Blowing Up the Status Quo Benefits the Entire Industry
I attended my first printing industry trade show in 1995 and was awestruck by the size of the booths, the amount of people in the halls and the unmistakable sound of paper running through presses and finishing equipment.
It was an industry of craftsmen siloed primarily by printing technology, and there seemed to be at least one, if not multiple, shows for each silo. Just in the commercial printing space alone (which primarily consisted of sheetfed and heatset web offset technology), there was Graph Expo, The Gutenberg Show, The Charlotte Show, Graphics of the Americas, Midwest Graphics, GC3 and Southwest Graphics. Printers interested in the emerging on-demand/digital printing market attended The On Demand Show. Seybold provided education and exhibits for the prepress and desktop publishing niche. Newspaper printers (primarily coldset web operations) attended NEXPO or America East. If you printed on packaging there was CMM, CPP, InfoFlex, Pack Expo and Label Expo, to name a few, and if you were a garment, screen or sign printer, SGIA was your destination.
Shiny New Objects
Over time, the industry evolved, consolidated and felt the impacts of the digital revolution. The printing industry was under siege from marketers and publishers that flocked to shiny new objects like digital advertising, Web publishing, ebooks and digital signage. The pendulum was quickly moving away from print to anything and everything digital. Yet, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and savvy printers understood that they had to diversify their businesses or become extinct.
Printers rebranded as “marketing services providers” and realized they had to offer more than their current portfolios to survive and thrive. They invested in fulfillment services, mailing services, creative services, promotional products distribution and data management. In an attempt to be a one-stop shop, they consulted with their clients and invested in digital printing, wide-format and packaging equipment, expanding their printing capabilities to better serve their clients’ needs.
But Silos Remained
Unfortunately, throughout this rapidly changing marketplace, the trade shows and associations remained in silos and were slow to adapt their service offerings, forcing printers to attend multiple events to adequately vet new technologies. This also forced the OEMs to increase their overall trade show spending and thus participate in a variety of shows.
Over the years, I’ve had countless conversations with printers and OEMs, asking for this to change. They were looking for someone to take a risk and blow up the status quo in order to better serve the industry. It was obvious to me that the current model was broken, but I didn’t have a good answer as to how to address the challenges.
Then I met Ford Bowers, president and CEO of SGIA, and everything changed. Ford was a printer who saw first-hand the convergence that was occurring in the market and he wanted to create a platform that could solve a number of the industry’s issues. His challenge, ironically, was one driven by success: the SGIA Expo was continuing to grow in attendance and in booth space. In fact, it’s in its sixth sell-out year. So, if it isn’t broke, why fix it?
The answer was simple: the industry was changing, and someone needed to create a solution that addressed the needs of the entire graphic arts industry, not just a slice of it. Yes, SGIA is strong now, but the past does not guarantee the future, and Ford was convinced the rewards would be worth the risk and printers and suppliers would benefit from a single, broad platform.
Learning and Innovation
Physicist William Pollard once said, “Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”
PRINTING United is not only a strategic response to what the industry has been asking for, it’s an attempt to innovate and provide a better solution and platform for the challenges of tomorrow. PRINTING United will create one large venue where printers will be able to see and investigate all types of printing technologies. The concept is simple: if you can lay ink on it, we want to showcase it at PRINTING United.
PRINTING United is designed to help the entire industry flourish. Our research clearly indicates that convergence is rampant in our industry. PRINTING United is well-suited for those commercial printers considering adding label, folding carton and signage/graphics to their portfolios. It’s designed for the signage/graphics printers that are expanding into commercial, packaging and industrial applications. It’s also for the garment printers looking to add commercial and signage applications, and for the industrial printers that are trying to understand how these technologies fit within their manufacturing process. (For more info on this research, please download Convergence in the Print Industry: Understanding Growth Opportunities and Competition.)
Every industry deals with disruption, and I believe that you can either let it consume you or you can take the steps necessary to embrace it. I realize that a media company partnering with an association to launch a new trade exhibition may seem unconventional, but we believe that’s exactly the type of radical change this industry is asking for. Our relationship with SGIA, through PRINTING United, will provide more than a three-day show experience. It will establish a platform that allows for a year-long conversation of how we as an industry can address the challenges, opportunities and convergence that we are all experiencing.
Walt Disney said, “Time and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future.” The goal of PRINTING United is to listen intently to the market and stay focused on the future to ensure the success and growth of all market segments within the graphic arts industry.
Related story: An Opportunity to Change the Industry for the Better
Dave Leskusky is President of NAPCO Media, the parent company of Printing Impressions, In-Plant Graphics, packagePRINTING and Wide-Format Impressions. He has been passionate about creating, selling and executing marketing solutions to the printing industry since 1995 and served as publisher of Printing Impressions for more than a decade.