Sign & Digital UK
Labels & Packaging
Conversations with customers and suppliers in the last quarter of 2011 lead me to believe that 2012 could be a year of seismic change in the Industry. The last time this happened was when the internet changed the knowledge model from manufacture and distribution to distribute and then produce locally.
Before the internet, knowledge was manufactured in bulk and then distributed to consumers. The internet reversed the process, distributing information to millions of consumers who then each printed out what they wanted. There is no doubt that this increased the volume of print, but it was at the expense of traditional printers. Many products of traditional printing methods are disappearing or have already gone. Airline tickets and boarding cards, headed notepaper and business stationary, even dare I say books are disappearing as mass produced items.
The advent of digital printing has meant that high quality, personalised and very targeted print is now being produced and then distributed to consumers, but increasingly this targeted approach is involving other communications media. Suddenly the people who in my opinion are innovating and leading the changes in the industry are no longer regarding themselves or even calling themselves printers. They are communications specialists and are starting to use other mediums to communicate for their clients.
The common factor when talking to anyone leading this change is data. Every single one of them spoke about it as being the key to being able to change their business. The data they are talking about is that held by their own customers that relates to people who transact with them. This is information about existing customers and prospective customers. The obvious data is their name, address, purchase history and customer contacts, but increasingly they are helping their customers gather other data from sources such as social media which helps build a bigger and much more personalised picture of their customers activity.
I will give you some examples. One of the fastest growing areas of business for Xerox Global Services is its Communications and Marketing Services Division. They are dealing with some very big corporate clients and running their whole marketing campaigns for them. The data that they gather enables them to create multiple touch points for the corporate client with their customers, finding the best way to communicate their marketing message. Sometimes that will involve print, but increasingly Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google are amongst the ways they communicate.
I was talking to a customer recently who had installed a large digital press. I was impressed with the work they were producing, but he was more excited about the fact that he had designed a customer’s web site for them and created some avatars for them to use on Twitter. There was more profit coming from those services than from the digital print they had produced for the customer. Another large client had come to them for a quote for a large number of brochures. The conversation had turned to what the customer wanted to achieve as a result. Once this was understood, the quote for the brochure was abandoned and an event created for the client, involving a casino evening with a large print order for personalised invitations, pull-ups and poker chips as well as a Twitter and Facebook campaign around the event. The client’s data has been acquired for the event, but will now be the basis for more cross media marketing campaigns. The profit margin for my customer will be four to five times that which would have been there if he had won the original job and printed it on his Heidelberg.
Another digital customer has persuaded his local college to Tupe across the members of its marketing department, together with their marketing budget and marketing database. He has guaranteed savings as well as transforming the way they communicate with their prospective customer’s – students. This young client base respond much more readily to social media messaging than traditional prospectuses, so my customer is using the database to interact with them on behalf of the college and creating a much more personal and responsive campaign and reducing the amount spent on print.
Each of these examples shows how print volumes are being further eroded as other methods of communication expand. If you look around now the signs are there. Man Roland didn’t go into administration because they made bad presses. It was because the market for presses had fallen dramatically in the last few years, as print volumes fell. The market for mobile phones, tablets and e-readers is growing at a phenomenal rate and the smart people in the industry are turning their attention to taking control of their customer’s data and creating digital marketing messages.
So as the internet turned print turned from analogue to digital in the 90's, I believe that in 2012 it is now turning it from digital to electronic.
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