Originally published in Issue 4 / 2017 of Specialist Printing Worldwide, Ford Bowers reports on the SGIA’s survey on branding and messaging
As many businesses do, SGIA has launched a study on branding and messaging to better serve the communities represented in our Association. We surveyed more than 1,200 member and non-member printers across different print segments including commercial, packaging, graphics and sign, garment/apparel, and industrial. The results, as they concern the Association, are still being compiled, but there were some industry insights that are worth sharing now. Overall the survey respondents had a great deal of optimism about their company prospects, with nine out of 10 answering that they expected their business to grow over the next five years. That said, they also reported a host of challenges they face in three broad areas: keeping up with the pace of change in technology and product types (such as media, inks, etc.); human resource issues (hiring qualified employees, employee retention and attracting millennials); and increased competition (lower barriers to entry with digital production, industry consolidation and online printers).
How the various respondents would like these issues addressed also falls into very broad and well-established mechanisms, though the impression is that there is room for improvement. At the top of the list were more robust industry research, trade show and regional or local meetings (e.g. networking opportunities), case studies, and eNewsletters highlighting industry trends, best practices, news and technical updates. The channels identified for where this information is currently obtained were (in ranked order): online searches and websites, publications and magazines, eNewsletters, and experts in the field (suppliers, consultants, etc.) – with eNewsletters and experts ranking equally. Online resources ranking highest may say something about how habits have changed, and about how well traditional channels, such as printed publications, address what is conveyed principally in writing. Networking was rated as a high-value proposition by both suppliers and printers, but, no surprise here, suppliers were primarily looking for business engagement opportunities, while printers were looking for an opportunity to learn and get advice from peers – an important perspective for suppliers as to how they address networking opportunities. Without doubt, networking opportunities are still a critical method for learning and gaining insight among various segments.
Many of the respondents have multi-technology approaches to printing, be it offset and screen, or screen and pad, etc. But nearly four out of five had adopted some form of production inkjet, by far the most ubiquitous method among the respondents. The concern that barriers to entry have diminished as a result of digital is also supported by what we see anecdotally in the marketplace, as businesses cross over into adjacent markets and product lines based on digital technology adoption. The feeling that competition is more intense and changing is well-founded.
A word on millennials
We have heard testimony from many business managers and owners for several years that reaching out to millennials, to attract them to the industry and engage them on their terms, is a challenge. The study highlights a few specific areas of divergence in perceived value of certain types of services.
When asked about the desirability of a ‘youth leadership group,’ the responses were inversely proportional to age, with younger respondents weighing this more favourably than older. Likewise, the same held true for ‘interest in online communities.’ While we should be careful not to extrapolate too much beyond the specific context of this study, it would make sense that suppliers wishing to cater to millennial printers, or printers wishing to the same for millennial print buyers, would also hold true. Interest in targeting specific communities with events was more valued by older respondents than younger. If we wish to attract more millennials, supporting their careers specifically and incorporating mechanisms that reflect their preferred method of interaction is critical.
When asked to describe the printing industry with a single word, the highest incidence across all respondents leaned towards ‘creative, innovative, changing.’ Interestingly, the younger a respondent, the less likely they were to correlate printing to these qualities (though ‘artistic’ was attributed more highly by the 35-and-younger group). Industry affinity scored high across the board, with more than four out of five agreeing with each of the following statements: ‘I am proud to be a part of the printing industry’; ‘I find my job/work rewarding and meaningful’; and ‘I have a chance to do what I do best every day.’ Three out of four were both optimistic about their career path and, if given the opportunity, would choose to enter printing again. This is a good indicator of industry health and engagement and should be trumpeted as often as possible.
Ford Bowers is President & CEO of SGIA
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