Industry Influencer: Keith Whisler


The Envelope Manufacturers Association (EMA) exists to promote the value of paper-based communications and, in particular, envelopes and printed products. EMA is dedicated to the business activities of manufacturers and envelope printers, forms companies, packaging companies, market intermediaries and the suppliers that support the industry. EMA works closely with state, national and global legislative and regulatory authorities to ensure business remains successful and to protect the industry.

EMA’s Senior Director of Technical Services Keith Whisler spoke with PostPress to discuss trends, changes in envelope manufacturing and what the future holds – in both predictions for the industry and upcoming events.

What changes have you seen in envelope manufacturing in the last few years? What are some of the trends happening in direct mail and envelopes?

The increase in digital communication and e-commerce continues to change the landscape of the direct mail and envelope industry, as well as alternate mail product solutions also impacting the industry. As a result, marketers and mail providers are finding success with creative messaging that takes advantage of the physical features of paper communications. Finishing techniques such as embossing, diecutting, foil treatments and special coatings bring a higher quality level to the mail piece, which increases open rates. Of course, personalization and multi-channel communications also take advantage of the power of physical mail.

What are the biggest challenges the direct mail and envelope industry currently is facing? How should the industry respond to successfully grow and thrive?

Digital communication continues to threaten both transactional and marketing mail communications. Ensuring the relevance of direct mail in multi-channel communications creates an avenue for growth.

From a manufacturing perspective, the availability of qualified labor is quite a challenge. The aging workforce continues to be difficult to replace – not just in the paper industry, however. Other industries are competing for the same labor pool, while the training of new replacements can be time consuming. Alternative recruiting efforts and new training methods will help the industry move forward.

We know EMA is one of the association sponsors for the upcoming Amplify Print event. Embellishments, such as foils and specialty coatings, continue to be very popular in the production of envelopes and direct mail. Why do you think this has been a trend? Do you believe it will continue to be a trend in the future?

The Envelope Manufacturers Association is looking forward to participating in the Amplify Print event to endorse the value of using creative finishing techniques in envelopes and direct mail. As the only trade association dedicated to envelope manufacturers and the suppliers who support them, EMA will share the advantages of membership and how we work to improve the longevity of the envelope and direct mail marketing.

The impact of non-verbal, haptic communications through the sense of touch can be extremely powerful. This only can be achieved through a physical item, such as paper, which delivered via mail is an incredibly effective avenue to reach the intended audience. These techniques will continue to develop new creative means to impact emotional responses.

What predictions do you have for the envelope and direct mail industry in the near and long-term future?

The envelope industry will continue to take advantage of creative print and finishing techniques to increase the value to the envelope. It also will continue to expand product offerings such as lightweight packaging, folded mailers and other mail industry services. Long-term, we will see an increase in digital printing and personalization combined with other media to create robust and creative marketing communications.