Select Page

Do we need to inject more sex appeal into printing?

[image width=”600″ height=”283″][/image]

Recently, a focus of my reading and writing has been the dismal image that the Australian printing industry paints of itself.

Many industry writers do little more than reinforce the negatives – the number of companies that are going out of business; the downturn in turnover; the lack of new blood.

We hear it almost every day, in the trade magazines, by email, and, of course, the gossip machine.

It was refreshing, therefore, to read a very recent article in ProPrint that proclaimed “Printing is as strong as ever”.

Jeffrey Hayzlett, former CMO for Kodak, answered this leading question from interviewer Graham Plant:

“In Australia… do you think we are witnessing the demise of print as a viable marketing and communication medium?”

His answer was a resounding… “NO.”

“In fact”, he said, “I think print is as strong as ever. The issue is the overcapacity of print right now, which is the problem in the market.”

“Print is still very effective”, he proclaimed.

“Printers… are very process driven, which is important because they’re in the manufacturing business. They manufacture more one-off products than any other business in the world. They manufacture print the same way that car makers produce cars, but they do it one product at a time, and more of them.

“Printers are the most efficient manufacturers in the world, bar none.”

At last! Someone who truly sees value in what the undervalued practitioners of this trade keep doing, doing, doing.

But is it enough? I suspect not.

I am coming to the suspicion that the root of the poor perception of the viability of the Australian printing industry lies in the Australian printing industry’s own poor perception of itself.

The printing industry has lost a lot of its lustre and appeal, especially for younger generations, who no longer see it as an attractive career path.

Almost a year ago, Adam Newman bemoaned this lack of appeal. In an article in ProPrint, entitled “Industry’s image issues create generation gap”, he wrote:

“Despite offering dynamic career opportunities, print lacks the ‘cool’ factor to attract Gen Y.

“The printing industry is a powerhouse. It is a wonderful and traditional industry that is intrinsically linked to craft, meaning career advancement requires people to do their time, pay their dues and prove their worth. There is nothing wrong with this old-school attitude, other than that it takes time – lots of time.

“Working in print is miles ahead of working in other industries. We create things you can hold in your hand. Presses and machinery and installations are cool. The printing industry offers international opportunities above and beyond a design or PR firm. How many web designers get to fly to Drupa or complete hands-on training in the US?

“Why is printing being overlooked by the younger generation? As I see it, the answer is two-fold. First, the generation gap between leaders of our industry and Gen Y is too great; there is a natural but systemic mistrust that runs both ways. Sadly, I don’t know a quick fix to this problem.

“Secondly (and more fixable) is printing’s major image problem. We need to send a clear, unified message that it is an innovative, exciting industry to work in – and it is – and push that through the university system by investing in development. Until that is done, we will continue missing out on the brightest, youngest things.”

In an even more recent article, pleading “Don’t let a generation turn its back on print”, Adam concluded “There’s no silver bullet when it comes to attracting new entrants, but a bit of pride would help.”

Is that what’s missing? Pride?

Coincidentally, this wake-up call has come on the eve of the LIA Heidelberg 2012 Graduate of the Year awards. An event which holds a bit more meaning for me than usual, as my eldest niece, an employee in our family printing business, has been nominated as a finalist.

As proud as I am of her achievements and those of the other finalists, I wonder if the LIA and other industry bodies could be doing more to promote the appeal of printing as a career to school leavers, or to TAFE and college graduands.

The JPE, too, has come under fire for being overly conservative. “The organisation with an official mandate to represent youth in the industry has done no favours in fostering an environment to attract talented young people to print.” (Adam Newman)

The recent announcement of the closure of the RMIT print training school because it has been unable to attract enough students could be a resounding blow to our dwindling confidence in ourselves and in the future for new entrants.

So, what might be done to improve the industry’s self image? Perhaps the answer lies in SEX APPEAL. After all – we are always told by marketers that “sex sells”! But the printing industry? Sexy?

By now, we have all read descriptions of Landa Corporation’s launch of nano-printing technology, at Drupa, last month. Those of us lucky enough to attend one of the much-anticipated presentations can attest to the definite presence of sex appeal in the showmanship, in the futuristic machinery with enormous doses of eye-candy and iAppeal, and the orgasmic promise of things to come in the next few years.

[image width=”600″ height=”399″][/image]

As Gerry Mulvaney said, writing for Graphic Display World after returning from Drupa: “I am left with the impression of printing as a sexy industry. It certainly wasn’t before Drupa, but while I can understand people having their pictures taken standing next to the latest Ferrari or movie star, I couldn’t quite get over seeing so many people wanting to have their photograph taken while stood next to one of the Landa Nanographic printing presses. Every day, without fail, there were people queuing up to have their pictures taken in front of the Landa presses. Surely printing cannot be that sexy – or perhaps it is?”

If Benny Landa does nothing more than raise the sex appeal of the printing industry world-wide – then he will have achieved something of real importance.

Just before Drupa, Laurel Brunner wrote a two-part article for OUTPUT entitled “Is print sexy?” In it she advocated that “Print is uniquely physical. Like all media it expresses concepts, ideas and information, but it stimulates response using more subtle, tactile techniques. We have a singularly intimate and very physical relationship with print, because it appeals to virtually all of our senses.

“It’s personal and intimate, stimulating and arousing. It provokes responses beyond our control and it can leave us breathless, desperate for more and longing for the next encounter. It teases us with visual excitement, emotional engagement, tantalises us with its touch and smell. It’s a constantly evolving relationship, sensual and private, evoking a kaleidoscope of desires and passions. It’s a form of communication that stands alone in human experience, and only one other thing even begins to come close. Can there be any doubt that print is indeed deeply and profoundly sexy?”

For some of us, this industry is our life. Our livelihood. And our lifelong passion. How can we make sure our “passion for print” becomes more contagious? We need to infect everyone we come in contact with. We need to unashamedly share this disease.

“Passion for print” may not be as easy to catch as an STD, but it IS a communicable disease – in both senses of the word. It is an infection that we want to reach pandemic proportions. Every one of us should be doing our best to communicate our passion and to inject some sex appeal into our industry whenever and wherever we can.

Our challenge is to reinforce the sex appeal of print in ourselves, to promote it vigourously to our customers and, most importantly, to seduce the next generation to come and join the orgy.

Further reading:
Is Print Sexy? – Laurel Brunner, OUTPUT
Printing is as Strong as Ever – Graham Plant, ProPrint
Benny Landa’s Marketing Clinic at Drupa Fired Up the Printing Industry – Katherine O’Brien, OutputLinks
Don’t let a generation turn its back on print – Adam Newman, ProPrint
Industry’s image issues create a generation gap – Adam Newman, ProPrint
Final thoughts from Benny Landa’s Drupa – Gerry Mulvaney, Graphic Display World