Pioneering the Future of Print and Influencer Marketing With Digital Package Printing at Rush Graphics
Manee Kassaii is in many ways the new face of print. As sales account executive at Rush Graphics, a family-owned business located in Hawthorne, New Jersey, Manee has helped to shape its future ever since joining six years ago after running several of his own ventures.
Entrepreneurship is a family legacy. Zora Kassaii established this woman-owned business in 1985. In the beginning the company offered laser scanning and color separations for designers and printers in the Northeast. Today, Rush Graphics provides services from concept to production, including packaging design and prototyping, digital and offset printing, photography, and video production.
Under Zora Kassaii’s leadership, Rush Graphics took the leap into digital as an early adopter of HP Indigo technology with the Indigo S2000, embracing the opportunities presented by folding carton and digital prototyping.
I recently caught up with Manee to check in and hear how he’s doing.
Q: Tell me a little bit about Rush Graphics today vs. Rush Graphics three years ago (pre-pandemic).
MK: We used the pandemic as an opportunity. We built out a photography and video studio in our New Jersey location and added more space for our in-house creative team. We expanded into more of a “concept-to-production” facility, and strategically designed our new spaces to maximize workflow. Digital and print production is all under one roof. Our in-house packaging engineers can quickly review their prototypes. And brand partners can visit and collaborate onsite. It’s a creative playground!
Since even before the pandemic, we’ve been working with brands to leverage print in new market segments. Influencer marketing has become a prime go-to-market channel for many brands in fashion, beverage, confection, and other categories targeting Gen Z and Y. This continues to be a growth segment for us, producing high-end influencer packaging. We’ve got a few exciting projects in the pipeline.
Q: Tell me more about how you partner with brands to support influencer marketing.
MK: We collaborate with design and brand teams to produce packaging and creative assets for targeted influencer campaigns. Working closely with our brand partners from concept and design to production to kitting and fulfillment. Our packaging engineers create custom and well thought out die lines and packaging structures that are unique to the campaign and product. When it goes to production, all is done in-house between our digital sheetfed press, our fleet of wide-format printers including our two newly installed HP R2000 flatbeds, as well as an array of digital finishing equipment. Influencer marketing is a whopping $16.4 billion industry, and we are proud to be on the forefront, helping brands capitalize on this growing trend and maximize their reach and impact.
One example is a recent project with the brand Q Mixers.
Q Mixers is a Brooklyn-based beverage brand whose goal is to help the world make a better and healthier cocktail. We provide ongoing support to the brand and design team, and recently assisted with a rebranding and packaging refresh for their entire line of products. This included creating color accurate mock-ups, photo-ready comps, color targets for production, and a full e-commerce photoshoot in our studio.
With the rebranding, the brand team worked closely with us to produce custom influencer kits. Each kit perfectly housed the products in a visually captivating manner, ensuring that everyone who received it would be impressed and excited to share their experience with their audience.
Q: How have brands transformed marketing?
MK: There are a couple of examples I can think of where platforms have developed a following by curating a selection of products from different brands; they become their own media platform for streetwear and fashion, articles, and interviews. One great example is highsnobiety.com. Another is telfar.net. Though the collaborations are more limited. It’s all very cool to see how brands are becoming their own media channels.
Q: What effects have you seen and what is your reaction to COVID 19 on the business?
MK: The post-pandemic economy has been a challenge for most businesses. Rush Graphics has always kept a close eye on the market, and we’ve made changes in how we operate to progress and stay with the times. As consumer habits change, we leverage our experience to follow markets, and never rely on one segment for our business. From consumer products to sports to healthcare, we have pursued multiple market categories and have found the demand for the services we offer.
Q: What is the Rush sustainability position?
MK: Reaching a minimal environmental footprint in our production process is not only a key objective, but also a competitive advantage. We continue to invest in new digital printing and finishing equipment to not only offer the best possible output, but to help reduce the carbon footprint of printing.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share about Rush Graphics?
MK: When you tour Rush Graphics, you see the current state of print and marketing communications in real time. With a focus on the channels and print products that brands use to reach Millennial and Gen Z through influencers; we are well positioned to thrive in the current landscape. Keeping an eye on the future, Rush Graphics stays in touch with the creative community and remains attuned to the ever-evolving economy and shifts in buyer behavior that inspire fresh strategies in packaging and marketing.
Stephanie Hill has more than forty years’ experience in the graphics industry, as a designer and in a variety of management positions in sales, consulting, program and project management. Hill recently retired as Senior Business Development Manager, Northeast and Eastern Canada, HP, Print and Industrial Business, Americas.
Hill holds a B.F.A degree from Cornell University and an M.B.A degree from the University of Colorado at Denver. She is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and has trained extensively in AGILE, Design Thinking and Scrum.
She previously served on the board of the Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation and as a member of the Graphic Communications Workforce Coalition
As a proud grandmother of three kids and three dogs, she is an enthusiastic tennis player as well as techie; interested in Gamification, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Artificial Intelligence.