I struggle with this. I have been thinking about it for a long time in fact. The general public associates “printing” with a desktop laser or inkjet printer. They’re clueless about commercial printing. This is not going to change.
And those ridiculous marketing messages encouraging us to “save a tree and go paperless” are everywhere. They’re not helping educate people about the medium, the magic, and the value of print.
On top of that, every one of us has a cornucopia of digital means of communication to choose from. We’re all using them. And many are free.
These realities make it difficult to talk about print as the channel of choice for marketers and other businesspeople.
Yet the printing industry has been evolving in ways that laypeople don’t recognize. They don’t even know about it. I think many still believe that commercial printers (if they even know what this means) just run printing presses and do nothing else.
To combat this myth and reflect their own evolution, some printing companies have changed their names. Out with “Printing,” in with “Media” or “Marketing.”
I admit, when this trend started I was skeptical. Today, I think that those printing companies that rebranded themselves were visionaries. Of course they still print, but they do a lot more. They have added marketing expertise, data expertise, full-blown campaign development and management expertise. Not all of them, but many. (You know who you are.)
Recently I did some research about how early in the process a marketer invites a commercial printer to that table. As you might expect, those invitations are few and far between. This has to change for the print industry’s sake. Modern print companies provide campaign solutions and multichannel strategy that are valuable to customers, but if the printer’s not sitting there at that table, how does the information get shared?
I think too many marketers equate printing with manufacturing, and only with manufacturing.
This identity crisis is a major challenge for the print industry. How do you rise above an outdated perception without turning your back on your core business?
I think it has to be done individually, company by company. It requires a carefully planned balance between promoting your print production expertise and services with information about everything else you do. How you describe and define your company matters tremendously, and this includes your online presence and every other type of prospecting material. Photos of most printers’ buildings and presses typically don’t help; they date you and your company.
I don’t have all the answers. As I said, I struggle with this. But it needs to be dealt with.