I thought print was already dead?

Remember print? It died about seven years ago.

They used paper and put ink on it to make images and people could read it without downloading, you turned a page and it didn’t lag, the next page simply appeared, weird.

You could recycle it in your household recycling bins and it employed over 265,000 Australians. What? Print didn’t die? You mean all those rumours, articles and ‘experts’ predicting its demise were wrong? What happened then? And what is print today?

Yes, we’ve all heard the rhetoric, print is dead.

I remain forever amused that the ATO, sent a print postcard in 2014 with a cartoon dinosaur on the front and a statement ‘Print is Extinct’. The irony that they needed to send this communication via print was certainly not lost on me. Since then, of course our industry has continued to evolve and strengthen.

In fact, print over the past twelve months has grown. From 2016/17 to 2017/18 the Australian print industry has grown by half a billion dollars total revenue. With paper imports declining in the same year by about 3-4%, yet topline revenue increasing, what we can begin to determine is that the print industry is transitioning from selling units alone to something more. When we analyse the market a little closer, what do these figures actually reveal and what trends should we be aware of to drive our businesses and industry further?

What innovations and opportunities are ahead for our industry to ensure we deliver excellence? How can we continue to excite our customers to remain inspired by print and all that it offers? It’s become a bit of a catch-cry, however I stand by it, and believe the industry should embrace it – we are only limited by our imaginations. The innovations across print application and digital technologies is astonishing. Running standard reprints without offering an option to ‘add some wow-factor’ when you’re working with your customers, is never going to assist you in standing out in a competitive market.

Customers also need to be guided, there is no doubt, they are not print experts nor print innovation experts. Nor should they be. They understand the end result, what they can give to their customers. This is the translation we as an industry need to provide. We must deliver excellence and innovation via the application. Thinking through the language we use when we talk to our customers is also critical – forget technical print specs and talk to the results. Instead of ‘this is a CMYK, silver spot and UV coating on an A2 grade smooth vellum’ the conversation with our customers should be ‘bringing the silver hit, gives your logo prominence and the UV coating highlights the image and also gives your brand piece a better luxe and quality feel. We have found your target customer group is three times more likely to buy from quality brands.BMW did something similar and achieved a six per cent sales uplift.’

The conversation is common to the end result, however entirely different in execution and further, more meaningful to your customer.

In our member sales briefings, I encourage all our teams to change the sales dialogue. Moving it from a commodity sales discussion to one of value. This transition across your sales approach is something many of our industry are embracing and I firmly believe the result of increased industry revenue with lower units is part of this emerging trend. We’re starting to sell value, we’re selling services, embellishments and solutions. We have a long way to go, much more to develop, however the industry is starting to turn and this is our greatest opportunity.

Of course, understanding the innovations locally and across the world is critical. We need to push our suppliers for more innovation, more research and development, more investment. Better Burger in New Zealand is a take away chain that developed edible packaging. The original owner was driving to work and saw highway litter was mainly from take-away food products and he determined his chain would be better. Better Burger wrappers and packaging is 100% edible made from rice papers and soy inks.

The Netherlands government developed a campaign to raise awareness of HIV. The piece is a cream stock with a spot red special throughout. The first page states “this piece was printed using HIV positive ink….that’s not how you catch HIV”. And on continues the awareness raising throughout the publication. They did in fact put HIV positive ink from over 30 patients into the red ink which featured throughout the publication. Think through the emotional impact such a statement made when holding the printed piece in your hand. Pushing print and ink usage to a more meaningful and connected level.

Of course, digital print technologies are also advancing at a rapid rate. Web digital print solutions, delivering personalised catalogues and magazines. Silver foiling and UV coatings with embossing now being offered through digital solutions, offering customised imagery and messaging whilst still holding strong embellishment outcomes. Our very own Open Up to Mail campaign promoting direct mail is all about the exploration of digital solutions with our trade and supply partners who are keen to showcase their technologies.

The VoPP Mag, the Direct Issue, saw 10,000 PURLs developed and delivered via a QR code. Each cover was unique using image placement technology and 1,693 personalised notes (I should know I hand wrote them all) with an additional four personalised streams were written to boost engagement, response and that all important ‘wow-factor’.

The VoPP site carries many of these print innovations, so please explore them. Encourage your sales teams to ‘change the conversation’ to seek value conversations and inspire your customers. Print is not dead, print is very much alive and it is our job to sell its vibrancy.

Kellie Northwood is the Chief Executive Officer of The Real Media Collective, an industry Association representing the paper, print, mail, publishing and distribution companies across the Australian and New Zealand landscape.

Northwood also holds the Executive Director position for the Australasian Paper Industry Association (APIA).

For more information contact: 03 9421 2296 or hello@thermc.com.au
For more information specific to the VoPP campaign go to: www.vopp.com.au


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