Confronting the mayhem in Media and Marketing

Death of A Commercial Printer?

If you persist in trying to be all things to all people, you will fail. The only alternative, then, is to be something important to a few people. — Seth Godin, We Are All Weird

Godin speaks to the need for businesses to move away from the mass, the center and toward the edges, outliers, the weird. There are four forces that are causing this migration: the ease of creation, richness of choice, ability to self-organize into tribes, and efficiently reaching/marketing the periphery.

Translation: we have the means and ability to want and buy stuff that is uniquely us

What does this mean? Commerical printers, those who act as a jack-of-all-trades and cater to the mass, will have a hard go of it. Both Jason Pinto and Bryan Yeager reminded me of this point after mentioning a few targeted print businesses that are narrowly focused on Instragram. (Go read Bryan’s write-up here. It is, as usual, smart.) Instagram is a photo app only found on the iOS platform (iPhones, iPods, and iPads). These startups, like CanvasPop, are only targeting a narrow segment of the entire smartphone market. Specifically, their customers are iPhone users with the Instagram app who want to print their photos taken with the application. A niche of a niche.

Each one of these businesses are still able to attract enough users to sustain their businesses. The key difference here is these businesses know their customers (tribes) and target them exclusively. As Seth Godin puts it, “Are any of these little micro-segments big enough to make a living on? Possibly not. As the market gets increasingly addressable and non-anonymous, though, the efficiency gained more than makes up for the small size of the market. Instead of reaching 5 percent of the geeks in your segment, the combination of permission marketing and the connections of tribes might permit you to reach 20 percent. The market might be far more specialized (and thus smaller), but your share is bigger.”

The struggle, of course, is that these businesses don’t look like your business so you may not view them as a threat. So while you may be content to carry on business-as-usual, just remember there are more print related startups popping up wanting to take those “weird” customers away from you.


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Innovation versus Iteration

Innovation happens when an individual or group introduce the rest of us to something that we have never seen or thought of before.

Iteration happens when an individual or group improves or modifies something that already existed.

Far too often, iteration is taken for innovation’s sake.

Footnote: This came to mind because so many are speaking of “innovations” within the printing industry that are really just iterations on something existing within printing or another industry first.


photo: onionio

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Moneyball, Google, and Print

What do you do if you are a major league team that is out spent, out classed, and out recruited? On one hand you can resign yourself to always being second, third, or 23rd best in the league behind the more well-financed, big city teams. On the other hand, you can change the rules of the game as the Oakland Athletics did for the 2002 major league baseball season. Instead of recruiting by traditional methods of relying on scouting reports and statistics, the team decided to narrowly focus on one number — the player’s on base percentage. Peter Brand’s insight, somehow ignored by the rest of baseball, was correlating the overall team’s OBP to a given number of runs that would lead to wins. The method led the Oakland A’s to a phenomenal season considering their budget and roster, so much so that it spawned a book and an Oscar nominated movie.

Businesses, even industries, can be viewed in the scope of a competitive game. On one side there are teams with the best resources, the best talent, the best of everything. Today’s these seem to be technology oriented companies such as Google, Apple, Amazon, and so on. In terms of recruiting, these firms are in the big leagues. Google hired over 8,000 people last year. They are famous for hiring talent where a position may not yet exist. In the new arms race of human capital these companies feel they can ill afford to miss out on top-tier talent. They offer generous salaries, benefits, and perks. So generous that few other technology companies, much less most other industries, cannot match.

Many other industries, however, need to attract the same types of technologically savvy talent as the tech titans. The graphic arts industry is such an example. Its artisan past has been replaced by big data (personalization), e-commerce, digital asset management, social marketing, and more. If industry trade shows are any indication, the industry has either not realized the need for this type of talent or, more probable, has not been able to retain it.

What will be the graphics industry’s on base percentage (OPB) indicator? Will the need be realized only in the face of great loss?

photo: shoothead

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