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Commentary & Analysis

GenXers Are Taking Over Print: Now What?

Who knew that finishing was the primary determiner of print quality among print buyers? But this is the result of The Print Media Center’s “2017 Print Buyer Survey.” Now what?

By Heidi Tolliver-Walker
Published: February 24, 2017

GenXers are taking over the printing industry: more adaptable, more proactive, and more willing to take risks than their Baby Boomer counterparts. This is the assessment of Deborah Corn of the Print Media Center in the wake of her 2017 Print Buyer Survey, released earlier this month. But that isn’t the most interesting thing to come out of the survey.

The most interesting thing—and that which received top billing in Corn’s inaugural blog post on this topic—is that, in the majority of the responses received from the 100+ brands who responded, quality was the biggest reason they either worked with a printer or left a relationship with a printer . . . but it was finishing—not color—that determined their perception of quality.

The online survey was conducted on the topic of color, quality, and consistency. More than 140 brands and agencies around the world responded.

In a world in which printers are obsessed with color, that finishing is the primary determiner of “quality” among print buyers may seem surprising. It surprised Deborah Corn at first, too. But after thinking about it, she writes, this answer didn’t seem so odd anymore.

Hearing the industry and the G7 people spouting about color and color management as often as I do, I was hoping that color would hold the top spot. But then it clicked in. During my 25+ years as a buyer working for some of the agencies and brands I surveyed, any time I rejected a job or got hell over it, finishing was the culprit in all but a few really color critical instances. Things like scratched covers, uneven crossovers, and bad trimming are glaring issues, in most cases, whereas whether or not the blue is the exact blue I speced, or close enough, is subjective in many ways—even with a Pantone chip in hand.

Hearing that finishing is the primary determiner of quality in the eyes of these key clients, Corn had some constructive suggestions for what MSPs could do with this information, and you can find those suggestions here.  You can also follow her blog to gain additional results from the survey as she unveils them over time.

For now, here are some of my thoughts about how this information could be put to use. Use it as an excuse to call your customers. Not to sell them something, but to ask their opinion. Tell them you just came across some fascinating survey results and wanted to see what they thought. “Is this how you feel too?” Imagine where the conversation could go!

What’s great about this approach is that it presents and opportunity that a sales call doesn’t, yet it has the potential to lead to the same place. Companies not willing to take a sales call might be willing to take a call in which their opinion is being asked. Once you are talking, it might lead to a conversation about techniques and formats they never considered. Or a misperception you can correct. Perhaps there might be an opening to talk about new investments you’ve made in finishing equipment. If it’s an existing client, perhaps there will be an opportunity to address a lurking concern they have about a past project that you were unaware they had

Wherever the conversation leads, this survey presents a perfect opportunity to pick up the phone and call.  Not be salesy, but just talk. You never know what might come out of it.  

Heidi Tolliver-Walker Heidi is an industry analyst specializing in digital, one-to-one, personalized URL, and Web-to-print applications. Her Marketer’s Primer Series, availalbe through Digital Printing Reports, includes “Digital Printing: Transforming Business and Marketing Models,” 1:1 (Personalized) Printing: Boosting Profits Through Relevance,” “Personalized URLs: Beyond the Hype,” and “Web-to-Print: Transforming Document Management and Marketing.”



By John Leininger on Feb 24, 2017


I have judged many print competition and I can tell you that if I am looking at production color is only one component. Color has almost become a constant for printers with so much control now. Bindery has to do more with individual set-up and if they are running with what they think is OK. I have always found bindery work to be a deciding issue whenever I am judging print. It might be something as simple as the two sides of the stitches are uneven, placement of the stitch or the margins are not square. I think this was spot on and has been for several years.


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