Years ago…back in the 80’s when VCR’s were being introduced, word on the street
was that the movie theater would no longer be needed. Conventional opinion was that nobody would want to, or need to go to a movie theater, since you would now be able to rent movies and watch them in the comfort of your own home. Never mind that the rates weren’t that much different from a movie ticket, but, then again, you could have a group of people watch for only one rental price.
Fast forward decades and the movie theater didn’t fade away, in fact, they grew. Megaplex movie theaters emerged with lots of lights and glam. Although the viewing rooms were made smaller to accommodate many movies, investors made improvements in chair comfort, big screen, big sound and then there’s the IMax. You can’t get that experience at home. The successful movie theaters committed themselves to making positive changes to the movie experience. The theater industry not only grew despite the threat from the movie rentals, but boomed. Who would have thought?
That VCR explosion makes me think about the internet explosion and the conventional opinion that print will no longer be needed. Like the movie rental industry, there will be those situations where the digital version trumps the print version. But what an opportunity for the printing industry to re-invent itself and come out booming.
In our desperate wish to be seen as informed and intelligent, we are complicating our lives. Information is accessible today by so many mediums, radio, television, the internet, print and mobile applications. How could we not be smarter and more sophisticated than earlier generations? But sometimes, all this information makes me feel over-whelmed, not smarter. I’m going out on a limb admitting this, and I’m convinced that many people will not want to risk agreeing for fear of appearing ignorant. It reminds me of the story about the emperor’s new clothes.
Hans Christian Andersen’s story is about an emperor who pays a lot of money for some new magic clothes, which he’s told, “can only be seen by wise people” The clothes do not really exist, but the emperor does not admit he cannot see them, because that would mean he was not wise. Everyone else pretends to see the clothes too because, well, they don’t want to be seen as stupid either. It isn’t until a child shouts, “The emperor has no clothes on!” that the people realize how silly they’ve been.
Like the people in the fairy tale, we often agree to absurd ideas because we are afraid to appear ignorant. When will the child in us say enough is enough?
I’m paying a lot of attention lately to television commercials. It’s gotten me to thinking…if I had to create a commercial for Ussery Printing, what would it be?
Allstate Insurance cleverly uses a man in their ads called mayhem. “Mayhem” gets into all kinds of trouble to illustrate the idea that if you comparison shop for insurance you might want to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples in coverage. Boy, that sounds familiar. Printing specifications are typically open to interpretation that could mislead a client to choose a cheaper option, only to discover they are not happy with their results. What a great way to illustrate the difference in costs.
Yesterday I watched a commercial for Bassett Furniture show-casing their designer fabrics and their design team assistance while choosing furniture. In the same hour was another commercial for The Dump (also a furniture company); their pitch was for low-interest rates and no payments for three years. I’m confident Bassett also offers great interest rates but the focus of their ads was on the custom fabric options and designer assistance. Both sell furniture and both know the client base they are after.
Some printers focus very well on niche markets and this is good strategy until their niche market experiences a decline. Some printers are project driven and will print just about everything and anything. This is a good strategy too since they are able to handle the various declines in different markets, but then, they’re not investing in work-flow efficiencies as well as the niche printer.
We’ve struggled the last few years developing new markets…just like most printers. Some have gone the MSP route, and that’s an excellent choice for those printers who can add data management staff and marketers to their current printing staff. What about the rest of us? Do we continue to wait until the buyers return to their pre-recession buying levels? I don’t think we should because, as a 30-year veteran of printing, I don’t believe we will ever return to those levels.
So, getting back to my original musing…what would a commercial for Ussery Printing look like? Maybe that’s the creative thought-process we should talk about, if only to rediscover who we are and what we want to be in the future.
Jenga is a balancing game played with 54 slender wooden blocks. It challenges the players mental skills and agility. To begin, all the wooden blocks are stacked on top of each other (this is not the challenging part) three to a tier until it is 18 levels tall. Once the tower is built, the game begins and each player takes a turn choosing a block to remove. The goal is to remove a block from the guts of the tower without it toppling over. After that, the player is then required to place the block they removed on the top of the stack, again, without the tower falling down. As the game progresses the tower becomes less and less stable, when eventually it falls over.
I’ve talked with clients in corporate America who feel like their jobs are becoming an endless game of Jenga. As people are “tapped out” of their jobs and not replaced, workloads become increasingly hard to balance. The remaining workers must deal with the overwhelming instability, as it takes a toll on their ability to do their jobs well. Although the tower hasn’t fallen for most of corporate America, the precariousness is felt throughout the company as job duties grow beyond a fair balance.
But, what about those Jenga blocks that are added to the top of the wooden pile? What are they representative of?
The last few days I’ve been in and out of the office attending a local conference. Lots of kudos go to the people who did the hard work to create the concept, hire the speakers and manage the entire production.
We had a table at the conference and we were thankful for the people who stopped by to talk with us. Some were hesitant, some only want their bingo charts marked so they could participate in a drawing, and then there were those who truly had interest.
Marketing exposure is so important but even more so when the economy gets tight. But, it’s usually one of the first cuts companies make to save money and it’s just the opposite of what should be done. Jim David, our VP of Marketing just released his “Marketing Minute” email that resonated loud and clear…ending with the statement: “Creativity is important, but repetition gets results. A little of the former and a lot of the latter can make you the picture of success.”
It’s not unusual for a person to be many things. I’m a writer, a printer and a dancer. I also know what I’m not, I’m not a pianist, a race-car driver or a therapist. Although I could pound out a few notes on a piano, I could drive my car really fast if I wanted to, and I could give advice to a friend, but I’m not trained, naturally talented or educated for those things.
It’s also not unusual for a printer to be many things. I can consult, print, manage and fulfill complex and challenging projects. I also know what I’m not.
The latest popular trend is for print companies to rename themselves as marketing services providers, but I’m not trained, naturally talented or educated to do that. Although, there are those who do have the marketing skills to provide this service, I would guess that most printers don’t. So why the rush to say you’re something you’re not?
I can tell people I’m a 5’10” blond, but when I walk in the door and you see a 5’5″ brunette you’re going to know I’m not who I told you I was. Although I can alter my hair color to give you an impression of who I want to be, I can’t change the physical attributes of who I really am. I am a printer.
Environmental responsibility has a price tag…what can you afford?
I think most people consider themselves to be environmentally responsible as much as they are able to, and as long as it doesn’t interfere with their comfort level. Most recycle paper, plastic and glass for sure. BUT, do you drink from plastic throw-away (but recyclable) bottles? Do you still drive a gas fueled automobile? Do you own a cell phone, computer, TV and appliances? If so, do you know how the parts to these electronics are recycled?
Do you consider the impact e-waste has on our planet?
Paper recycling has been around for years. Printers were one of the first to recycle their scrap from press and bindery operations along with the building industry who recycles their scrap wood and sawdust. By-the-way, wood used for building materials is nearly twice what printing & publishing uses. Our forests are now managed for paper and pulp harvesting. By managed, we mean they are grown, harvested and replanted; trees are natural and sustainable.
Do you know how e-waste is recycled? Go ahead….Google it.