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EVP, Marketing at Specialty Print Communications

Against the Grain

By Dustin LeFebvre

About Dustin

A third-generation printer, Dustin LeFebvre delivers his vision for Specialty Print Communications as EVP, Marketing through strategy, planning and new product development. With a rich background ranging from sales and marketing to operations, quality control and procurement, Dustin takes a wide-angle approach to SPC

 

Is Color Inkjet Close to Crossing the Chasm?

 
It looks like four-color variable inkjet might be close to crossing the chasm.

Commercialized for years both in turnkey press form, as well as hybrid inline form, it seems color inkjet has charged past the innovators and is rapidly gaining traction with the early adopters. Many in the industry have been spending years on road shows, proselytizing in webinars and writing about it in magazines and online sources like PIworld.com.

Now, it seems that people have been listening all along. And the conversation has changed.

While the previous discussions were often derailed as prospective users tried to wrap their minds around how to fit the technology into their plans, today’s conversations typically focus on cost, quality, and other production issues.

Don’t get me wrong. Some people are still trying to force projects that should be produced conventionally using plate changes into digital projects. Still, others fail to understand the cost drivers of the new technology and how they differ from conventional printing. But despite these hurdles, real progress is being made.

And where many prospective users are still asking for test prints and imaging samples, others are sufficiently comfortable with the new technology that they’re fully bypassing this step. Whereas sales and onboarding used to take many months, it’s now happening organically; often in just days.

We recently had a customer who was mailing millions of pieces to businesses across the country. When we received files and data, we realized that the company had over 50 co-marketing partners, and each partner’s four-color logo would require a complete set of plates. We suggested the alternative of using a channel of variable color imaging on our inline offset press to save time and money.

While in the past, we might have been met with hesitation or questions about the technology, we were greeted with appreciation and excitement for helping to make things easier and more efficient. That felt pretty good for a change!

When Geoffrey Moore wrote "Crossing The Chasm" in 1991 detailing the early startup period of high tech products, who would have thought that we printers would be following his book more than two decades later? His book describes a “technology adoption lifecycle” among five segments of actors: innovators, early adopters, the early majority, the late majority and laggards. Now that the early adopters of four-color variable inkjet are getting comfortable, buckle your safety belt while we steam ahead towards the chasm that divides us from the early majority. The laggards won’t know what hit them...or what they’ve been missing.

So take heart on two accounts. First, that color inkjet is increasingly gaining traction. Many of us have invested years and large sums of investment dollars because we believe in its ability to transform marketing communications. And second, take heart that we ARE in the technology business. Printing is anything but static, and progress and investment—as well as marketing acumen—are imperative ingredients for long-term success. And as long as we follow Moore’s prescription, we should be alright in the end.

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