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What does a brand mean to a consumer?
What does a consumer mean to a brand?

By Andreas Weber, Head of Value. |  German Version

Many brands boast that they “create worlds of experience for our customers.” The question I ask myself is: do brands still meet the momentum which really determines customer needs, or rather: customer satisfaction? Or does an increasingly enforced brand experience approach not just miss the mark, but create more frustration than enjoyment?

Preliminary remark: learn from the best! Before any initial questions can be answered, looking back will help to bring us forward (‘Back to the Future’ style). Apple is a prime example to learn from. In the mid-90s, the company was at an all-time low, almost to the point of bankruptcy. Despite this, they managed a turnaround. Today, Apple has been the world’s most valuable brand for years. How was this possible? — “Communication first” was a central statement of the legendary Steve Jobs at the ‘Apple confidential meeting’ on September 23, 1997. 

With the “Think Different” Campaign he launched shortly afterwards, he initiated a tremendous upheaval in the industrial industry. 10 years later, they went on to break the sound barrier with the release of the iPhone. Since then, Apple as been making a higher per capita profit than most companies in terms of per capita sales. 

Although Jobs emphasized that products, marketing and distribution are important, he put smart communication above all else and made it a top priority. With his iPhone presentation on January 9, 2007, he achieved an ad-hoc gain of around $1 billion (media coverage, share price growth) before the product was even on the shelves. The trick: Jobs personally demonstrated the new device in great detail, and thus made himself identifiable with his customers and their new experience possibilities. 

The credo: Smart Communication puts the central focus on the customer experience. This has made the pioneer Apple the number one premium brand to date. As an iCEO, Jobs was also a dedicated Chief Communications Officer, which enabled his ideas to become part of the DNA of Apple, its partners and, in particular, its customers. This is a principle to which other companies, such as Berkshire Hathaway by Warren Buffett or Virgin by Richard Branson presumably also owe their success.

 

 

In my opinion, Apple is by far the most capable Smart Communication Company — and that includes maximum loyalty to their customers around the globe. 

 


Personal note: Anyone who buys an Apple product can experience
this — I’ve just bought the new iMac 27” with a Retina 5K Display and a MagicTrackPad. From (online) procurement including leasing to
free-of-charge delivery, the incredibly easy setup (just unpacking the iMac is a beautifully designed experience) up to the iCloud registration following Apple’s welcome email — which offered the very best professional support — the new computer seamlessly became a part of both my personal and professional life. This includes marvelous surprises, numerous technical innovations and quality features at the highest level. In conclusion: benchmark!


 

So let’s ask ourselves:
What distinguishes customer experience from brand experience?

Learning from the best: If you take a closer look, Apple and many other of the world’s most valuable brands follow a similar principle. Google, Facebook, Amazon, Uber and Airbnb – all of which are highly successful companies of recent times – have internalized and practiced the customer experience principle. 

Experts like to claim that their success is due to the superior innovative platform business model. To an extent, in my opinion, this is true: exponential growth is possible with this model, as you are able to address millions, even billions, of customers directly. However, business model innovations, as well as new digital technologies, are ‘only’ a means to an end — and not necessarily a guarantee of success. 

Think different!

 

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Consideration 1

It is crucial to exploit the innovation and technology mechanisms in such a way that dialogues or conversations with customers take place in real time. This enables us to perfect services and create products that are tailored to the customer’s needs. Smart Communication ensures all of this!!

Consideration 2

The brand itself is no longer the center of attention; instead, it rather becomes a common vehicle for companies and customers. Mass Marketing becomes Customized Mass Marketing. The majority of established brand companies put their focus on brand experience in order to impress customers with the strongest possible brand impact. This is a way to impress your customers with the strongest possible brand experience and thus induce them to buy your products. However, the best case scenario in this: you end up covering your costs, but you can barely manage to grow profitably and organically or achieve double-digit margins.

Consideration 3

Reality is inevitable: customers often feel more and more disappointed if they feel that brands have lost personal contact with them.

 


 

Adobe’s study, Reinventing Loyalty: The New Loyalty Experience (Fall 2017) found that 75% of CMOs admit that customer loyalty/customer satisfaction need to be improved, or that they don’t even know what their customers are dealing with. “This clearly demonstrates that CMOs feel that there is huge room for improvement when it comes to implementing new loyalty dimensions.” 

 

In my opinion, these new “loyalty dimensions” are entrenched in “old” values: trust, satisfaction, and relatedness. These values also form the core of Smart Communication. 

In this context: The usual “digital” transformation efforts of many companies miss the point. Instead of focusing on customer experience, many companies focus instead on the optimization of internal processes. 

While these do save the company time and money, they tend to drastically increase time and effort for the customer. Personal, human-to-human consultation opportunities are thus almost impossible. Anyone who’s spent far too much time on hold knows what I’m talking about.

 

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Consideration 4

In my view, in order to avoid customer dissatisfaction and loss of loyalty, it is not necessarily a matter of changing qualifications, but of changing the mandate of those responsible for marketing. 

Why?

  • Brand experience puts the focus on buying. It mainly uses expensive media and creative services from third parties (although Nielsen reports that in Germany, Europe’s premium market in 2017, gross advertising expenditure declined in some cases, despite high growth in mobile advertising). The corresponding strategies and measures are aimed at, almost as if on a hunt, bombarding customers with advertising, anywhere, anytime. So-called bonus programs make the hunt all the more dynamic.
  • But: Customer Experience, on the other hand, relies on customer satisfaction and service, through methods of direct contact and dialogue. Customer Experience follows the principle of ‘Listen & Learn.’ Real-time capturing of customers experiences is used to continuously improve products and services. Communication and transaction are interlinked as closely as possible, preferably seamlessly. The credo: It’s all about interaction and relatedness by smart communication.

Consideration 5

The Brand Experience Principle no longer applies. Customer sensitivities and expectations can best be met with an individually-tailored Smart Communication architecture, which should be designed with a customer experience focus. 

If the Smart Communication strategy, which is so successful for Apple, is structured in a systemic way, adapted to your company, and precisely understood in detail, the essence of Smart Communication, you will be able to respond extremely quickly to individual customer needs. There is no other choice! ‘Communication first’ thus goes hand in hand with ‘Customer benefits first.’

 


 

Instructions 

  1. Think different! Put your current branding and customer experience strategies to the test and discuss your findings with others. 
  2. Rethink and critically assess the values of your company’s current communication approach and processes (i. e. via the ValueCheck questionnaire).
  3. Listen & Learn. Understand and use the insights that my White Paper on Smart Communication offers, including specific instructions for action and organizational models. 
  4. I am always available for further explanations and support.

 


 

About Andreas Weber, Founder and CEO of Value Communication AG
Since more than 25 years Andreas Weber serves on an international level as a business communication analyst, influencer and transformer. His activities are dedicated to the ‘Transformation for the Digital Age’ via presentations, management briefings, coachings, workshops, analysis&reports, strategic advice. — Andreas Weber’s Blog inspires readers from around 130 countries around the globe.

 


 

 


 

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Was bringt dem Kunden eine Marke?
Was fordert eine Marke dem Kunden ab?

Überlegungen von Andreas Weber, Head of Value | English Version

 

Marken schwärmen: „Wir schaffen Erlebniswelten für unsere Kunden.“ 

Die Frage, die sich mir stellt, lautet: Treffen Marken noch das Momentum, was Kundenbedürfnisse, oder besser: die Kundenbefindlichkeit, tatsächlich ausmacht? Oder führt eine zunehmend forcierte Brand Experience-Attitüde nicht am Ziel vorbei — schafft mehr Frust als Lust?

Vorbemerkung: Von den Besten lernen! — Bevor sich die Eingangsfragen beantworten lassen, tut ein Blick zurück nach vorne gut (’Back to the Future’). Apple ist ein Paradebeispiel, von dem wir lernen können. Mitte der 1990er Jahre im Dauertief, fast nahe der Pleite, gelang der Turnaround. Heute ist Apple seit Jahren die wertvollste Marke der Welt. Wie konnte das gelingen? — „Communication first“ war ein zentrales Statement des legendären Steve Jobs beim ‚Apple confidential meeting‘ am 23. September 1997. 

Mit der kurz darauf gestarteten, unendlich erfolgreichen „Think Different“-Kampagne leitete er einen gewaltigen Umbruch in der Industriegeschichte ein, um mit dem iPhone 10 Jahre später die Schallmauer zu durchbrechen. Apple macht seitdem einen höheren Pro-Kopf-Gewinn als die meisten Unternehmen Pro-Kopf-Umsatz. 

Jobs betonte, dass Produkte, Marketing und Distribution wichtig seien, stellte aber die ‚Smart Communication‘ über alles und machte sie zur Chefsache. Mit seiner iPhone-Präsentation am 9. Januar 2007 erzielte er ad-hoc einen Zugewinn von rund 1 Milliarde US-Dollar (Media-Coverage, Aktienkurszuwachs) ohne das Produkt schon verkaufen zu können. Der Kniff: Jobs führte das neue Gerät bis ins Detail persönlich vor und hat sich damit mit seinen Kunden und ihren neuen Erlebnismöglichkeiten identifizierbar gemacht. 

Das Credo: Smart Communication rückt die Customer Experience ins Zentrum und machte den Vorreiter Apple bis dato zur Premium-Marke Nummer 1. Als iCEO war Jobs zugleich auch ein engagierter Chief Communication Officer, um seine Vorstellungen Teil der DNA von Apple, seiner Partner und v. a. seiner Kunden werden zu lassen. Ein Prinzip, dem andere Unternehmen wie z. B. Berkshire Hathaway durch Warren Buffett oder Virgin durch Richard Branson vermutlich ebenfalls ihren Erfolg verdanken. 

 

 

Apple hat sich aus meiner Sicht mit Abstand als fähigstes Smart Communication-Unternehmen profiliert. Mit maximaler Loyalität bei Kunden rund um den Globus. 

 


Persönliche Anmerkung: Die Erfahrung kann jeder machen, der ein Apple Produkt kauft — so wie ich gerade den neuen iMac 27’’ mit Retina 5K Display und MagicTrackpad: Von der (Online-)Beschaffung inkl. Leasing bis zur Lieferung frei Haus, der kinderleichten Inbetriebnahme (allein das Auspacken des iMac ist ein Designerlebnis!), bis zu der iCloud-Anmeldung unmittelbar folgenden Welcome-Email von Apple — die Profi-Support anbot, der sogleich aufs Beste erfolgte — wurde in kürzester Zeit der neue Computer Teil meiner persönlichen Erlebnis- und Arbeitswelt. Mit wunderbaren Überraschungen dank zahlreicher Technik-Innovationen und Qualitätsmerkmalen auf höchstem Niveau. In Summe: Benchmark!


Fragen wir uns also:
Was unterscheidet Customer Experience von Brand Experience?

Von den besten lernen: Schaut man genau hin, verfolgen neben Apple auch andere der wertvollsten Marken der Welt ein ähnliches Prinzip: Google, Facebook, Amazon, Uber und Airbnb — alles überaus erfolgreiche Unternehmen der neueren Zeit, die das Customer Experience-Prinzip verinnerlicht haben und praktizieren. Von Experten wird gerne angeführt, der Erfolg liege am überlegenen innovativen Plattform-Geschäftsmodell. 

Aus meiner Sicht stimmt das zwar, weil exponentielles Wachstum möglich wird: man ist in der Lage, Millionen und Milliarden von Kunden direkt anzusprechen; aber Geschäftsmodell-Innovationen wie auch neue Digital-Technologien sind ‚nur’ Mittel zum Zweck — und per se keine Erfolgsgaranten.

Wir müssen also das Andere denken — Think different!

 

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Überlegung 1

Entscheidend ist, die Innovations- und Technologie-Mechanismen so auszunutzen, dass Dialoge respektive Konversationen mit Kunden in Echtzeit entstehen, um für die Perfektionierung von Services und Produkten nutzbar zu werden, die sich am individuellen Bedarf des Kunden ausrichten. Smart Communication stellt das sicher!

Überlegung 2

Die Marke selbst steht nicht mehr im Zentrum, sie wird quasi zum gemeinsamen Vehikel von Unternehmen und Kunden. Aus Mass Marketing wird Mass Customized Marketing. Legt man wie die Mehrzahl der etablierten Markenunternehmen den Fokus auf Brand Experience, um über die möglichst starke Strahlkraft der Marke per Mass Penetration Kunden zu beeindrucken und so zum Kaufen zu bewegen, kann man im besten Falle noch Kosten decken, aber kaum noch profitabel organisch wachsen oder zweistellige Margen erzielen.

Überlegung 3

Die Realität ist zwangsläufig: Kunden fühlen sich mehr und mehr enttäuscht, wenn Marken offensichtlich den persönlichen Kontakt zu Ihnen verloren haben. 

 



Adobe
hat in seiner aktuellen Studie „Reinventing Loyalty: The New Loyalty Experience“ (Herbst 2017) herausgefunden, dass 75 Prozent der CMO’s zugeben, dass bei Kunden-bindung/Kundenzufriedenheit Verbesserungsbedarf besteht bzw. dass sie gar nicht wissen, was ihre Kunden eigentlich beschäftigt. „This clearly demonstrates that CMOs feel that there is huge room for improvement when it comes to implementing the new loyalty dimensions.“


Die neuen ‚Loyalty Dimensions’ fußen meines Erachten auf ‚alten‘ gemeinsamen Wertvorstellungen, geprägt durch Vertrauen, Zufriedenheit, Verbundenheit (relatedness), die auch den Kern von Smart Communication ausmachen. 

In diesem Kontext zu beachten: Die üblichen ‚digitalen‘ Transformations-Bestrebungen führen am Ziel vorbei, da nicht Customer Experience, sondern die Optimierung unternehmensinterner Prozesse erfolgt, die dem Unternehmen Aufwand und Kosten sparen, den Aufwand beim Kunden aber drastisch erhöhen. Persönliche Rückfrage-Möglichkeiten von Mensch zu Mensch sind dann allzuoft kaum noch möglich.

 

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Überlegung 4

Um Unzufriedenheit und Loyalitätsverlust bei Kunden zu vermeiden, bedarf es aus meiner Sicht nicht unbedingt einer veränderten Qualifikation, sondern der Änderung des Auftrags der Marketing-Verantwortlichen. 

Warum?

  • Brand Experience legt den Fokus auf „buying“ und benutzt überwiegend kostspielige Medien und Kreativ-Leistungen Dritter (wobei wie Nielsen in Deutschland als Premiummarkt in Europa für das Jahr 2017 vermeldet, die Brutto-Werbeausgaben zum Teil rückläufig sind, trotz hohem Wachstum bei Mobile-Advertising). Die entsprechenden Strategien und Maßnahmen zielen darauf ab, Kunden ständig, fast wie auf einer Treibjagd, mit Werbebotschaften zu befeuern, anywhere, anytime. Sog. Bonusprogramm dynamisieren die Hetze erheblich.
  • Aber: Customer Experience setzt dagegen auf „serving & satisfying“ v. a. durch Direktkontakte und Dialoge. Customer Experience folgt dem Prinzip des ‚Listen & Learn‘. Die Echtzeit-Erfassung der Kundenerlebnisse wird genutzt, um Produkte und Services stetig zu verbessern. Kommunikation und Transaktion werden dabei so eng wie möglich, am besten nahtlos, verzahnt. — Credo: It’s all about interaction and relatedness by smart communication.

Überlegung 5

Das Brand Experience Prinzip führt nicht mehr weiter. Mit einer individuell zugeschnittenen Smart Communication-Architektur, die Customer Experience-fokussiert ausgestaltet wird, lassen sich Kundenbefindlichkeiten und Erwartungen am besten decken. Im Fokus: Great Conversations!

Wenn man die für Apple so erfolgreiche Smart Communication-Strategie systemisch strukturiert, aufs eigene Unternehmen adaptiert sowie im Detail das Wesen der Smart Communication exakt versteht, wird man extrem rasch auf individuelle Kundenbefindlichkeiten eingehen können. Es bleibt nämlich gar keine andere Wahl! ‚Communication first‘ geht dann einher mit ‚Customer benefits first‘.

 


 

Handlungsanweisungen 

  1. Think different! Stelle Deine aktuelle Branding- und Customer Experience-Strategie auf den Prüfstand und diskutiere Deine Erkenntnisse mit anderen.
  2. Überdenke und hinterfrage kritisch den Wert der gegenwärtigen Kommunikationspraxis in Deinem Unternehmen (gerne mithilfe des ValueCheck Fragenkatalogs).
  3. Listen & Learn: Verstehe und nutze die Insights, die mein White Paper zu „Smart Communication“ bietet, inkl. konkreten Handlungsanleitungen und Organisation-Modellen.
  4. Gerne stehe ich mit meinem reichen Erfahrungswissen für weitere Erläuterungen und Unterstützung zur Verfügung.

 


 

Über den Autor: Seit mehr als 25 Jahren engagiert sich Andreas Weber als international renommierter Business Communication Analyst, Coach, Influencer und Transformer. Seine Aktivitäten fokussieren sich auf ‚Transformation for the Digital Age’ via Vorträgen, Management Briefings, Workshops, Analysen & Reports, Strategic Advice. — Mit seinem Blog www.valuetrendradar.com inspiriert er Leser aus über 130 Ländern der Welt.

 


 

 


 

 

ValueCheck Lufthansa 2018.001

Photos: Lufthansa

 

By Andreas Weber, Head of Value | German Version

Note: As a teenager, I made my first flight experience with Lufthansa. That was great! Over the next 45 years, I have had some ‘Ups & Downs’ with the Kranich Airline (also a few years as a premium customer with Lufthansa Senator status). — I watch relevant news as an analyst always highly interested.

With a big bang, millions in advertising revenue and full of fervor, Lufthansa is re-branding itself. At the heart of this is an elaborate re-design – above all the crane as its symbol – which according to estimates has taken at least seven years to be fully implemented.

According to Group CEO Carsten Spohr, the new brand world is the icing on the cake of modernization, he says with pride and joy. It works. Experts are not tired of holding forth about all the design aspects of the new brand identity. [The newspaper HORIZONT provides an overview].

However, the news channel n-tv rightly noted, with the help of media expert Thomas Koch, that whether the redesign will actually bring in new customers and give the business wings is debatable. According to Koch, it’s the customer who decides on the performance [quality] of the offer. A redesigned logo as a trademark is more incidental. 

Lufthansa’s head of marketing, Alexander Schlaubitz, emphasizes that it is about more than that [or even about everything!] As his Group CEO has said, Lufthansa needs modernizing. For corporate marketing, this means doing away with anything which cannot be optimally digitized in order to do justice to the digital transformation and mobile communication, right down to the last pixel. [See interview by Fabian Wurm].

 


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Photo: The Lufthansa logo since 1990.


 

This was actually something that the godfather of the design, Otl Aicher, had his eye on at the start of the 1960s when he created the crane as the trademark as part of a comprehensive CI. But his demand for clarity, conciseness and simplicity ruffled a few feathers at the time, and compromises had to be made in the tradition. Surprisingly, now, almost 60 years later, the results that have been reached hark back to Aicher’s original intentions. [Note: I became aware of this first-hand because I personally spent a few years working closely with Aicher on his Rotis typeface project and he often spoke of Lufthansa and other clients.]

NOTE: A great review of Lufthansa’s design was already published February 8th, 2018: Feeling Blue.


Much ado about nothing?

As is often the case, the customer’s experience of the brand is very different to how marketing assumed it would be. Lufthansa simultaneously sent out an email (presumably to all customer program members, in modified form also used as a manifesto by advertising motif), which is thought-provoking as it overdoes it with self-praise while in many staccato sentence fragments manage to forget possible customer benefits.

  • The introductory sentence starts with “We” (in terms of “We at Lufthansa” and not “We as a community”).
  • From the outset, the customer is stylized, to put it bluntly, as the “flight attendant”.
  • It is assumed that customers must follow the Lufthansa claim.
  • The advertised claim, in modern hashtag dexterity, #SayYesToTheWorld is laughably banal and implies that Lufthansa customers can best take off by being a yes-person.
  • Last but not least, the key visual in the email shows the tail fin of a plane, as if the person in question had just missed his flight…
  • And last but not least: It’s not personal! An option or even an active request for the email recipient to give immediate feedback to the modernized Lufthansa “outfit” by return is not included. What a shame. Or is it? Because this goes against the values that the digital world stands for in the social media age.
  • Note: It should be assumed that many hundreds of thousands of customers have received the email, in any case presumably significantly more than had received it at the time of the email being sent by re-branding via the media customers.

In my view, the “crassly modern” digital electronic mail-shot back-fired because it does nothing for the customers – instead it wants to create a good impression. This brings to mind unsettling experiences which, as a long-standing senator of Lufthansa, I was continually subjected to.

 


Better late than never: reverse the communication course!

If it really is about the Lufthansa brand (its self-image as being a “premium” brand) being brought into the digital age, Lufthansa’s thinking and mode of communication needs be changed radically.

In my view, these aspects should be considered:

  1. It is crucial that the innovation and technology mechanisms be made use of so that dialog or conversations with customers take place in real time, to serve the optimization of services and products so that they are aligned with the individual needs of the customer.
  2. The brand itself is no longer at the center, instead it becomes a kind of mutual vehicle for companies and customers. Mass marketing becomes customized mass marketing. If, like the majority of established brand companies, the focus is placed on brand experience, to impress customers using the hopefully strong charisma of the brand through mass penetration and thus motivate the customer to make a purchase, in the best case, costs can be covered but it is barely possible to make profit from organic growth or to achieve profit margins in double-figures.
  3. The reality is unavoidable Customers are increasingly disappointed when brands have clearly lost personal contact with them.

 


 

My take

Sometimes the stork appears like a swallow which has not yet brought the summer with it. To avoid dissatisfaction and loss of loyalty from customers, in my opinion, what is needed is not necessarily a change in brand identity but first of all a change in the mission and a change in thinking by those in charge. By acknowledging globalization, cosmopolitanism and curiosity”, a start has been made. – But at least, put the customer first! – This is all the more important since Lufthansa, according to its own statement, is starting the largest investment in advertising in the history of the company” – after the company had the best financial year in its history in 2017, with 130 million customers recorded.

Supplement

As of June 5, 2018 Lufthansa does not come from the negative headlines. An embarrassing mishap at a football World Cup spot for Russia as well as constant improvements in the redesign are already more than amazing. Sounds like intended, but not skillful. — By the way, who, as I recently observed a Lufthansa jet in the new look at the start, notes that even at low altitudes above the city with the naked eye does not recognize that its a Lufthansa airplane … It just lacks the yellow! Ouch!

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Lufthansa recently had to change the blue of its new livery because it was too dark (Photo: Lufthansa)

 


 

About the author

Andreas Weber has been working as an internationally renowned business communication analyst, coach, influencer and transformer for over 25 years. His activities focus on ‘Transformation for the Digital Age’ with lectures, management briefings, workshops, analyses & reports and strategic advice.

In his current ‘Think Paper’, Andreas Weber presents provocative thoughts on ‘Brand Experience vs. Customer Experience’. With the key questions: “What does a brand mean to a consumer? What does a consumer mean to a brand?”.

In case of interest, please send an email to receive the above-mentioned think paper: zeitenwende007{at}gmail.com

 

drupa Analyse Visuals ENG.001

Value Talk by Andreas Weber,
CEO Value Communication AG, Mainz
Photo/Graphics by Messe Düsseldorf
Painting of Johannes Gutenberg: Ying Lin-Sill, Mainz/Beijing

 

This report is important for you because it deals with crucial issues:

  • How to recognize relevant trends and developments at an early stage
  • How to change the public reception of the printing industry
  • How to move from old to new 

 

Introduction

In an email written on 24 October, 2010, Steve Jobs, legendary Apple CEO, put his finger on a crucial problem when he identified what he called the “innovation dilemma” and stated that adhering to old paradigms for too long can jeopardize entire companies. What does this imply for the traditional printing industry?  How can it make the leap from its established market into the new (digital) world? An exciting starting point for a new take on the next drupa trade show.

The dilemma: high innovative speed – middling adaptation rate

The innovation dilemma that bothered Steve Jobs at a time when Apple became one of the most valuable brands in the world, is already affecting the print industry – and its markets. Major flagship fairs such as the Print in Chicago and the IPEX, now in London, have fallen upon hard times. Fewer exhibitors, fewer visitors, less relevant public potential — despite the high innovative speed of the producers. The printing market and its customers seem reluctant to respond. Sluggish replacement investment and a general scepticism among German customers towards innovative products.  Messe Düsseldorf has therefore decided to explore new avenues in order to establish the drupa as the flagship fair for the global printing and paper industry. All the more reason to have a Value Talk in the interval between drupa 2012 and drupa 2016. Central question: Quo vadis, drupa?

“In turbulent times, a flagship fair like the drupa takes on a key role,“ Sabine Geldmann points out right at the start of our Value Talk. She was appointed drupa Director of Messe Düsseldorf at the beginning of 2012 and is responsible for the “Olympic Games of the printing and paper industry”. Her focus is not only on organising trade fairs, a skill which she learned from the bottom up. She also mines global visitor contacts and profiles for valuable market information. Since the beginning of 2014, information on global trends and intelligence on the industry are being documented by studies/reports. About 4,900 participants from three segments (Print Service Provider, Print Buyers, Suppliers) were selected, 2,600 of which are key executives from printing works, which is the main target group for now. The representative panel is comprised of members from 119 countries.

 

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Innovation is the key…
…and an important benefit for drupa preparations.

“As organisers of the drupa fair, our focus is on spotting new trends in order to identify solid quality developments on a global scale,“ Sabine Geldermann explains. The objective is not just to find a drupa concept and position that suits the market, but also to provide manufacturers with solid, topical facts, whether they attend as exhibitors or as visitors. The preliminaries were established in February 2014, when the drupa Global Trend Report was issued. Updates will be carried out at the end of every year until 2016. The Special Topical Focus will appear in the drupa Global Insights at six-monthly intervals. The results of these analyses will be widely distributed via digital channels such as social media, press mailing lists/specialist media, PDF summaries as web downloads and of course through word of mouth.

These trend studies and analyses are innovative because “by providing information they also allow additional in-depth analyses”, Sabine Geldermann explains. This is possible because of the unique data structures that distinguish different regions, countries, specific target group profiles, market segments and many more from each other.“ The main focus is on the situation in printing works.  Market trends can be identified and analysed with a quasi-microscopic view. National developments can be analysed in an international context – a major benefit as there are vast differences in the print business.

As expected, the results of the baseline measurement issued in the 1st drupa Global Trend Report are far from spectacular – apart from the prognosis that investments are on the increase. Many findings confirmed what was known already, be it from media reports or from several individual studies. However, Sabine Geldermann and her team are more interested in creating a complete picture from individual pieces of the puzzle and systematically updating this picture at regular intervals. With its sixty-year old tradition, the drupa provides sufficient material to act as a reliable market, economic and investment barometer – and deliver the latest trends in technology and application.

The agenda and activities of the drupa 2016 will be inspired by this exclusive compilation of market intelligence. “Because of structural changes and the ongoing market consolidation, we need to address not only our regular drupa audience but also find new target groups “, Sabine Geldermann explains. We need to act as a seismograph for these changes. In addition to printed publications, the digital communication channels provided by Messe Düsseldorf are of major importance for our publication efforts. The focus is on comprehensive interaction that yields measurable results after valid analysis. Because “we cannot know what we do not know”, the drupa needs to identify new target groups which are not or not fully informed about the technical benefits of current printing technology.

 

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The printing industry is facing one major challenge:
Lack of information 

Because the vast potential of printing technology is not known among key executives, it is not part of their “relevant set of options”. In fact, they often perceive the printing industry and printing works as anachronistic. There is a significant lack of knowledge among buyers and key executives from the marketing communication segment about the perfect interaction between printing, IT and web technology, (for example: the automated production of printed books from social media platforms). Only few people know that social media contents and printed media can be combined to create communication campaigns by means of digital printing.

Sabine Geldermann wants to change this by publicizing the relevant technical information in the drupa Global Insights Reports. Innovative application options for printed material in inter-media scenarios must be published and made popular in an informative manner: “There is a vast potential for innovation in printed communication. With new insights and information, we can determine how the printing segment is perceived“, Sabine Geldermann points out. These preliminary measures to make the drupa more relevant by inciting a cross-segmental discussion of new issues “beyond print” will substantially enhance to position of the drupa as an international flagship fair that acts as a beacon for the global market. Sabine Geldermann puts it in a nutshell: “We present the new technical options provided by the printing industry to a wider audience. There are so many innovative and important applications that involve printing technology which need to be pushed onto the international stage.”

 

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Exploring new avenues:
Communication on printing technology is as important as communication via print.

Would it not make sense to host a virtual drupa as an internet communication and market platform in addition to the real event? This question is of particular interest as every segment of the industry will benefit from innovations in the printing industry? There is much potential for optimisation in the printing industry and room for more communication – this is an excellent opportunity for the drupa! [See ValueCheck: Communication as a driving force for new business models].

Sabine Geldermann sees a special advantage in the fact that the products of the printing industry are widely used but also require a lot of information: printing works have an extremely heterogeneous customer base with very different target group profiles. The same applies to the service portfolio of printing works, which has to be highly innovative and specialised. The products of the printing industry will always be an indispensible and elementary part of our communication requirements, but printing service providers are no longer mere producers of printed matter, however they need to acquire better consultancy skills. Potential solutions include workflow architectures, variable data printing, finishing services, freight management/supply-chain services, response analysis and many more.

 

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The incredible service variety offered by the printing industry provides
major potential for the future!

Sabine Geldermann is not worried by the increasingly exacting requirements faced by her customers: “Promoting the variety of the printing industry provides an exciting range of options: there is an incredible range of communication services provided to all industrial segments by the printing industry, even beyond its value-added chain. The printing industry is by no means finished or one-dimensional; it is expanding into all different levels of day-to-day life and business.“ Messe Düsseldorf’s preparatory work in the run-up to the drupa 2016 focuses on relevant facts and information which will promote the industry and its services and improve its presence in the virtual market so that it can be found easily – everywhere in the world.

Sabine Geldermann explains the main objective of the drupa 2016 preparations: “We want to create publicity on the web by using devices such as blogs and effective tagging. This is the only way to draw the attention of new target groups to the important innovations provided by our exhibitors and their customers.“ A growing number of drupa exhibitors supports this approach to promote the awareness of the services provided by printing works among its customers. Agencies, marketing experts and brand companies are actually an important driving force and have to be involved more strongly. This means that all printing service providers that offer market-oriented, modern and networkable printing communication solutions must be easily found using Google. Descriptions and sampling of innovative applications during face-to-face presentations alone are not longer sufficient; the industry has to present or better still, permanently stage value enhancing factors and verifiable results in the media.

 

Our opinion 

Messe Düsseldorf has chosen a successful course which also benefits the printing industry: as flagship fair for the printing and paper industry, the drupa can only be successful and have a global effect if the issues and the exhibition agenda are perfectly synchronized with the specific situation of the visitors (and the exhibitors’ customers). The new trend analyses are an ideal communication tool for sustaining a qualified dialogue with market partners. Not only during the drupa but also in the run-up and in the wake of this major event!

One exciting challenge for the drupa 2016 is certainly its approach to the vast and ongoing structural changes in the printing market. After an extended pit stop, market leader Heidelberger Druckmaschinen will now present its new digital strategy. This will benefit the entire industry. [See Value Analysis on Heidelberg Digital Sneak Peek, April 2014]

The printing industry has to think far outside the box. Many new businesses and companies that moved into the field from a different segment, e.g. those who deal with high-performance inkjet and/or variable data printing for industrial production, with organics or 3D/4D printing, cannot be counted as part of the printing segment in the strictest sense. But it is important to note: Effective communication about printing issues is necessary and the innovation-driven business of printing service providers must be publicized in order to create sufficient demand.

 

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At a glance:
drupa Global Trends – Results from February 2014

Despite national differences, the “drupa Global Trends Report” reveals substantial – and sometimes even surprising – trends and insights, which affect all economic regions and printing-related segments (publishing, packaging, commercial). As expected, the report confirmed the presumption that the global printing industry is still undergoing structural changes, which is documented by rising costs, price deterioration and shrinking margins. But even more significant are the study’s three central findings:

  • There are clear signals for an economic upturn: over the next twelve months, all areas of the global printing industry, be it commercial, publishing or packaging, will make substantial investments. In the industrialized nations, the driving factors for this investment are the need for more efficiency and the introduction of new services. In this area, the US printing industry seems to have a certain leadership role or acts as a model. In emerging nations however, the investments are driven by the order volume.
  • The printing industry is changing from a product- or technology-driven to a service-driven industry. The latest trends are new solutions and business models that accommodate customer requirements.
  • As expected, digital printing plays a major role in the technology mix that is used by the printing industry. A total of 65 % of all printing service providers operate conventional as well as digital production. More than 30 % of commercial printers generate one fourth of their profit margin with digital printing services. But conventional printing (especially sheet offset) remains to be an important cornerstone for the industry. This is reflected by the reported investment intentions: in 2014, a total of 29% of all printing service providers want to invest in the area of sheet offset.

Source and more information

Indeed, massive effects of the structural change in the agency and media market were caused by new communication technologies. Not “advertisement in media” provides the desired efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability, but “Communication with system”. This keeps the dialogue with employees, partners, suppliers, customers, and interested parties going on all levels — through a new communication structure based on intermedia communication systems.

The most important perceptions that can be derived are:

  1. “Surgery successful, patient dead!”: Communication models and strategies based on “advertisement in media” are not only expensive, but ruinous in the long run.
  2. “The new media economy”: Thought-through investments in communication with a system pay off, as they are widely used and are therefore more profitable, sustainable, and more successful.
  3. “Analogous and digital as a team”: The future is not in the online communication, but in new, intermedial structured communication architectures that are closest to us as people, because dialogues are possible at any time.

In the following the possibilities of innovations and their economic relevance are the centre of contemplations.

Communication as an economic sector?

During the last years the role and the significance of the term ”Communication economy” has become increasingly the focus of attention. Even politics and parties have discovered this field for themselves. What is behind it?

Communication economy first of all summarises service providers (agencies) and media producers (publishing houses, broadcasters) followed by cultural or artistic organisations or single people to a lesser part. The so-called communication economy however does not pose to be a homogeneous branch, as the individual members or players are too heterogeneous and pursue interests that differ too greatly. In addition, one would have to expand this “branch” by printing houses/media production service providers, so-called internet companies, E-commerce providers, technology developers, advertisement position marketers up to telephone providers, etc. Meaning all those that offer products or services which enable communication. Thus, it seems much more profitable not to perceive communication in an isolated manner, but as a main economic factor for all of us. Everybody who distributes offers, no matter which kind, is at the same time a communication company, or must realise comprehensive communication tasks. This was more difficult in the past than it is today. Because in order to operate communication with media, many expert tools were necessary that needed to be elaborately operated. High investments in devices, training, care, and development were necessary. Today, hardly any expert knowledge is necessary, as Smart Technologies are self-explaining and easy to use.

The old world (up to the 20th Century): 

Monopolistic, advertising budget-centred business models

Specialists for media communication were active in the beginning of the industry era: Printers at first, which were also publishing houses in personal union (these tasks were separated in the course of time), in the second step the specialists for advertisement joined, who took over the sales promotion. Every fraction was assigned specific tasks and specialised, monopolistically characterised business models were developed that show the following core characteristics:

Business models from the “Old world”:

  1. Agencies are in debt of advertisers and media companies to create advertising messages that act as mediator between offer and demand.
  2. Media producers process data according to the specifications of the agencies, format them for specific transmission channels (print, TV, radio, etc.).
  3. Media companies create content, distribute it, and refinance this effort mostly over advertisement proceeds.

Grave errors in the system lead to communication management similar to centrally planned economy

The income flows for agencies, media companies, and producers were ample, the profits were extremely high in the low to medium two-digit range, financed by an economy that had learned that success could be purchased over advertisement. Top-brands with top advertising budgets basically acted as monopolists on their part, as they were able to afford something that was not possible for others. The need of administration effort increased according to the increase of advertisement spendings. Marketing, market research, procurement/controlling, brand leader consultants etc. experienced a boom. The advertisement and sales promotion departments were shut down and blown up again in new form to micro cosmos-like marketing communication departments that organised themselves not only by task areas but by communication and media channels. In order to have this run smoothly, the brand responsibilities and the marketing service tasks were preferably joined with the sales. The consequences were and are fatal.

The majority of the real-life examples have in common that marketing, sales, and communication do not harmonise, respectively the tasks and possibilities of communication are not recognised and used. Communication became a high-cost, rigid administrative task.

This is also mostly because the company managers do not care for the communication to full extent and according to their responsibility, but only are for partial areas like public relations or finance communication. Everything else is delegated (internally as well as externally), with budget specifications that are supervised by controlling and/or procurements without possessing holistic evaluation options for controlling, optimisation, or success measurement. The evaluation of the communication success relates to single disciplines (like direct mailings, advertisement placing in print, TV, or in the online sector) and is based on conventions and currencies that media and media agencies agree on.

But examples also show that agencies and media producers do not carry the sole culpability of a bureaucratised communication practice with the likelihood of a planned economy. The companies themselves are contributors of the misery, because they rate communication as a necessary evil in the sense of an obligation, or, drastically worded, as appendix of the marketing intestines. Accordingly, no strategically relevant decisions can be made to make innovations and resulting new patterns of action reality.

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