Andreas Weber had a great interview with Mark Lawn, European Marketing Director, Professional Print Solutions, Canon Europe. It dates from end of 2011, but is still valid.
Andreas Weber: The printing industry is in a deep and ongoing crisis (affected as well by the bad economic situation). What in your opinion are the opportunities for a turn-around?
Mark Lawn: The European graphic arts market remains a challenging environment for printing companies, whose key priorities should be to manage costs and cash and to automate technology for efficiency gains. Nevertheless, I still see business opportunities for those companies that are also prepared to adopt a more entrepreneurial approach to new business. In the same way that Canon looks to inspire and support our customers to make a leap to new areas of business they may not have previously considered, senior management teams need to demonstrate strong business leadership and to have a vision for their company’s future growth, particularly through the addition of new services. For example, for those companies that are redefining their businesses as ‘marketing communications’ service providers rather than ‘print’ service providers, the increasing adoption of a ‘multimedia’ or ‘crossmedia’ approach to content delivery for companies’ integrated marketing campaigns is proving to be a great opportunity.
Companies need to clarify exactly who they are going to target, how they are going to differentiate themselves and how they are going to add value. They should review their business plan to ensure it’s still in line with the development of their business. And if they don’t have a business plan, they need to write one. It doesn’t have to be a complex document, but it should cover where the business is now, where the owners want to take it, how they are going to take it there and what they need to take it there.
I’d also urge printers to read the ten-point action plan that Professor Frank Romano laid out in the Canon Insight Report, The Redefinition of the Digital Printer, which was published last year. One action he recommends is to “challenge the status quo” by investigating each print job for opportunities to add value. For example, a targeted direct mail piece may only partially be a printing job; it will also include database services, personalised URL and Internet services, and mailing services—three new areas for revenue enhancement.
Andreas Weber: Do you realize a gap between the excellent shape of print as an innovative media technology and the service level of the printing industry in general? Because most of the printers miss the possibility to make profit anymore.
I am wondering, how the innovation level and speed driven by a company like Canon could be covered by printers/Canon customers. Canon is offering ideal (state-of-the-art) solutions to make Print as Medium powerful and modern. But coming down to the printer’s world, there seems to be an “innovation speed slow-down”…
Example: Two years ago Canon was pushing web-to-print. And Canon did that survey figuring out that most of the European printers don’t deal with web-to-print as line extension of their business model (and by the way: today, two years later we have still the same situation!).
Do we have a communication problem between printers and print buyers? Are DMO-regions/countries in a better position than mature markets like Western Europe? Is there another innovation spirit in developing countries?
Mark Lawn: In relation to the life of the printing industry as a whole, digital printing has existed for a very short time. Nevertheless, it’s clear that once an industry has been impacted by digital technology (e.g. photography) and the rapid pace of innovation it enables, it can be difficult to keep up with technological developments and the opportunities they create. Acknowledging our responsibility to support our customers as much as we can, we’ve sought their views through a number of surveys. Responding to their input, we have then developed a number of value-added services — Canon’s Insight Reports, our Essential Business Builder Program and our customer magazine, Think Digital — to try to ensure that our customers are as informed as they can be about industry trends and technologies, are aware of best practices, and are inspired to consider new directions in which to take their business.
If we take the example of web-to-print, potential users should always evaluate it properly to ensure that it is right for their business. If it is only used as a delivery mechanism, its adoption is less likely to be successful. If, however, it is fully integrated into the business, the technology can offer a wealth of opportunities to those print businesses looking for ways to add value to the print services that they offer their customers,
Andreas Weber: From your point of view: what are the key issues to successfully re-position print as a medium in cross-media scenarios? Beyond technical aspects?
Means: What is the strength of print in the digital age related to the needs of corporate communication demands (by which is meant all the communication activities of a company: push and pull, internally and externally, including marketing communication, advertising, social media and crossmedia)? A special focus is shareholder and financial community communication
Mark Lawn: I think that we need to continue to strongly promote print as a fundamental part of any cross media scenario – if print is omitted from the mix, the impact is likely to be less successful. As the only medium to reach all five senses, print remains the most powerful and ideally complements the likes of online communications and telemarketing. In fact, in the case of direct mail, research by the UK’s Direct Marketing Association shows that print’s effectiveness is growing: open rates for printed DM have increased from 88% to 91% since 2006, whereas email acquisition open rates have fallen from 21% to 11% since 2007.
Online media better meets a requirement for fast, direct information, but where a company needs to communicate a mass of information and complex messages, an appealing, well produced, printed document (e.g. a company’s annual report) is the superior vehicle and is likely to hold the reader’s attention for longer than its digital equivalent. Nevertheless, it’s also clear that, by taking a multi-channel approach that includes print, an organisation’s corporate communications will be more compelling and produce a higher response than by using any one medium on its own.