tooling) costs which are many thousands of dollars. Making embossed holograms affordable in low production runs (runs too short to amortize the tooling costs associated with fully custom embossed holography) is the key to tapping this marketplace. I have found that the best solution to this problem is the use of stock images.

Impact is the word, in my mind, which best befits graphic holography. It is the visual impact of the medium which gives it such great power and generates so much interest. Companies of all sizes are constantly searching for means of promotion which will set them apart from their competitors, and get them noticed. Holography adds three distinct advantages to any promotion:

  • 1. Impact: holograms are eye catching. People will look at holograms for significantly longer periods of time than other graphic mediums. If a customer’s name or slogan is on the hologram, that information is enforced!
  • 2.Pass around value: people are often impressed with good holograms, and they are likely to bring them to the attention of colleagues and associates.
  • 3.Retention: people tend to keep holograms. We receive new leads from potential customers who have holograms on their desk which were created more than 10 years ago!
Given these three factors, it may be hard to understand why holography is not found in much wider use in the promotional marketplace. I feel that it is largely due to false perceptions about holography and its costs. Unfortunately, in the minds of many, affordability has never been a word associated with holography. It would be impossible for me to count the times that I have heard potential customers say “holography is great but too expensive’ or, “we can’t afford to use holography for our project” (can they really afford to ignore the impact of holography?) or, “holograms are only for large runs”. These decisions are made before a price quote has even been made!

Objections such as these are sometimes based upon past experience; but more often than not, they come from an incomplete or incorrect conception of the holographic industry and what we have to offer. Mainly, objections of this sort stem from experiences in which an inappropriate solution was applied to a project. For instance, a customer may have been looking for 5,000 hologram labels to give away at a trade show. Calling a company found in the phone directory, they were told that there would be a set up cost of $8,000; or, that the minimum run had to be 50,000 pieces. This type of incomplete information creates obstacles in customers’ minds. After such an experience, further exploration into the use of holography would be limited due to the customer’s presumption that holography could not be cost effective.

I have found that there are a great number of projects which fall into the category of ‘not cost effective given the high set up costs of fully custom holography’. One solution to this problem exists in the utilization of stock image holograms. Stock image holograms have just as much impact as fully custom holograms, without the high set up costs.Stock image embossed holograms can, with great ease, add huge impact to most any promotion. Direct mail can be enhanced with a stock hologram label. Memorable premium and specialty items such as magnets, calculators, and tee shirts can be created from stock holograms. Powerful brochure covers, pocket folders, annual reports, magazine covers, advertisements, etc. can be produced with the addition of a stock image embossed hologram. Packaging can benefit from the draw and appeal of a stock hologram. New life can, in fact, be breathed into almost any promotion with a stock image hologram.

Many hologram production companies have existing stock images. Sometimes images are created ‘on spec.’ for projects which do not come to fruition, and the originator retains the rights of ‘replication’ (embossing the image). In other circumstances, originators create holograms for self promotion or for retail markets that can then be utilized as stock images for advertising and promotional projects. These images can often be customized to suit individual customer’s needs. Customizing a stock image can take a number of forms. A simple after printing stage adds a customer’s logo, ad copy, or slogan to a stock image, making it (for all practical purposes) a custom image! Stock images can also be die cut (cropped) to specific shapes and/or sizes which give them a custom appearance. Placing ad copy around the image on the literature or product can further enhance the design and make a stock image unique.

Generally, stock images are more expensive per piece than custom images due to ‘short run costs’ and/or royalties (paid to the owner of the image) which are included in the price per piece. This higher cost per piece is deceptive. Since no custom tooling costs need to be amortized, the total cost for the production run is low enough to make the project viable where a fully custom hologram would have been out of the question*. Though the average ‘total dollar value’ of stock image jobs are lower than those for fully custom projects, the lack of high set up costs and the availability of low minimum runs create a much greater conversion rate, so there are more jobs. Just as important, customers see the image before the project begins, eliminating the long, potentially problematic proof stages and chances for image rejection.

* Comparisons of stock vs. custom holograms

size/type quantity origination** unit cost cost for run total cost savings
3″ Custom 5,000 pieces $ 5,000 $ 0.20 $ 1,000 $ 6,000
3″ Stock 5,000 pieces N/A $ 0.50 $ 2,500 $ 2,500 $ 3,500 (58%)
2″ Custom 10,000 pieces $ 5,000 $ 0.08 $ 800 $ 5,800
2″ Stock 10,000 pieces N/A $ 0.34 $ 3,400 $ 3,400 $ 2,800 (41%)
6″ Custom 2,000 pieces $ 5,000 $ 0.70 $ 1,400 $ 6,400
6″ Stock 2,000 pieces N/A $ 1.25 $ 2,500 $ 2,500 $ 3,900 (61%)

** Origination is (conservatively) based upon a fully 3D image including basic model, photoresist master, electroforming, recombination, and die work.

Qualification of customers is often complicated in fully custom holography. It can take a long conversation and an expensive packet of samples just to determine that a customer does not have the budget for a custom image. Stock images offer an excellent back-up option. If the budget does not allow for custom work, the project may often be salvaged with a stock image hologram. Furthermore, some of our sales reps have found that offering an affordable alternative in stock imagery can remove the obstacles in a customer’s mind. As the customer looks further into the project, he or she finds that a custom piece is really more attractive, and a budget is ‘created’ which includes custom tooling!

In the photographic industry, stock images have long been a well used alternative to custom photography. Various collections of stock photos offer a dazzling array of imagery, so images can be found to suit even the most obscure project parameters. Holography has not yet developed into such a serviceable industry as photography. If you believe that a stock image may work for your particular project, request a list of available images from your favorite hologram supplier; or, look to one of the recently developing compilations of stock images. [NOTE: If you are shopping for a stock embossed hologram, be sure to see if it is available in the form you require (i.e. - hot stamp foil vs. pressure sensitive, logo add ons, custom cut sizing or cropping, roll vs. sheet, etc.).]

We have created a stock hologram collection named HoloBank┬«. They have assembled a large selection of stock images by licensing available images from many of the world’s finest origination facilities. This growing compendium has over 400 stock images ranging in usable size from 3/4″ to 6″ square, and customization is supported in the form of add on printing as well as custom die shapes, all for runs as low as 500 pieces.

You can also find limited parts of the HoloBank® collection available in various forms from companies including Applied Holographics, Astor Universal, Bridgestone Technologies, and Light Impressions Europe.

Smith and McKay Printing in San Jose, CA is one of the countries leading hot stampers of holograms. They have taken a unique approach to the sales of stock image holograms. Purchasing large rolls of stock images in hot stamp foil, and producing a number of promotional products using these images allow them to keep products on the shelf ready to customize as required. Their line of business cards, note cards, stationary, and presentation folders are available in volumes as low as 100 pieces, and can be customized through hot stamping.

American Banknote Holographics offers a large variety of stock images ranging in size from under an inch to post card size. Many of their images are available in both hot stamp foil and pressure sensitive formats, though custom die shapes and add on printing are only available in larger runs.

Holographic marketing companies can benefit from the stock image holograms. Pre cataloged assortments of stock images allow easy use and access to a wide variety of imagery. Besides easy access and low minimum runs, a stock image project can run smoothly on the side, leaving important man hours to be spent on the larger and more pressing projects.

It is important to recognize that short runs and low budgets are not restricted to small companies. Many large corporations make use of short runs for specific projects which have relatively small budgets but are extremely important never the less. These projects can be high profile; and, they can create an ‘in’ because your company was there for them on the smaller project. The customization of stock images ultimately makes them custom images. The majority of those viewing the images will never know that they were not created specifically for the company using them, particularly if holographic diffraction imprinting is employed.

In summary, customized stock embossed holograms add a powerful new dimension to the sales of holograms and holographic products. Consider the benefits:

  • The visual impact of custom holography without the high tooling costs.
  • Affordability in low production runs.
  • Multiple applications from print advertising to premium items.
  • Additional sales to customers who are presently turned away.
  • Ease of presentation and higher lead conversion.

All in all, the best solution I have found to the question of “how to make high impact embossed holography affordable in low production runs” is the customization of stock images. More and more customers are turning to stock images to enhance their promotions. In the future, the use of stock imagery will be wide spread. Companies dedicated to the promotion of stock holography will increase their image selection continually, and begin targeting images to particular industries. Eventually, stock image holography could become as inexpensive and common a graphic element as stock image photography is today.