Such a strange industry! Heidelberg and Fujifilm announce a collaboration (www.fujifilm.com/news/n131105.html
), and most people I know within the industry did not even know about it.
Well, I was not all that surprised since I had heard from a few EU-based sources that a unique collaboration was under way—simply that a German press manufacturer and a Japanese technologies giant had decided to join forces and “create new markets with (their) cutting-edge technologies.”
Once I realized that the technology giant was not SONY (which seemed strange, though I had heard the SONY was rethinking ancillary, not directly related markets) and the German firm was mentioned as the grey Frau, I checked with my sources to ask if the collaboration was between Heidelberg and Fujifilm. Yes was the answer I heard from all.
Then, like magic, the press release appeared, and the collaboration was announced.
Not much of an announcement, but enough to get me in the investigatory mood and make me start digging up "stuff." And, as I delved into my sources, I began mixing conjecture with fact, trying to decide what was true and what was not, like playing the game “True or False.”
First, this is a very cool and very powerful alliance. These firms are truly giants and they offer the right combination of history, market share, installed base and technology to make this venture a success. Two giants on the bookends of the print business have decided to develop something (which could be special or new or impressive). That something can be many things. As the press release indicates, it will incorporate the “commercial and packaging markets as well as being global.” The term “inkjet” was also used—so far so good.
It is important to note (true or false) that the something that will come out of this collaboration is being developed based on in-depth interviews with the end users. These end users are not so much printers as they are large corporations, enterprises and firms that will hire printers to get things done.
I have been told from a variety of sources (true or false) that the need for printing in the future is not going to based on current “stuff” but will be more like the concept car ideas being offered by the big auto manufacturers. These concept cars contain a lot of neat, cool things, technological stuff not all of which makes it into that year’s production model. The term “future” is the key term here.
True or false, the sales effort will be very different. There will be no major marketing effort (brand awareness is contained in the installed base and the aging equipment within the installed base), though of course these new guys in town will be looking to install profit-based new equipment to fulfill their goals of controlling the manufacturing process from concept to the true end—consumer distribution.
True or false, targeting via a joint national sales team, the main effort driven by the two partners (or maybe additional partners waiting in the shadows to be added to the team, true or false) will focus on direct selling outside the printer community.
Why? Well, once not so long ago, a print equipment guru told me that most manufacturers see printers as being like those who never finish reading a book. They buy the book, read about 70 percent of the story line, and select the ending that best fits their need at the time (sort of an on-demand ending). Also, this guru stated that most printers do not have a long game; they are too focused on surviving the month to worry about the year or, per the joint release, the next the years. Corporations, on the other hand, always have a long game.
I think that the collaboration will look to in-plant type installations, offering this new product to those that they interviewed, those that assisted them in defining the new future of new print. Sure, if a printer is interested, well and good. They, too, can buy one or more of this new product, service and/or concept.
For those in the media looking for big budgets to spend on print space, digital marketing and the like, I think you will also see a different external marketing effort. I do not see a massive ad or marketing campaign, nor do I see an extensive integrated marketing campaign. Nah, that is the old way. You cannot usher in a new era (new print) with an old plan and old-style thinking and marketing.
This marketing plan, this introduction (as I see it) will be event-driven, perhaps by invitation only and highly targeted via the joint national sales teams. The red carpet will be forever known as the magenta carpet.
In any case, I am excited, for this industry collaboration was and is needed, and fits the need I have discussed in this space in the past, for within and without industry consultation. Seeing that a product will be based on what the markets need now, what the markets want and will use, makes me as happy as pig in mud.
This collaboration is as much a manufacturing and idea convergence as media convergence is the future route to find consumers’ buying sweet spot. My congratulations to both Heidelberg and Fujifilm.
Yes, this could be the advent of the future manufacturing.
Sure, I see this potentially damaging the print industry as an independent industry, but I also see this as the steroid needed to get hiring up and new plants (in house) started, and as a fresh new wind that will overtake the somewhat dull, currently zephyr-laden world of old print.
This wind originates not with the dreams of some unknown firm, but orientates from the reputations of two truly great, experienced, and profit-driven corporations, Heidelberg and Fujifilm. This is capitalism at its best.
What will the product be? To be honest that does not matter as much as the act of collaboration. Sure both the giants have been involved in other JVs which may or may not have ended in paradise, but times are different, people have changed (as has the industry) and the demand for the products the industry offers has evolved as well.
I wish I could say that Heidelberg and Fujifilm read my blog describing product consolidation and product convergence and said, “Wow, that Kubis guy is a bright fellow, let's collaborate, let’s convergence, let’s profit.”
Maybe they did; dreams do come true.