Getting Peanut Butter on Your Chocolate

If you’re a person of a certain age, you will probably remember those 1970’s TV commercials for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. One of the earliest featured the young heartthrob Robby Benson walking down the street eating peanut butter (never mind how strange THAT was) and running headfirst into a pre-Happy Days Donny Most eating chocolate. Their snacks get mixed together and they exclaim, “Hey you got peanut butter on my chocolate!” “Well, you got chocolate on my peanut butter!” They taste the mixed concoction; declare it tastes great together, and discover Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, courtesy of the pretty girl who distracted them in the first place.

I was reminded of this commercial series recently while sitting around a table with a group of printers who were discoursing on the current state of the industry. I was hearing that business is starting to pick up after last year, but the commoditization of print is making pricing ever more cut throat. In some areas, jobs are being priced at less than the cost of paper. One of the group declared that he no longer wants to be considered a commercial printer, and mentioned that in the past year, he’d changed his company name, hired several programmers and has moved head first into offering an entire suite of marketing-driven programs to his clients, of which print will still be a part. Basically, he went out and got peanut butter on the chocolate—and he’s found a whole new market around the mixture.

The conversation then circled around a topic that’s being mulled over and chewed upon a great deal today, and it strikes at the very core of our identity as an industry. Are we a manufacturing industry {i.e. “printer”] or are we now a service industry [marketing service provider, cross-media publisher, graphic communication company or flavor-of-the-week descriptor that means “not just a printer”]?

Julie Shaffer is Vice President, Digital Technologies at Printing Industries of America. She heads up the Digital Printing Council (DPC), as well as the Center for Digital Printing Excellence at Printing Industries headquarters in Sewickley, PA. In her position, Julie plays a lead role in developing programs and tools to help members grow their businesses with digital technologies.

Known for her graphic production expertise, Julie has a 20-plus year background in pre-media and print. She is often called upon for training, presentations and to provide on-site consulting throughout the industry on diverse range of topics, including PDF, color management, digital printing, social media and Web-to-print implementation. Julie is co-author of several books, including "The PDF Print Production Guide" (1st, 2nd and 3rd edition), the "Web-to-Print Primer" and the forthcoming "Field Guide to Social Media."

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  • http://RichardSohanchyk Richard Sohanchyk

    If you are branding yourself as just a printer, you are dead. I started as a design studio who added printing and got a store front. My name went from Gregory Richard Design to to OnPoint Image & Design. I sell marketing in any shape or form; offline and online: logo design, websites, digital newsletters. Tons of signs. I take in far more orders for banners and signs than I do for business cards.

    Commodification has killed print shops. I don’t care how much volume you do, how can you sell 5,000 brochures for $95 and make money? It’s insane. When my storefront lease runs out, I intend to move back into a corporate park. I don’t even want street traffic anymore.

  • http://BrianShultz Brian Shultz


    Do you get most of your sign and banner orders online rather than through street traffic? If so, how are they finding you online? Are you buying keywords to drive traffic to your site or are you advertising or a combination of both?

    We would love to do the same thing you are but are afraid of not being found online!