Why Was ESKOWorld Worth My Time?
Most vendors have learned the value of user group meetings. They bring together their customers and their product teams, open the door to learn more about customer requirements, and build a sense of community that leads to customer loyalty. The team behind ESKOWorld, the North American user conference for users of Esko packaging, printing and finishing solutions, accepted their mission and, with the help of their customer advisory council, created a well thought out agenda that addressed the needs of over 500 users and 100 brand owners and agencies.
One of the harder things to do at these conferences is to provide guidance on the product roadmaps. A company like Esko is managing more than a dozen products, each with enthusiastic customers looking for guidance, and a passionate product team wanting to share. At ESKOWorld the solution to sharing the roadmaps for the large product set came in two shots: an innovative set of short presentations by the product managers during the opening and dedicated roadmap sessions.
For customers not familiar with the range of offerings, that overview from the product managers was an excellent way to bring everyone up to speed. Whether it was a 20-year-old product like ArtiosCAD or a newer set of products like Studio or Keyshot, everyone gave you a reason to want to learn more. How can you resist wanting to know more about Studio, a product that allows you to see things that do not currently exist and to create variations before deciding on the final execution? Even the Automation Engine has had a makeover with a new browser-based user interface.
Another hard thing to program is the keynote, but this was not an issue. Dr. Alan Beaulieu of ITR Economics brought one of the best overviews of the economics of the market we live in, with a good dose of which things to pay attention to and why. One of his more interesting points was that organizations must drive efficiencies to grow — a key element of the workflow story — but also that marketing is an essential element due to the competition.
There were two special interest tracks during the show: Executive and Brand. In each case, the presentations were designed to meet the needs of specific constituents.
Brand owners and the agencies that serve them are one of the most sought after demographics on the user conference circuit, and Esko did an excellent job of bringing in top brands and agencies. The track was a mix of product discussions and end-user stories, with an emphasis on managing assets and workflows to ensure brand color consistency and approved use of assets. Part of the story was told through the eyes of the MediaBeacon team, who manage the Digital Asset Management (DAM) solution.
The strength of MediaBeacon is its reconfigurability, a must for power users in enterprise brand management settings. It is a growing product line, as indicated by their prediction of 150% growth next year. From their survey of 150 brand executives across North America and EMEA they learned that 85% of respondents will be investing in creating and managing omnichannel experiences this year, and 61% say they will be increasing their use of rich media over the next two years, but half of their respondents don’t have a DAM. Moving forward without a robust DAM and approval process solution puts those initiatives at risk.
Another key element of the Brand track was the discussion of color. Everyone had stories of mismatched color across different delivery environments, and there was a great session presented by X-Rite that talked about the challenges of meeting brand requirements. An important take-away was that color is contextual, impacted by adjacent colors, lighting, and the substrate. Using PantoneLive, they showed how yellows change across substrates, especially for packaging substrates and textiles. That hit home to the attendees, who also heard that more than a quarter of the Pantone lab study group didn’t know how to get a specific color on a substrate.
The Brand track is on course to continue to grow and attract brand owners charged with ensuring the veracity of their brand colors across multiple substrates and delivery mechanisms. As packaging becomes more integrated into the brand story, the Esko tools are well positioned to aid brand owners.
The focus of the Executive Summit was to talk strategy and involve key Esko partners in discussions with business leaders in the Esko community. In addition to the partner sessions, there were also presentations from Esko team members designed to bring a taste of both the near and far future to the attendees. As we see in most conferences these days, there was also a discussion of the impact of the Internet of Things (IoT), and how packaging has already begun to change to meet the needs of packaging designers and converters.
Adding electronic components is a part of that future providing opportunities to cause packaging to change colors, add heat, add cooling, and even announce itself. Dries Vandenbussche, Director of Ideation for Esko, described how the Kongsberg cutting tables could become part of an IoT ecosystem and provide analytics and even prescriptive data to enable proactive consumable order placement. The challenge of workflow will be to keep up with the touchpoints these innovations bring.
One of the benefits of attending as an analyst is the chance to hear from the senior leadership. The dedicated press session featured Jan de Roeck, the Solutions Management director, as the emcee for a series of presentations covering not only the featured talk tracks, but an overview of where Esko fits into the Danaher family of products. Joakim Weidermanis, the vice president and group executive for the Product Identification products (where Esko lives in the Danaher world), did an excellent job of positioning the importance of Esko to the portfolio, and the commitment to their future. Udo Panenka, president of Esko, told us how Packaging Simplified isn’t just a tagline for Esko, but the driver behind their feature development. The rest of the management team talked us through their products, features and philosophies, all of which point to continued innovation.
One of the points made during both the opening session for the conference and the press session was that we are truly part of the “me” cycle in consumer communication. It has changed how people participate in events, partly driven by the rise of the selfie. One of the images shown was a campaign rally where the candidate was standing at the front of the venue, and most of the audience had their back turned so that they could snap a selfie with the candidate. Carrying the theme, I did the same thing.
But a picture doesn’t always tell the full story. In the post-conference press kit we received this picture, taken at the same time.
There is every reason to look forward to the next EskoWorld. If you want to see more of what happened at EskoWorld 2017, click this link! Was EskoWorld 2017 worth my time? Yes, it was.
Pat McGrew, M-EDP, CMP is the Director and Evangelist for the Production Workflow Service at InfoTrends. As an analyst and industry educator, McGrew works with InfoTrends customers and its clients to promote workflow effectiveness. She also has a background in data-driven customer communication, and production printing with offset, inkjet, and toner. Co-author of eight industry books, editor of "A Guide to the Electronic Document Body of Knowledge," and regular writer in the industry trade press, McGrew won the 2014 #GirlsWhoPrint Girlie Award for her dedication to education and communication in the industry, and the 2016 Brian Platte Lifetime Achievement Award from Xplor International. Find Pat on Twitter as @PatMcGrew and LinkedIn.