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Some time back, I was sitting in a presentation and up front was a senior representative from one of the major printer manufacturers. He was there to tell us more about the green credentials of the company’s latest technology, but he also took the opportunity to talk excitedly about the speed and performance of these new printers.

At this point he was interrupted. Interrupted by an astute man who runs a very successful wide format printing business; a business that has already invested significantly in a whole arsenal of wide, flatbed and superwide format printing systems.

What he had to say was simple, to the point, and absolutely accurate. He stated: “We do not need faster printers, the printers we already have sit idle quite a lot of the time. What we do now need is more work. We need you to use your marketing resources to get us more work. Once that is secured, we’ll buy more printers, more ink, and more media.”

And he had a perfectly valid point. Perhaps now is the time for the big manufacturers and suppliers to look at the wide format sign and display print market from a different perspective.

Currently they spend all of their time and resources on marketing to the customer who might buy their printer, their ink or their media. They grow their market share by shouting louder than their competitors.

But there is a problem. We are rapidly reaching the point where everyone that needs a printer now has a printer. What’s more, the reliability and performance of these printers is now such that there will be no need for an upgrade in the foreseeable future.

So the market has to grow. And who better to grow that market than the big brands with the big marketing budgets?

'Impossible,’ some might say. ‘It’s simply not our responsibility.'

However, before they dismiss the thought, and get back to shouting louder about the latest faster, better, must-have printing solution, they’d do well to take a look at a recent project sponsored by 3M.

The other key sponsor was the Discovery Channel, the respected broadcaster of edutainment TV that can boast a worldwide audience of 2.7 billion viewers in 220 countries. Now that’s an audience with the potential to grow an industry and increase demand.

The event they were sponsoring was a vehicle wrapping competition held at a consumer car tuning show. That’s right, 3M was not at the local sign show demonstrating its already established products to an already established customer base; instead, it was at a consumer show bringing its products and the concept of vehicle wrapping to a brand new audience of car enthusiasts and tuners.

Even if you forget the involvement of the Discovery Channel, 3M attending a consumer show to promote the vehicle-wrapping concept is fantastic. The company is marketing to the consumers of signage, they are creating demand, and they are promoting themselves to fresh eyes.

I like that sort of innovative thinking, and it works so well. I mean, let’s face it, 3M products are expensive. Excellent indeed – and arguably the best you can get in the business – however, the fact remains that the products are expensive. Consequently, a lot of sign shops opt for less expensive wrapping films.

But with this marketing initiative, the probability of a car guy walking into a sign shop and asking to have his car wrapped in 3M materials has just increased dramatically.

So Mr Marketing Man at Manufacturer A, my plea is this: Put down your brochure, because it’s just the same as the brochure you made 15 years ago and only the numbers and a few of the buzzwords have changed. Do something different. Create demand, help grow our industry. Because then everyone wins.