Last week I was lucky enough to be invited down to Boca Raton, FL to participate in Océ's Direct Mail Summit customer event.  Ohio weather being what it is in the early spring, I jumped at the chance! 

After a brief welcome from Océ's Transactional & Direct Mail Segment Marketing Manager Chad Skelton, Francis McMahon laid out the Océ strategy and direction.

Océ, already a leader in digital document management and delivery, is investing heavily in new technology.  They spend 7.5% of revenue in R&D and have nearly 6,000 patents.  This focus on technology developments is helping them to enter new markets and improve current offerings.  Their most significant advancement, McMahon says, is people.  This became evident later as we were introduced to new people in key positions helping Océ advance their business. 

The first example was Kris Albee, who Francis handed things off to.  Kris discussed Océ's leadership in inkjet technology.  They see digital color as the key growth market in the next 5 years and are agressively pursuing it with product offerings.  Monochrome, though declining, is still seen as a significant market and a point was made that this area will not be neglected at the benefit of color.

One of the more interesting - and popular - presentations at the summit was by demographer and futurist Ken Gronbach.  Ken's session was entitled "Direct Mail Isn't Dead" and he made a compelling case using demographics and did so in a way that was engaging and entertaining while still using the data and graphs you would expect of a demographer.  The takeaway from Ken was that Generation Y is bigger than the Baby Boomers and are able to be reached with direct mail, though maybe in a different way than their elders. 

Ken was gracious enough to take some time from the sunny Boca weather to talk to me about his session and give our readers a Cliff Notes version

I caught up with Chad Skelton later in the day and shot a short video

The highlight of the day came when we were shuttled over the Océ CEC, or Customer Experience Center.  Leading our tour was Océ newcomer Chris Echevarria.  Chris guided us in a tour of the entire facility, which included demos of the Jetstream, PRISMA production workflow, and ColorStream 3500.  I've been to the center before and it's an impressive operation that gives printers a chance to view and demo Océ's growing cadre of offerings. 

The day was capped off with a nice dinner cruise down the intracoastal waterway.  Gaining new knowledge at events like this is important, but I find putting that knowledge in context by networking with peers is the most valuable thing we gain out of these trips.  Everyone seemed to have fun and took the opportunity to unwind and meet new peers and company executives. 

Day two of the event was kicked off by Leo Raymond of the Mailing & Fulfillment Service Association, who talked about new postal regulations and legislation in the works.  Knowing the lay of the postal land is crucial in making good decisions about direct mail for clients of printers and Leo shared great information with the group. 

Before closing remarks and final goodbyes, Terry Frazier of Madison Advisors moderated a customer panel including Andy Mandell of Data-Mail, Mike McCombs of Dantom Systems, and Leo Raymond.  Panels are usually my favorite session of any event because it offers a time for peers to speak to peers and for audience interaction - sometimes lively. 

Before departing, Mike McCombs was kind enough to spend a couple minutes with me talking about the event.

I left the event confident that there are still great opportunities in direct mail for those who do it right and that the power of demographics is one important leading indicator of this.  I also left thinking Océ/Canon is well positioned to take full advantage of this.