Sibling Revelry - Not Rivalry —DanaAugust 2010
A funny thing happened over the past year or so: Corporate and agency print buyers and printers grew more and more like each other. Sure, there's still tension between those who manufacture and sell print, and those who buy it. That's natural. Customers have the upper hand—haven't they always?—not solely because they have choices galore: there are more than 30,000 printing companies in this country alone. The supply so outstrips the demand for print that buyers can shop till they (or prices) drop low enough to suit them.
Quality is less of an issue than it's ever been, not only because printing technology has improved so much, but also because newer generations of print customers don't seem to rank quality very high these days—or what's worse, they just don't know good print quality when they see it. It's enough to bring strong printers to their knees.
For now, put aside the intrinsic wariness in the print buyer/seller business relationship. Buyers will always look for the best deals, no matter what they're buying. The search for the perfect print partner is more competitive because there's a veritable cornucopia of print manufacturing options for customers these days. E-commerce-only print sites, "real" brick-and-mortar printers, and print and copy centers in big-box stores, give corporate and agency buyers more choices than they can handle, plus they can source print off-shore.
Shopper's paradise? Perhaps. But for many, it's more like shopper's madness—so confusing are the options.
Focus instead on how much printers have in common with their customers, the corporate and agency buyers and print designers. To wit:
• Both have a deep commitment to, and affinity for, print as a medium.
• Both consider themselves printing specialists.
• Both speak the secret language of print.
• Both have felt personal and/or economic pain from the effects of the recession on the printing industry.
• Both need to defend print as a preferred medium when the situation calls for it. What's the ROI of a printed campaign when compared with other media? Printers need to be able to articulate this to their customers, who in turn need to convince their own employers.
• Both need to understand how newer, electronic media are measurable and how they best integrate with print. And this demands that they figure out how to measure print's effectiveness.