drupa ante portas: Is print (again) in the passing lane? YES and NO.

drupamc report key visual 2.005

© 2016: Andreas Weber, Mainz/Germany

 

Comment on #drupamc by Andreas Weber | German version available

Everyone did a super job at the drupa media conference (abbr: #drupamc) from February 29 to March 2, 2016: The Messe Dusseldorf, particularly the drupa2016 team; the 15 exhibitors with their presentations; AD Communications as the organising agency and last, but not least, the approximately 100 trade journalists in attendance from around the globe, with happily many newcomers among them. That’s a good thing. The branch is in need of some new momentum. And some new thinking, followed by the right doings. drupa 2016 supposedly stands for: Touch the future, the motto proclaimed by drupa director Sabine Geldermann. That’s great! — Still: Getting customers of print companies as crucial innovation decision-makers on board remains relatively unnoticed. In this respect: Print is making rapid technological advancements, but the industry itself is applying the brakes!

At a glance:

  • #drupamc was a big success.
  • HP wants to take over the leading role in print (but unfortunately, commits real communication blunders!).
  • Heideldruck is the secret star (thanks to partners Fujifilm and Ricoh).
  • Kodak appears to have gone “retro” and Xerox is struggling a bit despite new products.
  • Canon is the most convincing with #UnleashPrint.
  • Before drupa 2016 begins, there is a lot to do to iron out communication deficits, place focus on portraying the benefits (beyond technology) and to finally mobilise customers of print companies.

Indisputable: Optimism and confidence in the future are back (see also: 3rd drupa Insights Report). That was shown by the technology providers in almost all the presentations, particularly those of the “smaller” and highly specialised exhibitors such as Kolbus, Bobst, Hybrid, Global Graphics, Datalase and especially Pitney Bowes, a global player that will be a stranger to most drupa visitors (see summary of all company presentations in the ValuePublishing real-time reports on Storify).

#drupamc already promised to be very exciting in the run-up: Industry leader Heidelberger Druckmaschinen (Heideldruck) dashed ahead with its drupa slogan “Simply Smart” and a disruptive new strategy. Success in print is not primarily about the presses, but about new types of integrated solutions that live up to the digital age and the changes in media usage behaviour. New terms become correspondingly relevant: internet-of-things, Industry 4.0, cloud, big data, apps, automation, 3D, 4D, as well as customer centricity and others. And, of course, new technologies: at the core, cloud services as well as a new generation of industrial inkjet production systems (see Bernd Zipper’s analysis and evaluation on beyondprint.de).

Heideldruck did not give a presentation at #drupamc —they focussed on their own press conference beforehand, which can prove to be a clever move. Despite everything, Heidelberg was omnipresent. Particularly because Heideldruck partners such as Ricoh and Fujifilm referred explicitly to Heidelberg’s expertise as their main support. After all, with Heideldruck one leads in everything required for managing a printing business. This is precisely where HP and its Graphic Solution Business (GSB) wishes to be positioned in order to dethrone Heideldruck.  After relying on HP for “heavy metal” for almost 12 years, HT’s core competency as an IT company was pulled out of the hat at #drupamc: “PrintOS” is the magic word with which HP – now the exhibitor with the largest stand at drupa – hopes to win over print companies. 

 

 

Will HP’s PrintOS be the turning point?

The announcement was full of promise: “HP Inc. inspires print providers to reinvent their possibilities at drupa 2016 with HP PrintOS, a cloud-based mobile platform that simplifies and automates print production management”. It is about “new advancements enabling print service providers to reinvent their possibilities”. HP big boss Rob Le Bras-Brown, Global Head of Print Marketing, said, “HP is bringing the full power of our vast portfolio (…) to drupa 2016. With today’s introduction of HP PrintOS and more pre-drupa announcements to come, HP is following through on its promise to ‘keep reinventing’. That means that we will be showing advancements across the various segments of the printing industry that will enable our customers to reinvent their possibilities.” And François Martin, HP GSB Worldwide Marketing Director, used some clever words to emphasise the fact that the print business is primarily about the perfect synchronisation of the analogue and digital worlds.

IMG_1638

Photo: Andreas Weber

 

PrintOS Senior Manager at HP, Simon Lewis, delivered a convincing presentation. His voice almost cracked during the presentation, and especially during the questions from the trade journalists. The specs sound promising and according to HP are to include the following apps:

  1. Box, a tool that simplifies the onboarding of print jobs from non-automated sources such as e-mail and file transfer services. According to HP, a disproportionate amount of time and effort are often invested in handling jobs prior to production. Box standardises many processes, thereby reducing this overhead. Users thus have a tool in hand to increase capacity and improve profitability.
  2. Site Flow, a tool that combines automatic job submission, pre-press and shop floor management all in one. The app is suitable for print service providers in both the business-to-business and business-to-business-to-consumer sectors. Site Flow makes it possible for print service providers to offer their clients more attractive prices. Furthermore, it can help improve service and produce more easily hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of individual personalised print orders every day, including shipment to the end customers.

 

Live-Video: Andreas Weber via iPad.

 

Users of HP Indigo and HP PageWide Web Press should be able to avail of PrintOS as of May 31, 2016; users of HP Latex and Scitex have to wait most likely until 2017. Many apps will be available free of charge to existing HP customers with a service contract. Certain apps will be subject to monthly user charges. — So much for the announcements that really sounded full of promise.

 

Interjection: You cannot not communicate!

Whoa! Are communication glitches at HP the exception? Or is HP still lacking a healthy mix of IT skills and willingness to communicate? — HP Inc. has put a lot of marketing effort into promoting its drupa innovations and particularly, the PrintOS to printing companies. The budget for the trade show presence is huge. But the impact is rather marred by a lack of multichannel communication talent. HP set up its own section on Flickr. As of March 12, 2016, the eight photos that had been posted had been called up only 16 times to date. In general, HP’s social media engagement seems half-hearted: It is present almost everywhere, without actually achieving any interaction. Views on YouTube of elaborately produced HP videos, for example, are probably mostly generated by its own staff. Google searches on HP topics are not easy.

Serious are the technical mistakes: The press release dated February 29, 2016, sent at 4:01pm by PR agency F&H Porter Novelli, Munich—words of praise on PrintOS providing a link that as of March 12, 2016, at 3:44pm, still led to nothing. “Oops. We can’t find that page for you” is bluntly displayed. EMBARRASSING. And it is not the first time that such a thing has happened on an HP website.

And last, but not least: Press queries that go beyond the content of the press releases often come up against a lack of understanding or are barely answered, as many colleagues from various countries have complained; if you do not know an HP GSB manager personally and/or have direct access, you are on your own.

Bottom line: If HP GSB wishes to make its aspiration of leadership in print credible, then it needs to communicate once and for all about its innovations in a professional, market-oriented and innovative way! 

Bildschirmfoto 2016-03-12 um 15.40.26

 

Another missed opportunity? — Describing the benefits for customers of print companies was not a topic!

What is truly important, however, gets short shrift: What benefits does HP give customers of print companies? Nothing was mentioned about that. And that, to me, seems criminal. Just zeroing in on the fact that print companies can do their work more easily and cheaply using PrintOS will hardly make print stronger in the communications mix. Precisely herein lies drupa 2016’s reason for being. Touch the future refers not only to printing companies that will spend billions on technology at drupa 2016 to be fit for the future. Rather ‘Touch the future’ is a message to all, who have to drive innovation in communication in order to do profitable business.

Apropos profit and growth: Whether intended or not, with PrintOS, HP is tremendously boosting the topic of e-business print and the online printing sector, which in Germany alone already brings in 2.5 billion in revenues annually (source: EPOS Study, https://www.epos-studie.de). This is important to realise since e-business print and online printing do not appear in the trade fair programme as primary, eminently important generic terms for the future of the printing industry.

Still: HP Inc. dared come out from under cover, which cannot be said of other top dogs such as Kodak or Xerox. The Kodak presentation was like stepping back into the 20th Century. Nothing innovative, just improvements of existing products and an affirmation that they continue to faithfully serve the analogue world of print. Similar to Xerox: New inkjet printing systems were presented. And at the same time the assurance was given that despite the company split announced in February 2016, everything would remain the same. Whoa! Is that good news or bad?

From a German point of view, Xerox has practically almost disappeared from the professional print market. It is only being kept alive by a couple of committed and competent business and computer companies. Viewed corporate-wide, it was only just 2 years ago that Xerox lost one-third of its sales in print technology. But the major impetus has to come from Xerox itself, for instance, by thinking beyond print and placing proprietary solutions such as XMPie better in the spotlight, since XMPIe perfectly closes the gap between print and online communication in multichannel scenarios.

 

Impressions of the #drupamc, incl. the new drupa music presented by EFI CEO Guy Gecht! Video animation: Andreas Weber.

 

All the more impressive was seeing how some of Xerox’s tough competitors such as Konica Minolta and Ricoh are excellently positioned. Likewise, Fujifilm and Epson, who made virtually modest presentations, offering a number of surprises for many colleagues in the trade. In addition to the Fujifilm/Heideldruck inkjet cooperation project “Primefire 106”, mention must be made of the Epson PaperLab, a compact machine for DIY recycled papermaking in DIN A4/A3 sizes. (Whereby the Epson PaperLab has been known about since the beginning of 2015 and was as such nothing new for #drupamc). Even EFI, the speciality vendor-turned-conglomerate, demonstrated the point more rousingly and far-sightedly than Xerox. In his famous, notoriously funny style of presentation, EFI CEO Guy Gecht used the Hollywood dream factory to enthusiastically demonstrate the future of print as a dynamic growth market. At the end, Guy Gecht presented a special version of Billy Joel’s song “We didn’t Start the Fire” with new lyrics he created for drupa and the global printing industry. MAGNIFICENT!

 

Mark Lawn and Peter Wolff, Canon Europe, explaining the new #UnleashPrint communications approach of the imaging corporation.


#UnleashPrint — Canon trumps and makes a lasting impression!

Canon led the way, making a brilliant appearance. The leading multinational imaging corporation delivered a convincing affirmation to print and to the market for professional printing at the industrial level. Those who had the opportunity to visit the Canon Expo in New York City, Paris, Shanghai or Tokyo in October 2015 would have been prepared. It was evident that Canon indeed has the widest range of applications: Canon is the only drupa exhibitor to cover all six drupa highlight themes: Print, Packaging, Green Printing, Functional Printing and 3D-Printing as well as Multichannel. That is important in this sense specifically for drupa 2016 and in general for the print industry, since Canon as a brand has the greatest charisma in B2B as well as in B2C!

Of course, Canon also showed innovative technologies, just like other exhibitors. But everything was in the context of solutions accessible to print companies and their customers alike, showing the respective, clear benefits. The Canon stand will reflect the areas of application, so that all visitors can easily find the solutions that are of most interest to them. Individually, those are:

  • commercial print
  • business communications, including transactional and direct mail
  • publishing, including books, magazines and newspapers
  • advertising and creative, including display graphics
  • functional/industrial, including 3D printing
  • packaging
  • photographic products

This is truly the full spectrum of what can satisfy current and future market demands! By its own admission, Canon relies on a combination of market-leading technologies, expertise and continuous dialogue with customers to help print service providers implement customer-centric business models that unleash the full potential of their business.

For this to be understood and communicated ubiquitously, Canon is the only exhibitor to date to employ new contemporary communications channels: As part of a multichannel communications campaign on relevant platforms, the hashtag #UnleashPrint is to address not only print service providers, but also innovation decision-makers, interested in print in the communications mix as well as the corresponding technologies and services.

 

Live-Video: Andreas Weber in a 1 min. interview with Canon’s Mark Lawn via iPad.

 

Mark Lawn of Canon Europe explained the unusual approach with #UnleashPrint as follows:  In every area of the stand, Canon will bring to life its new campaign to #UnleashPrint. This communicates Canon’s passion for print as a unique and powerful medium, celebrates the value of print and sets out to unlock its still untapped potential. Central to this is to show how the implementation of intelligent new business models can follow for realising the potential of print in the digital age to better fulfil constantly changing customer needs.

In its corresponding press release, Canon further says: “Every zone of the Canon stand will feature exceptional creative print applications, with the aim of inspiring visitors to extend their product portfolio and push the boundaries of print. As part of the customer journey through the endless variety of print, Canon will also show trade visitors how they can increase print’s effectiveness through integration with digital platforms to deliver seamless multichannel communications that simplify customer experiences, stimulate response and make print as measurable as any other tool in the communications mix.”

Print wins Analysis by Andreas Weber .001

Print wins, only if it stands the test in the communications mix!

That sums up what it is all about. And corresponds to our ValuePublishing analyses, made in the run-up to #drupamc, personally discussed with customers of print companies, agencies and publishing houses. (See the analysis “Print wins!” by Andreas Weber on slideshare.com)

The key messages derived from it carry forward the exciting results in the trade of the #drupamc and are as follows:

  1. The goal is attainable: Print wins! And considers itself to be the key pillar in all contemporary marketing and communications scenarios.
  2. For more than a thousand years, print has been one of the most important cultural tools globally for allowing innovations to become reality! Why should things be any different today?
  3. BUT: The market has changed radically! Instead of quantity, quality is increasingly in demand. The trend: Exploit added value through more attention to and greater efficacy of printed material in the communications mix!
  4. The dilemma: Everyone driving communications is searching for digital strategies to push content (unanimously) everywhere. Dealing with print innovations that lead to dialogue through interaction is often overlooked. Only multichannel can do that in combination with print! And that needs to be communicated better and more clearly via drupa 2016.
  5. Print will become the key pillar, thanks to completely new types of software and cloud solutions and e-business models, particularly in personalisation. It is no longer a question of reach, but of “one conversation”!
  6. Multichannel innovations that include print do not make analogue media superfluous, but integrate them seamlessly.
  7. Print sustainably increases business success through interaction, through dialogue with the audience (customers, partners, interested parties); supported by personal, timely relevance — through touchpoints covering the whole media spectrum from print to digital.
  8. Print teamed up with multichannel and e-business is a new, rapidly growing service sector. Focus: driving innovation forward! New print technologies such as inkjet are important, but “just” a means to the end.
  9. Everyone needs to learn what it’s all about: In communication, more reach is not the measure of all things, relevant dialogue and ongoing conversation are.
  10. It is proven that print wins and its importance is strengthened through the IoT, cloud, big data and multichannel services because it makes communication powerful, relevant and humane.

 

Summary

As I have said, it was an extremely successful and insightful #drupamc. But there is still a lot to do before drupa 2016 opens its doors on May 31, 2016. The tried-and-true motto, in my view: “Get rid of silo thinking! Touch the future now! Take the communication offensive!” — Exhibitor communication should not be just a blunt promotion of new technologies for printing companies, presented in the conventional print trade press. A lot more needs to happen using innovative communication, through social media, through mobile, in order to put the focus on the benefits. Only so can the business in general and especially the decision-makers involved in innovation projects in the industry, in trade, and in the brand-name companies be reached to show print in a new way that can be experienced and understood. Canon is the only exhibitor to date who convincingly shows how it should be done and thus sets the bar: #UnleashPrint!

 

Note: With our real-time reports on ValuePublishing, we were able to make #drupamc rated tops. In just 72 hours, we reached more than 750,000 viewers who were able to experience live what was happening in Dusseldorf through the short reports and commentary. 

 

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