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Retail Sales—January 2020

Advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for January 2020, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $529.8 billion, an increase of +0.3% (±0.4%) from the previous month, and +4.4% (±0.7%) above January 2019. Retail drives a lot of printing and packaging volume, so it’s important to keep an eye on that sector.

Choice is Key to a Positive Customer Experience

Providers of transactional communications must continually reinvent themselves to keep up with consumers’ changing preferences and work to effectively deliver their messages. Above all, today’s consumers are demanding a say in the way that their providers communicate with them. This document provides data points from Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends’ most recent transactional communications survey to underscore the importance of choice in delivering a positive customer experience.

Winning the Marketing Automation War

Fueled by mindset, society, and technology, a new generation of business buyers is forcing companies to re-think how they approach every aspect of their business. As a result, marketers across all industries are investing in solutions that help capture, distill, and present customer data—and automating how leads are generated, scored, nurtured, and converted from suspect to prospect to customer. Joanne Gore examines the current marketing automation landscape.

Solving All Your Print Software Challenges at Once

It's easy to get into a panic when you wake up to the reality that your approach to software in your print business requires a major overall. It probably took you years to get into this state; don’t freak out because it could take years to crawl out of it. The best thing to do is to calmly prioritize and then start making incremental progress.

Neiman Marcus Shines a Spotlight on OptiChannel Marketing (Yes, Opti, not Omni)

A short case study from Neiman Marcus that includes direct mail shines a spotlight on the importance of a term we don’t hear much anymore, but maybe we should revive—optichannel marketing.

Cracking the QR Code: Xanté Goes Beyond Print with InfoMark

Xanté has launched an alternative to the QR code called InfoMark that lets writers and other content creators “attach” multimedia elements to print via a unique four-digit code. We gave InfoMark a spin to see how it worked.

The Sales Process Review Crawl

No one likes reviews, but they can be a necessary evil. In this article, Pat McGrew explains how acquiring comprehensive data about jobs sold—and keeping that job database updated—can make the review process quick and painless.

What’s the Dresscode? Smart and Savvy CashCuff® Wearables!

As the market for wearable technology continues to evolve, UK-based Dresscode has taken a unique approach with CashCuff, the world’s first smart payment shirt. See what founder and CEO Andy Boothman has to say about the origin of the company and its strategy for the future.

King of a Changing Bookmaking Paradigm

There is a surge in demand for printed books, driven by two trends: self-publishing and on-demand printing, both enabled by digital printing technology. Of the 700 million books produced in the U.S. last year, about half were printed on demand using digital technology. Frank Romano profiles Lowell, Mass.’s King Printing Company, which takes on-demand book printing to the next level.

Book Printers—2017

The latest edition of County Business Patterns is out, which updates number of establishments and other data to 2017. In that year, there were 500 establishments in NAICS 323117 (Book Printing). The majority of these establishments (63%) had fewer than 10 employees.

Around the Web: Glowing Garments. Election Ensemble. Lasting Lore. Waning Watches. Blocking Bracelet. Pivot-Table Percussion. Victorian Vehemence. Fowl Footwear.

An LED light system to add high visibility to safety apparel. Forevernote will preserve your family memories—professional biographer included. The Apple Watch outsold the entire Swiss watch industry. “Bracelet of silence” keeps Alexa from eavesdropping. Weird punctuation in film titles. Turn Microsoft Excel into a drum machine. A Victorian shop manager quits in protest over bar codes. KFC and Crocs team up for...huh? All that and more in WhatTheyThink’s weekly miscellany.

Frank Romano and the Desktop Publishing Revolution

Late last year, Frank Romano completed History of Desktop Publishing, the third book in a trilogy that includes History of the Linotype Companyand History of the Phototypesetting Era. This book, described by Jonathan Seybold as a “Tour de Force,” is enriched with Frank’s deep knowledge of the history of the printing industry. This article offers an overview of some of the book’s highlights.

Creatives Push Digital Textile Print to The Max

The push and pull between creatives and production professionals occurs in just about every industry, including textiles. Creatives want bold designs that enhance their portfolios and bring beauty to the world. Production folks just want something that they can produce! Helping bridge that gap is the topic of today’s article by WhatTheyThink contributor and textiles expert Debbie McKeegan.

We Know Martech Works—Here’s Proof

According to new research, marketing technology does more than make marketing automation easier.  It results in higher response rates and higher ROI. A look at a study from Printing for Less (PFL) and Demand Metric.

Technology + Direct Mail + Consumer Behavior = A Future to Bet On…

Christine Erna explains how direct mail printers can use “enhanced print” technologies to increase engagement, generate new leads, track real-time results, and stay top of mind with customers and prospects.

Lucent Botanicals Offers Unique CBD Mints in Equally Unique Packaging

As we continue to cover the burgeoning cannabis market and the business opportunities it offers, we spent time talking with Chris Cooper, CEO of California-based Lucent Botanicals, who has taken a different approach to CBD that is taken orally—mints enhanced with a variety of herbs and essences to tune their effects to different consumer requirements. He also shared his packaging strategy for these unique products.

Ghent Workgroup Launches New Specification for Sign and Display

Wide-format printing often involves a phenomenon called “apparent resolution,” which can be quite different than a print’s actual resolution. An image designed to be viewed up close, like a photograph in a magazine or direct mail piece, will have a different apparent resolution—and thus resolution requirement—than one designed to be viewed from a long ways away. Taking apparent resolution into account was the raison d’êtreof a new specification for sign and display graphics just released by the Ghent Workgroup.

Industrial Inkjet Gets RIPPED

In an industrial inkjet environment, a lot of pieces go into creating a specialized solution, but it’s the raster image processor (RIP) that does the heavy lifting. Elizabeth Gooding takes a detailed look at all the criteria to keep in mind when selecting RIP software for an industrial printing workflow.

The Print Distributor Market Changes with the Times

Technology and a changing print product mix drive changes in the distributor–client relationship. We spoke with Matt Bruno and Nathan Goldberg of the PSDA to get a bead on how the non-asset-based print sales market has evolved.

Pang-Wangling to Fashion Success

To pang-wangle is to live or go along cheerfully in spite of minor misfortunes. That’s exactly what Jennifer John is doing with her Pang Wangle fashion business, creating sustainable fashion ideal for hot, buggy climates such as is experienced in her home state of Louisiana. We spoke to Jennifer to learn more about her background, her growing business, and the challenges she faced finding just the exact right fabric for her unique creations.

December Shipments: Ending 2019 on a High Note

The value of printing shipments for December 2019 was down from November—as we expected it would be—but not down as much as been the case in recent years. At $6.95 billion, December shipments were down from November’s $7.03 billion, but far above the depths of 2017 and 2018.

Around the Web: Cool Clipart. Book Bot. Artistic Appetizers. Calligraphic Collection. Lotsa Letters. Grotesque Garfield. Jurassic Driver.

Royalty-free illustrations from old books. A Japanese artist hand-draws every meal he eats. A new book teaches hand-lettering. An Ohio man receives 55,000 copies of the same letter from his daughter’s Student Loan Company. A reimagining (and improvement) of Garfield. Printed greeting cards are still in fashion. Making 3D printing resin from old fryer oil. Why are people getting worse at The Price Is Right? All that and more in WhatTheyThink’s weekly miscellany.

Triage for People Performance Issues

Every business has employees who don’t perform as expected, or even as well as you as a manager know they are capable of performing. Why is that? There are a number of reasons why employees underperform, and they aren’t all the fault of the employee in question. Wayne Lynn details four primary reasons that people underperform on the job, and what employers can do about it.

Why Should I Buy From You?

Regardless of our job responsibilities, we, as employees and businesses, should be putting ourselves in our customers’ shoes and asking ourselves why should they buy from us? This article explores some of the questions that marketers can ask themselves to help improve sales success.

Lessons from Resonate’s “State of the Consumer” Report

Reports like Resonate’s “State of the Consumer Report” provide valuable insight into buyer types and how to understand and segment them in ways that help you develop great targeted copy. But before you can develop personalized or targeted content, there is a more fundamental question to ask. Once this question is answered, your targeting and personalization efforts will have maximum success.

Print Software Strategic Planning

Your software investments deserve big picture, strategic planning. It’s time to step back and assess your core business processes and how software helps, hinders, optimizes, or ideally automates the steps required everyday to deliver on your customer promises.

Global Market for Print and Printed Packaging Output Reaches $826.5 Billion in 2019, Smithers Finds

Printing and printed packaging remains an important industry sector in 2019, with a value of more than $826 billion in sales supporting paper and substrate suppliers, ink makers, plate and cylinder suppliers, and high-tech printing equipment manufacturers. This article, adapted from a new Smithers report, looks at the future of global print to 2024.

Do Reviews Annoy Your Salespeople?

Which print sales people are compensated for a sale, and at what rate, is often part of a contractual relationship between the company and the sales representative, but not always. Sometimes the relationships are based on “how things have always been done” or verbal agreements. And not every deal brought in is a winner. As a result, some kind of periodic review is necessary for the business to effectively allocate its production resources. In Part 1 of a new series, Pat McGrew discusses sales review processes.

The Sourcing Group Brings Technology Expertise to Corporate Clients

At the recent EFI Connect 2020 conference, Lynn Smith from The Sourcing Group spoke on the customer panel, sharing The Sourcing Group’s unique story. We followed up with her afterward to get more details on this print-related Business Process Optimization (BPO) company.

Screen Printing Establishments—2017

The latest edition of County Business Patterns is out, which updates number of establishments and other data to 2017. In that year, there were 5,186 establishments in NAICS 323113 (Commercial Screen Printing). The majority of these establishments (74%) had fewer than 10 employees.

Around the Web: Printing Parkinson’s. Shedding Sheep. Shark Suit. Bartending ’Bots. Scorigami! Publishing Palaces. Canine Cans. Hog Hearses. Daliwood. Mobile Men’s Room. Junk Jam.

A new typeface raises awareness of, and helps fund a cure for, Parkinson’s Disease. Pineapple wool aims to replace sheep. A shark-proof wetsuit. Dye-sub transfer for non-polyester fibers. Japan experiments with robot bartenders. Private equity tries to acquire .org domain registry. Scorigami tracks rare football scores. Former newspaper headquarters have become luxury apartments. A Florida brewery puts pictures of adoptable rescue dogs on beer cans—and one woman finds her lost dog. Motorcycle hearses for uneasy riders. Salvador Dalí and Walt Disney once collaborated on an animated short film. “Uber for lavatories.” Faking a traffic jam on Google Maps. All that and more in WhatTheyThink’s weekly miscellany.

The Smartest Investor Ever Exits Newspapers—January 2020 M&A Activity

Berkshire Hathaway Gives Up on Newspapers, Transcontinental Embarks on Retail Strategy, Graphic Village Acquires Brand Consultancy, and more…

What Will AR Headsets Mean to Print Service Providers?

This article considers how the shift from mobile-based to headset-based augmented reality (AR) will impact augmented print offerings. It also explores when print service providers can expect to see the first mainstream AR headset and which company will likely introduce it.

Digital Textile Printing Unlocks the Supply Chain to Offer Speed Plus Sustainability

As the world’s second largest polluter, the textiles and apparel industry has placed a huge focus on improving supply chain management to reduce its environmental footprint. WhatTheyThink contributor and textiles expert Debbie McKeegan talks about how digital textile printing can be a key to this effort, unlocking the supply chain while offering speed and sustainability.

Marketers Are Starting to “Get” the Real Benefits of Personalization

According to data from Evergage/Research International, marketers are starting to “get” one of the most fundamental values of personalized experiences. Yes, personalization drives immediate sales, but more importantly, it creates better customer experiences and higher customer loyalty, which drive better ROI over time. The shift from a short-term to a long-term perspective is great news for everyone producing personalized campaigns, whether they are doing online personalization or not.  

The Carpeted Area of Your Print Business

We have spent decades focusing and optimizing the production floor (where there is no carpet). It is time to focus our energies on the carpeted areas of the business which impact customer’s perceptions of our business.

Shifting From an Omni-Channel to an Immersive Customer Experience

Omni-channel campaigns have become old hat; marketers today are looking beyond omni-channel to fully immersive customer experiences, often using augmented reality. Colorkarma’s Shoshana Burgett looks at some cutting-edge examples.

Corrugated Re-Envisioned—Part 3: Preprint (Print and Laminate) Even More Choices!

High color corrugated packaging is growing and will continue to grow. The run sizes are getting smaller to adapt to the new market requirements, and the opportunities for print service providers to jump on this moving train abound. In Part 3 of this series, I focus on the available preprint solutions with some limited product mentions. Selecting which method is better is really based on a lot of factors, including your market opportunities, capital investment, production costs, and internal skills. Although making that determination also involves board and run size as well. Both analog and digital presses are and will continue to be in the mix and grow. It’s a pretty exciting time with some great opportunities.

How George Brown College Is Addressing Workforce Needs and More in Textiles and Apparel

You can’t attend any textiles and apparel events or speak with industry professionals without the subject of workforce challenges arising. Senior Editor Cary Sherburne spoke with Marilyn McNeil-Morin about the Fashion Exchange program at Toronto’s George Brown College that has programs in place to help address these issues.

Graphic Arts Employment—December 2019

In December 2019, overall printing employment dropped -0.2% from November, and on a year-over-year basis, it is down -2.4%. Production employment was down -0.5% from November to December (and -4.4% Y/Y) while non-production employment was down -0.1% from November to December—but actually up +1.7% Y/Y.

Around the Web: Sustainable Straws. Mobile Meetings. Floating Fashion. Classic Critique. Latest Lenses. Fractious Footwear. Cleaver Calming,

The growing market for paper straws. A slow elevator designed for fast meetings. A paperboy helps save a restaurant from fire. A balloon-based fashion collection. A new book collects old airline maps. Another new book collects photographs of famous economists. Which classic novels are the most-loved—and most-hated? Contact lens-based displays. Are new running shoes “technological doping”? Merit badges for—oy—“adulting.” Three words: “meat cleaver massage.” All that and more in WhatTheyThink’s weekly miscellany.

Digital Color Print for Labels & Packaging: Aqueous Inkjet Is Rising

Although UV technology currently dominates the inkjet printing market, aqueous printing is gradually rising. This article provides a brief overview of the inkjet printing market and considers what the future may hold for UV and aqueous technologies.

EFI Connect 2020 Rounds Out a Year of Dramatic Change for the Company

EFI Connect 2020 marked the 21st year this user conference has been held, and the 13th year it has been hosted at the Wynn Hotel & Resort in Las Vegas. This edition marked a year of dramatic change for the company, with the departure of long-time CEO Guy Gecht, a short-lived CEO in Bill Muir, and an acquisition by Siris Group that took the company from public to private. EFI Connect 2020 was an opportunity for customers to gain first-hand insight into what these changes might mean for them.

Emerging and Transitional Economies Drive Growth for Retail-Ready Packaging, Says Smithers Market Report

Demand growth for retail-ready packaging is originating within emerging and transitional economies, with Asia-Pacific accounting for 4.5 million metric tons—nearly half the total global demand—according to Smithers’ latest report, The Future of Retail-Ready Packaging to 2024.

New Insight into Why Targeting Works

When we think about creating relevance in marketing communications, we think about personalizing based on traditional factors such as demographics and past purchases. But the principle of “liking” adds another useful dimension to the equation.

Solving Print Business Challenges with Software

Describe your business challenges: be specific, be precise. Then let go of any attachment to the “how this business challenge gets solved by print software.” You want your business challenges solved. One of the fastest ways to solve them is to describe them accurately and then to be open to all the possible solutions.

Corrugated Re-Envisioned Part 2—Direct Print (Post-Print) Lots of Choices!

In Part 2 of this series, I focus on the available digital post-print solutions with some limited product mentions. Leading up to drupa, I will cover some of the offerings in greater depth. All of the solutions discussed here are “single pass” printers, where the printheads are stationary and only the media moves. They include complete corrugating equipment with built in printing, to a tabletop printer with lots of other options in between. Equipment pricing ranges from in excess of $4MM to as low as $19K. In summary: Lots of Choices!

For Phoenix’s Custom Graphix, It’s a Banner Day

Since its founding in 2002, Phoenix, Ariz.’s Custom Graphix Signworks has cornered the market on that most commoditized of wide-format applications: banners. We spoke with Mladen Mike Mirkovic, founder and principal of Custom Graphix.

Prima-Tex Helps Customers Understand Differences Between Digital and Analog Textile Printing

At last month’s AATCC/SGIA Digital Textile Printing Conference 4.0, I had the pleasure of meeting Jonathan Tio and his brother Patrick of California-based Prima-Tex. His active and informed participation in the conference discussions were an inspiration, and he agreed to a subsequent interview for this article.

Here Is Your 2020 Sales Template

One of the most important activities at the start of the year is a quick review of the processes that go into ensuring the smooth flow of business. Often overlooked is how sales team members gather the information needed to bring a job into production, whether it is a new job or one that has been in production for years. Pat McGrew offers a template to use to standardize the information captured during the sales process.  

Commercial Printing Establishments—2017

The latest edition of County Business Patterns is out, which updates the number of establishments and other data. In 2017, there were 25,256 establishments in NAICS 323 (Printing and Related Support Activities). The majority of these establishments (71%) have fewer than 10 employees.

Around the Web: Lavatory Literature. Modulated Mummy. Ubiquitous Unicorns. Streaming Salvos. Tiny Type. Cranium Confusion. Forensic Flipping. Pigeon Parade.

“Facility” is a new print magazine all about bathrooms. Giving voice to a 3,000-year-old mummy. Op-eds from the future. The opening salvos in the streaming wars. Stores are compensating for poor packaging design choices. Dante’s Inferno for language pedants. The battle over a cryonically frozen head. A home renovation show that remodels crime scenes. A concerto for orchestra and typewriter. The Nevada Avian Milliner is back. Also: Robopigeon! Hide the statues! All that and more in WhatTheyThink’s weekly miscellany.

The Perfect Print: Understanding Resolution and Color

Any time textile professionals gather, color management is always a topic of discussion. It becomes even more complex when introducing digital fabric printing into the mix. WhatTheyThink contributor and textiles expert Debbie McKeegan shares insights on achieving the perfect print.

The Most Important Number(s) in 2020

As we enter another new decade, several points of disruption are expected to emerge. This article provides a brief overview of the developments that print service providers should be mindful of, as well as the financial and operational information that should be used for strategic business growth.

Purchasing a Web-to-Print Solution

You purchase software to solve business problems. When evaluating software, keep your focus on the challenges you want to solve. This will keep you open-minded about all the possible ways your challenges might be solved, rather than attachment to one specific solution.

Want More Donor Revenue? Write a Better Thank You Letter

Data insights and expert testimony tell a powerful tale: a nonprofit’s “thank you” letter matters more than many people might think. Get it right and donors feel great and are motivated to keep giving. Get it wrong and they disconnect. So get it right!

Packaging Preview: Corrugated Post-Print Re-Envisioned—Part 1

There are “two primary” corrugated print manufacturing processes for high graphics: a multi-process method of printing on a top sheet (liner) which is then laminated to the corrugated material, or, alternatively, a single process method of printing directly on the corrugated material, sometimes called “post-print.” In this article, we will look at the award-winning Bobst THQ (Très Haute Qualité) FlexoCloud technology focused on corrugated post-print production, and perhaps some alternative methods.

Direct Objects: Thinking—and Printing—Outside the Box

One of the most exciting growth areas in print today is direct-to-object (DtO) printing, but challenges of ink adhesion, transport, and feeding abound. I spoke with Peter Baldwin, Director of Marketing for East Dorset, Vt.’s Engineered Printing Solutions (EPS), about some of the issues—and opportunities—involved in direct-to-object printing.

Springs Creative Leverages 133 Years of Textile History for Today’s Digital Printing

At the AATCC/SGIA Digital Textile Printing Conference 4.0 last December, one of the high points was a presentation by Kathy Phillips, Vice President of Design/Trend at Springs Creative, a show-and-tell that highlighted the company’s rich history in textiles, beginning with the founding of the Fort Mill Manufacturing Company in 1887 by Samuel Elliot White. We talked with Phillips to get more detail on this fascinating story to share with our readers.

3D Printing: Seven Technologies and a Multitude of Materials

More than 30 years since the invention of 3D printing, a host of materials in addition to plastics—metals, alloys, composites, and biomaterials—are all used by companies worldwide to make everything from prototypes to finished goods. In this article, Pete Basiliere looks at the various 3D printing technologies and materials.

November Printing Shipments: Off for the Holidays

The value of printing shipments for November 2019 was $7.03 billion—a pretty big drop from October’s $7.65 billion, but we kind of expected it, as November and December see business slow down for the holidays.

Around the Web: Fabricating Food. Smart Sweats. Clever Kicks. Receipt Wrap. Slaking Slack. Erroneous Ebooks. Mellotron Music Musing.

3D-printed candy. Rechargeable workout clothes. Smart sneakers can improve your running form. A knitted scarf based on a CVS receipt. Living concrete. A new, more accurate typewriter font, for some reason. How Slack has ruined work. Library ebook provider Overdrive acquired by private equity firm. Why was there no ebook revolution in the 2010s? “The” most powerful word in the English language. A journey inside the Mellotron, one of the weirdest musical instruments. All that and more in WhatTheyThink’s weekly miscellany.

Print Remains a Vital Component of the Transactional Communications Mix

Although there is no denying that digital communications are becoming increasingly popular, consumers’ rising affinity for digital access does not necessarily mean that printed mail will fall to the wayside. Instead, InfoTrends’ research suggests that print will remain an important component of the overall communications mix. This article cites InfoTrends’ most recent transactional communications survey data to explore print’s changing role as market dynamics continue to shift.

The CEO’s Perspective

Peter Drucker once wrote that the one contribution a CEO is uniquely expected to make is to give others vision and the ability to perform. Leadership in an organization is important but to succeed, it requires motivated, energized, and engaged followers.

Creative Ways to Market in Print You Probably Haven’t Considered

Collection of print case studies showcasing how print can be used in ways that most of us have never considered. While many case studies showcase the high-end “most clients can’t afford this” kind of possibilities, these show the use of simple, traditional techniques in ways that make you stop and say, “I wish I’d thought of that!”

Optimize the Print Software You Own

Treat software like printing press hardware: assume your people and your processes have to change to optimize the new software rather than staying attached to how you think the software should work.

Good Chemistry: Wide-Format Inks Continue to Evolve—Part 1 of 2

Whether it be for production inkjet, packaging, wide format, or industrial printing, inks are evolving at a rapid pace to enable the fast-growing range of print applications. This article will offer a look at some of the recent developments specific to wide-format inks—and even more specific to solvent/eco-solvent and UV inks.

The Future of Corrugated—Lots of Opportunity and Lots of Choices!

One of the more active growth areas for print service providers and of digital printing equipment development is corrugated, and for good reason. Estimates of corrugated shipments in North America are in excess of 420 billion square feet and growing. Estimates for three or more color “high graphics” corrugated production is growing as well with actual output for 2019 anticipated to have 20%–30% share of the overall corrugated volume. Overall, this is an exciting market with a lot of growth potential.

Three Easy Sales Enhancers for Q1 2020

Every new year brings new opportunities to grow your business. From printers to the vendors who support them, there is an opportunity in every segment and in every size print shop. Pat McGrew identifies three main “sales enhancers” to add to your 2020 business plan.

unspun Delivers Size-Free Green Jeans On Demand

If you grew up, as I did, watching Captain Kangaroo, you’ll remember Mr. Green Jeans. These days, Green Jeans has an entirely different meaning, and San Francisco/Hong Kong based unspun set out to define the category.

Establishment Births/Deaths: Industry Attrition Continues to Slow

From 2015 to 2016, there had been an increase of 1,586 establishments, but a decrease of -1,881 establishments, for a net loss of -295 establishments. That’s a smaller percentage change than previous years, which reflects somewhat of a deceleration in industry consolidation.

Around the Web: Fur Fracas. Delivery Droid. Seen at CES. Audi’s Interior. Enhanced E Ink. Scrappy Scrabble. Bloody Billboard. Bivalve Boogie. Crazy Cats.

NYC’s proposed ban on fur (for fashion) causes a kerfuffle. A wearable plant vest that is...er, self-watering. A bipedal delivery robot is now for sale. Japan recycles cardboard to use as beds for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics competitors. A roundup of “highlights” from this week’s Consumer Electronics Show. “Charmin looks to disrupt the toilet experience with new technologies.” An inflatable pub for grown-up parties. At last: a color E Ink display. A deep dive into the history of the board game Scrabble—and the small Vermont town that used to manufacture all the letter tiles. A brilliant billboard advertising the new “Dracula” series. Two words: “disco clam.” Pro tip: don’t see the new “Cats” while tripping on LSD. All that and more in WhatTheyThink’s weekly miscellany.

2020: The Year of Data!

Up until now, technologies like cloud computing, data analytics, and artificial intelligence have largely been used independently. Moving forward, these solutions will begin to converge, building more sophisticated data-driven workflows. This article explores how 2020 will likely shape up to be a year of data.

Digital Pigment Gains Ground on Analog Production

In the printed textiles market, pigment inks are a hot topic due to their ability to print brilliant colors on a wide variety of fabrics, often without pre-treatment. WhatTheyThink contributor and textiles expert Debbie McKeegan explains why.

CMO Council Survey: Channel Choice Matters

To find out what consumers really think about channel preferences, the CMO Council surveyed 2,000 consumers in English-speaking countries across the world. The takeaway? Understanding, tracking, and responding to consumers’ channel preferences has never been more important.

SGP Adds a New Certification and Community Events for 2020

The Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP) is complementing its Printer certification with a Supplier certification, and in 2020 will be ramping up its outreach and education efforts with regional “lunch and learn” forums. We caught up with SGP’s Marci Kinter to talk about what’s new with SGP as we enter a new decade.

Meritocracy-Based Business Decisions

Technology is invading every corner of the print industry, and many print business owners are novices when it comes to technology. How do you make good business decisions when you are not the subject matter expert? Whom do you listen to? How do you know they are qualified? Run your business like a meritocracy.

Actega EcoLeaf (aka Nano Metallography) Digital Metallization Ready for Prime Time

At drupa 2016, Landa Labs introduced Nano Metallography, a new metallization technology to replace foils for embellishments. This process is designed to produce zero waste at less than half the cost of foil. In February of 2017, Actega Metal Print, a division of Altana AG, acquired the technology and rebranded it EcoLeaf. The solution is now going into beta and will be fully commercialized in time for drupa 2020.

Five Packaging Design Trends That Work

The packaging world is evolving across shape, form, and function. Agencies and designers have novel canvases to work with. Here are a few packaging trends being seen in various markets, and why each is unique. 

The Penguin’s Native Tongue is Now German—December 2019 M&A Activity

Bertelsmann Buys Balance of Penguin Random House, Ripon is Sold, Blackstone Invests in HH Global, and more…

Replicate the Real Thing

One of the fastest-growing applications in wide-format and industrial printing is textures. While a lot has been written about how these kinds of materials are printed, not much has been said about how these textures are created. This article looks at multi configuration scanners from METIS, used to capture high-quality, photorealistic reproductions of existing surfaces.

AATCC and SGIA Digital Textile Printing Conference 4.0 Another Huge Success

For the fourth straight year, AATCC and SGIA joined forces to bring the Digital Textile Printing Conference to the industry, a forum that addressed pressing issues and provided nearly 140 attendees with the ability to learn, network, and provide feedback that will help the associations continue to meet the needs of an evolving industry.

The Next Chapter in the Printing Profits “Tale of Two Cities”

Industry profits data for the third quarter of 2019 were down from $3.05 billion in Q2 to $2.65 billion. Large printers continue to be the trouble spot.

Around the Web: Decade Dilemmas. Fiber Fallout. Paper Packing. Tentacle Trouble. Nifty Notebooks. Clever Keyboard. Helping Hive.

What are technology’s biggest challenges for the next decade? What are the top emerging technologies? Are natural fibers better for the environment than artificial fibers? Paper-based alternative to Bubble Wrap. The eternal struggle: eagle vs. octopus. For sale: Alaskan newspaper. Cost: $0. A teenager installs a 1,500-pound mainframe computer in his parents’ basement. A portable roll-up keyboard for smartphones and tablets. The rebirth of cursive writing? Bees as service animals. Rejoice: Gary Larson’s “The Far Side” is now online! All that and more in WhatTheyThink’s weekly miscellany.

Reinventing the Craft Industry Utilizing Digital Textile Printing

The Maker movement continues to grow around the globe. In this post, WhatTheyThink contributor and textiles expert Debbie McKeegan outlines how digital technologies are spurring even further growth and opportunity in the UK market. These trends are relevant to North America as well, enabling creative individuals, designers, and artisans to build their own unique businesses and together generate a vibrant craft Industry in ever increasing numbers.

Effective Sales Training Starts with Strategy

Print service providers with the highest growth rates employ great salespeople, so investing in your salespeople makes sense—especially with the rapid rate of change in our industry. New technologies and evolving buyer behaviors leave us with no choice; we either continue to learn or we become obsolete. Print service providers often believe that sales training is the key to closing more deals. Although this is a sound belief, it’s only part of the story. This article explores ways to ensure that your sales training investment pays off.

Most Adults Don’t Learn Until They Have To

People in your organization have to keep learning new things so that you can continue to optimize your business using new tools (mostly software). Leadership’s job is to deliver the “have to” part of the learning equation.

10 Industry Changes That Make Me Grateful

Looking back, the industry has changed considerably in 20+ years. Here is a list of 10 changes for which I am grateful. How about you?

Three Things to Stop Doing in 2020

As 2020 approaches, it’s a great time to break bad habits that can be costing your business money. Pat McGrew identifies three bad habits for print businesses to break in 2020.

Drive Your Business at the Mailbox: Learn How to Design Better Direct Mail

Everyone loses when poorly designed pieces make it into the mail, so making direct mail better should be a priority for every print organization that even remotely touches the direct marketing segment. In this article, Elizabeth Gooding offers some best design practices for effective direct mail.

Executive Q&A: Massivit 3D’s Erez Zimerman

Lod, Israel’s Massivit 3D was founded in 2013, and in the past six years has made a substantial impact with its 3D printing technology. Erez Zimerman joined Massivit 3D four years ago as VP of Global Sales, and was appointed CEO in May 2019. We caught up with Zimerman at the recent PRINTING United show in Dallas.

Shimmy into the Digital Future with AI-Supported Training for Textile Workers

At the recent SPESA Executive Conference, I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah Krasley of Shimmy, a company that provides training for garment workers using gamification (to make it more engaging) and artificial intelligence for localization, among other things. With automation increasingly expected to eliminate jobs in the textiles and other industries, upskilling of these workers is a critical investment in our future—and theirs.

Around the Web: Gaga for Graphene! Vexing Valuation. DNA Data. Explaining Ecommerce. Sham Shipping. Stalking Signage. Mysterious Millinery.

A graphene jacket. A costly typo in Utah. Merriam Webster’s Word of the Year. The DNA of things”—creating materials with built-in memory. Intricate paper sculptures of microorganisms. Free shipping isn’t always free. User-tracking billboards—and with whom they share data. Who is putting hats on Las Vegas pigeons? KFC’s chicken-scented yule log. All that and more in WhatTheyThink’s weekly miscellany.

October Printing Shipments: Raise a Glass of Holiday Cheer

The value of printing shipments for October 2019 was $7.65 billion—a pretty big jump from September’s $7.14 billion. October has become the biggest month of the year, and this is the best October the industry has had since 2016.

Future-Proofing Your Workflow

2019 ushered in new levels of interest in improving and automating workflows, but the level of actual implementation was not as high as we would have hoped to see by now. This article explores some of the barriers to workflow automation and offers insight on overcoming them.

What’s the Point of Behavioral Assessments?

We can have the best business model—i.e., value proposition, profit formula, conversion process, technology, etc.—but if we don’t have qualified people suited to the jobs they hold, it all falls apart. Is this the sort of risk you are willing to take? Shouldn’t you give as much thought to hiring decisions as you do to equipment and software decisions?

Basic Personalization Isn’t Enough Anymore

Where are retailers along the curve of personalized marketing? What is the ROI? What works and what doesn’t? These were some of the questions Liveclicker wanted to answer with its report “Driving Value with Advanced Personalization.”  The takeaway? Basic personalization isn’t enough anymore.

What is Your Print Business Differentiation?

What do you provide for your sales team to get the upper hand in the marketplace? Do you have differentiation? Are you investing in something that will not only win new customers but keep existing ones?

Flexible Packaging with Inkjet Gets Fast and Wide

Uteco and Kodak have just announced that they sold the first UTECO Sapphire EVO W product production inkjet press designed for flexible packaging. The “W” refers to “Wide” since this press has a 1250 mm (49 in.) width. The EVO W is the first press to be powered by the Kodak ULTRASTREAM technology. The press supports a higher resolution of 600 x 1800 dpi at up to 150 mpm (492 fpm). Overall productivity can be 4X over existing digital solutions.

Wide-Format 2019: Where Are We Now?

As 2019 winds down, we take a look at the current state of wide-format printing. Where have we come, where are we now, and where are we going?