Confronting the mayhem in Media and Marketing

Tag Archives: printing

Mass (Media) Appeal

I grew up fascinated by Charles Kuralt. More to the point, I found Kuralt's natural intrigue in places and people to be the attractor. He would tour the country and allow you to identify with the Midwestern farmer just as easily as the Californian farmer. CBS Sunday Morning is where I most often caught his "On the Road" segments and to this day I try to remain loyal to the program amidst all of the other alternatives.

This is not a story about Kuralt, Americana, or Sunday mornings, however. It is about mass media which these days is having difficulty connecting on a relational level as Kuralt so effortlessly mastered. Social and digital media are much more in sync with creating, monitoring, and maintaining a customer relationship. Yet, we as a public continue to spend more of our discretionary hours in front of the television which is why advertisers still flock to the 30 second commercial.

During this week's Sunday Morning show, I saw my very (not the company's) first 30 second spot for Vistaprint, an online print source. The "wedding planner" advertisement itself was memorable, humorous, and loosely connected with the product mentioned at the end — business cards. Vistaprint was born with an online ethos which makes this decision seem particularly odd. The company is a master at ecommerce and online marketing and advertising. Search for various printed products and a Vistaprint ad will most likely be in the Google search results.

There are few true mass media channels left — TV, Radio, and Print. The merits and fragmentation could easily be argued for each, but all three have the ability to reach the largest set of eyeballs. The point for mass media, considering its relative high costs to social and digital channels, is that it better be spot on. In the case of the Vistaprint commercial, the advertisement was good enough but I think the distribution could have been rethought.

Would the commercial have had more impact as a forced view Hulu spot, with less costs and better demographic, or do you think the commercial hit its mark by airing on CBS Sunday Morning, for more costs targeted to an older demographic?

Takeaway: Consider not only the mass media's appeal but also its distribution.

Print’s Darwinian Evolution: Vendors

Print's Darwinian Evolution:
Overview | Printers | Vendors | Print Professionals

The current US housing supply is at roughly a 9 month supply. The good news is that this is down from an 11 month supply at the end of November of 2009. The housing bubble, which carries the bulk of the blame for our recent economic struggles, is a cautionary tale of simple supply and demand economics. In boom times, developers rush to capitalize their profits due to housing demand with a formula of build more houses to reap more profit. A gold rush ensues as all developers ramp up the supply to meet demand. Then the bubble bursts and the demand goes to zero, yet supply still increases beyond current levels due to the builder's ongoing projects. The real estate industries are on a path of struggle until recover when inventory levels drop and demand returns. After a couple of years, the US housing market is showing blips of this recovery process now.

What, you ask, does this have to do with print vendors?

After years of overcapacity coupled with technology changes and media buying shifts, traditional printing press manufacturers have seen a similar correction period. Supply was high and demand fell. A tightened credit market and reluctance to invest in capital equipment have also caused stress for new equipment purchases while bolstering used equipment. Tim Kirkland even posed this question on LinkedIn, "Are used equipment sales stalling technical advancements in printing?" To date, there are 24 comments.

Both manroland and Heidelberg have been increasing their services and consultative services. This is a continuation of the overall spike in consultative services and business support seen at Print09. Heidelberg has also expressed intentions to re-enter the digital printing market through a strategic partnership to be announced by the end of the year. As a corrective measure, most industry analysts think there will be consolidation in this space. (video, registration required)

Although software and digital press vendors have shown resiliency, this marketplace is just as competitive. Agfa, Screen, and Fuji, have all moved beyond prepress to digital presses. The vendor activity in this space is a true vote of confidence on the future of digital printing as a growth opportunity. Not to be left out, Canon recently shook the space up further by buying Oce.

There as also been a flurry of partnerships forged from Canon & HP to Kodak & Ricoh, et. al. Both Xerox and HP jumped into the IT services game through acquisitions of ACS and EDS, respectively.

The result is that all print media vendors are reshaping their business plans and offerings to match economic and competitive forces. As with printers, print vendors will likely see more consolidation going forward. Ultimately, printers will reap the benefits from more "fit" and more innovative vendor relationships.

Print’s Darwinian Evolution: Printers

Print's Darwinian Evolution:
Overview | Printers | Vendors | Print Professionals

Taking the most desirable traits, whether by brute force, adaptation, or mimicry, is the key to survival according to Darwin's natural selection. Nature's evolutionary tactics range from the practical like opposable thumbs to the whimsical like sickly sweet, stinky, plant odor. The Amorphophallus titanum, or "corpse plants", attracts pollinators by mimicking the smell of rotting flesh – perfect for attracting all sorts of pests.

Businesses must equally pick and exploit their unique competitive advantages to not only ensure survival, but prosper. Each printer operates within their own area of expertise, but there are industry wide trends appearing as ways to out smart, out grow, and out live the competition.

Brute Force
The business merger and acquisition market within printing has been active lately with the announcement of the Quad Graphics – World Color merger. Naturally, companies look for synergies within each organization that would benefit from a combined operation. The acquisitions at the top end of the industry are all about creating economies of scale, consolidating customer base, and reducing competition. Industry consolidation will continue as the more "fit" companies acquire competitors.

The most successful adaptation of printers and print over the past decade has been due to technology gains. Companies, like VistaPrint, Mimeo, and Hotcards to name a few, have narrowly focused on the use of web technologies and presence to grow their business beyond the industry norms. The technology used in print media is also adapting by integrating variable data, personalization, QR codes, and augmented reality. The later two, in particular, represent a growing trend of analog (print) to digital (web) or vice versa to extend the user experience. It is where print can bring the web to life just as easily as the web can enliven print.

It has been said that there are no new ideas just new uses for old ones. New ideas are brought about from knowledge and the desire to create something better. For this reason, businesses must strive to be information mavens who seek out best practices, trends, and technology shifts. Looking outside of the print industry for inspiration and opportunities provides a greater perspective to implement change. iPhone apps released by RR Donnelly, Neenah Papers, and EFI, are an example of copying an idea but applying it to your own business or industry.

photo by: j.g. in S.F.

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