Thursday, June 08, 2006


The “Newness Crisis” Revisited

Almost four years ago, I wrote about a "newness" crisis in the printing industry. I contrasted it with the "now-ness" of the consumer market. At the time, the consumer economy was being bombarded with technologies, like cellphones and the Internet that allowed consumers their first real taste of the "wherever-whenever" economy.

The "now-ness" trend is still playing out with growing use of broadband to access information and entertainment at any time,and wherever we want.

When products, even old ones, are introduced to new ranges of customers, they are perceived as "new." In the "now-ness" world, does anything really seem "new" anymore? Targeted campaigns built on narrow data bases, specialty magazines, and the "buzz" among small groups of communities are signs that the mass marketing of the past that gave a general sense of "newness" to consumers, is almost gone.

Four years ago, I contended that the amount of "newness" in the economy was a driver of print demand. The demand for printing is often derived from companies needing new support materials, new ads, new product literature, and just the general need for spreading information about new products.

Lack of "newness" has been a factor in disappointing print demand. "Newness" typically requires heavy transmission of information. If it's new, you've got to communicate it, because people use information to understand it. Newness has traditionally driven demand for brochures, training materials, advertising campaigns, and so many other uses for print.

New markets, new products, changing regulations, mergers and acquisitions constantly churn and create the need for new printed materials. Or do they?

The lack of economy-wide sense of newness served as an opening for alternatives and substitutes to sneak into our marketplace. I warned that we needed widespread newness to really stimulate demand for print, that it didn't look like it was coming anytime soon. I said that the seeds for widespread change in communications were being planted at that time, but we hadn't seen the sprouts come out of the ground yet.

I then offered advice. I noted that when there is corporate cost-cutting, printers needed to get into clients' offices with ideas and solutions that help them reduce costs, take over tasks, stimulate sales, and facilitate communications. “Now is a more important time than ever to realize that it's not a printing business, it's a persuasion and facilitation business. But printers often have to be persuaded to consider facilitating anything beyond keeping their presses busy,” I wrote.

While "newness" ain't what it used to be, it's essential to look for it where we can. In client companies it's things like:
Despite the general sense that things are not as new or vibrant as they used to be, cultivating a sense of newness in a marketplace is still essential. Decision-makers, needs, wants, competition, technologies, and other factors are always changing. Sometimes, however, we tend to write them off and not recognize them. People are busy. People are being bombarded with communications all of the time, much of it ignored as "noise." That means that the communications task is harder and must be more skillfully implemented.How can one be vigilant for those signs of "newness" that create change and stimulate the need to communicate? Do you do any of these?
Then what? If you have nothing to propose to them, none of this is worthwhile. Are you suggesting pre-show direct mail campaigns to attendees? Working to fulfill information requests for brochures? Managing e-mail campaigns? Supplying PDF and HTML versions of brochure content for company websites? Provide compelling design and implementation strategies that get noticed? Offering template driven web to print services?

Opportunities to leverage newness are always there if one knows where to look. Clients may not even be aware that they have communications opportunities they are leaving untapped. Sometimes they just don't have the time to deal with all of them. Clients have trouble implementing their communications in a market where "now-ness" is so critical. Who says printers don't have opportunities any more?

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