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Tom Marin

Building Brands

By Tom Marin

About Tom

Tom Marin is the managing partner of and provides corporate and brand strategy to organizations of all sizes. He has an extensive background in the graphic arts, printing, publishing and media industries. Marin is an accredited member of the national and international chapters of the Business Marketing Assn., is a (CBC) certified business communicator and a past marketing chair of the Chicago chapter.


The Printing Industry Once Again Misses the Point

The print vs. digital debate raged in recent weeks between the Printing Industries of America (download the open letter as a pdf) and the founders of Google. Michael Makin is PIA’s President and CEO. His primary arguments are:
  • we all need to protect the environment,
  • Google uses a lot of energy running its servers, and
  • its Go Paperless Initiative requires the use of non-renewable resources.

Great points really, and no argument here.

On the other hand, Google and its partners have seen the technology-transition writing on the wall—or (computer screen and tablets) is probably more accurate. Adding fuel to the fire is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stating the average American office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year. And, according to the American Forest & Paper Assn., in 2010, the amount of paper recovered for recycling averaged 334 pounds for each person living in the United States.

Google and its digital partners developed a website under the name of “The Paperless Coalition.” The website promotes:
  • Google Drive – cloud storage
  • HelloFax – online faxing
  • Manilla –online bill management
  • HelloSign – e-Signatures
  • Expensify – online expense reports
  • Xero – online business accounting
  • Fujitsu ScanSnap scanners

But what is at the heart of their argument? Frankly, it seems to be the natural genesis of a conventional analog industry being moved by the market to go digital.

At the heart of the PIA’s problems lies its shrinking membership. What about all of the printing industry employees who have lost their jobs in an industry that has shrunk by nearly 50 percent in the past 20 years? And by most estimates, the industry will continue to shrink and layoff more employees each year.

And what about all of the wholesale service and manufacturing companies that have drastically shrunk their workforces, not to mention the enormous conventional film companies that are no longer with us?
At the heart of the debate is the long-term viability of print. Major books have been written on the subject; we’re not going to decide the printing industry’s fate in this blog post. But it does seem fairly obvious that the market will ultimately decide how much is or isn’t printed, regardless what PIA or Google—or any other organization, for that matter—thinks.

We could look back to the debate that raged when the automobile was first introduced. The horse, at that time, was the primary mode of transportation. The auto industry, led by Mr. Ford, rated its engine in “horsepower” and that’s something that’s continued to this day. Buggy makers were outraged, as were the wholesalers that produced companion products.

One company understood it was in the leather business, not the transportation business. That company was Coach and it continues to do well even today. The company transitioned from buggy seats to leather for trains and high-end automobiles, and a host of other products—such as purses, cases and wallets. Saddle companies, on the other hand, went out of business.

The printing industry has to figure out—sooner rather than later—that it’s in the communications business, not the printing industry, or suffer the same fate of the saddle makers of years past.

Tom Wants To Hear Your Branding Issues:
Tom Marin, Managing Partner of MarketCues, wants to hear from you! Follow MarketCues on Twitter for branding and social media tips - as well as the latest trends. Tom also welcomes emails, new LinkedIn connections, calls to 407.330.7708 or visit How can he help solve your branding issues?

Note: If you are a printing company or product/services company serving the print-media market, and would like to be considered for a feature in this blog, please contact Tom Marin for an interview.

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