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Commentary & Analysis

Applications Everywhere: Not a Drop of Boredom to Spare

For the longest time,

By Cary Sherburne
Published: June 11, 2008

For the longest time, printers have been harangued about adding “value-added services” to the mix in order to survive.  What does that mean, exactly?  Mailing, maybe, or fulfillment? Variable data printing? Cross-media? Web-to-print?

These are all value-added services, of course, and they are important enablers for success in today’s highly competitive and often difficult marketplace.  But in and of themselves, they are relatively useless.  They only really add value if they are solving a particular customer business problem and are used within the context of specific business applications; otherwise, it doesn’t seem that they are much different than hanging out a sign that says “We Do Print.”

Over the last several years, many of the suppliers to the industry have gotten much better at positioning these value-added services in the context of specific applications.  This could be as mundane as business cards or marketing collateral, or more exotic applications that include cross-media marketing campaigns and TransPromo communications.  At trade shows, suppliers demonstrate how these applications are produced using their hardware and software (and often that of partners), making equipment speeds and feeds almost a secondary discussion.  And many have put together business development programs that enable customers to identify, develop and profitably execute a wide range of applications.

At drupa, there was a noticeable uptick in the sophistication of this approach, and an expanded number of suppliers who are helping their customers with an application focus.  One example was Heidleberg who had an entire building dedicated to packaging.  Of course, with its new VLF (very large format) press, it needed a whole building!  Companies like Canon, Ricoh, the InfoPrint Solutions Company, Océ and Konica Minolta featured equipment, but there was a definite application aspect as well.  Canon, for example, had pods dedicated to variable data, TransPromo and more.  Océ was showing custom newspapers and books on demand, among other things.

Back in 1990, when Xerox launched the DocuTech, the company employed an application focus from the very beginning, and it worked well.  I, personally, sold a lot of DocuTechs that way!  Now, nearly two decades later, it is terrific to see this much more engrained at Xerox, and with other suppliers as well.  It is a critical resource that print service providers should take advantage of from suppliers that offer these services.

I wanted to highlight the outstanding work done by three suppliers in particular at drupa:  Kodak, Xerox and HP.  This is certainly not meant to exclude all of the great work being done by other suppliers.  But these three seem to have gone above and beyond, and provide a good benchmark.  No favoritism here:  They are in alphabetical order!

HP had its stand set up in seven different profit centres, ranging from marketing and direct marketing, to publications, signage and packaging.  It even had a Business Enablers Centre that included such things as the IndiChrome Ink Mixing System, Media Solutions and the “My HP Indigo” customer portal.  Within each center, the hardware and software that was used to create the specific applications was clearly labeled, and experts were available to discuss specifics with visitors.  A handy map and booth tours helped guide the process.  Mixed in, of course, were the new product announcements, which have been covered elsewhere on WhatTheyThink, and there were lots of partners in the stand as well.  One of the featured Business Enablers was HP’s Capture Business Success program, which helps customers translate all of this information into actionable business plans to drive profit—and of course, volume on their HP digital devices!

Kodak has been using the application-focused approach for the last several trade shows, and took a unique and innovative approach at drupa.  The stand was set up with a “Metro” like model that easily guided visitors to the right stand location.  Keep in mind that these stands are huge!  You can almost get lost in there.  Kodak designed a “public transit” system with four different “lines,” Commercial Solutions, Packaging Solutions, Publishing Solutions and Data Printing Solutions. In Commercial Solutions, there were eight different applications, from Fine Art Posters to a Düsseldorf City Pocket Guide, a Destination Guide & Itinerary and a Resort Brochure.  Each transit line had stations (read: hardware or software) represented by icons demonstrating what was used to create the application. The handy booklet the company was distributing helped visitors understand what the icons meant and gave a detailed description of the technology behind each solution.  So if you were a packaging printer or a newspaper publisher, it was very clear which part of the stand would give you the most benefit.  The other slick thing Kodak did was place a central raised hub area in the stand with its Unified Workflow Solutions.  The entire stand was run using an InSite server farm, which in and of itself was quite a demonstration.  Unified Workflow Solutions was positioned as the “Grand Central Station” of the transit network, and substations were galleries for each line with examples of all of the applications.  This places the emphasis where it belongs, on the workflow infrastructured required to build an efficient operation. Kodak also offers business development support to customers in the form of its MarketMover Network and was previewing the Kodak Graphic Community, an evolution of the MarketMover Network that leverages Web 2.0 in a business networking model enabling members to support each other and to find business partners to augment their own services.  Nicely done! 

Xerox has probably been doing this the longest of anyone, and they outshone themselves at drupa.  The company was showing 50 different customer applications.  These were not developed as demo applications for the show, but were collected from real customers.  A spiral bound booklet documented each application, with the story behind it, the goals the customer was trying to meet, and all of the elements that were used to produce it.  While this sounds pretty straightforward, I know that there was a huge amount of work involved in putting this together. The applications were divided into several application areas, including Books & Manuals, Marketing Collateral, Digital & Offset Together (they even had a Heidelberg press in their stand!), Direct Marketing, TransPromo and New Business Applications.  Each application area featured a Conversation Station with experts available to chat with visitors about their specific requirements and the details of what was being shown.  In the New Business Applications, for example, four customer applications were being shown:

  • AlphaPicture Wall Calendar
  • Personalised Chewing Gum
  • Personlised Contact Lens Box
  • Stora Enso Pharmaceutical Box

So these weren’t just ordinary run of the mill brochures, by any means!

Each application also included production notes, green advantages and selling tips.  Quite an effective piece of work!  And the Conversation Station model seems to be working well for both Xerox and its visitors.  The company has tried out this model before, I believe at Graph Expo 2007 for the first time.  It is set up with a counter that has stools in front of it where the visitor can sit comfortably.  Behind the counter, the expert has easy access to a range of props that help the discussion along.  Xerox has its Premier Partners (more than 700 Premier Partners in 48 countries on 6 continents) and its Profit Accelerator program to move customers along the path to success.

Kudos to all of the suppliers who are making this transition to an applications focus.  These are just three examples of many—with 1,800 exhibitors in 19 halls at drupa, it is a bit overwhelming to try to ingest it all in a week!  This approach is important for the future of the industry, as we continue to work to find our stride amidst rapid change and competition from non-traditional sources.

Cary Sherburne is a well-known author, journalist and marketing consultant whose practice is focused on marketing communications strategies for the printing and publishing industries.

Cary Sherburne is available for speaking engagements and consulting projects. To get more information contact us.

Please offer your feedback to Cary. She can be reached at cary@whattheythink.com.



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