“Brands Favour Print’s Value”

Exclusive interview with Mathew Faulkner, EMEA Senior Marketing Manager for Canon Europe’s Professional Print business

Recently Canon launched its Insight Report, the latest EMEA research exploring the attitudes, needs and expectations of communication and print buyers, to help print providers identify opportunities and challenges in the market today. The report reveals a number of interesting and insightful facts. For example, based on the findings of the report fewer than 20% of printers and in-house print rooms are fulfilling the needs of print buyers or more than a third (33%) of today’s marketing budget is devoted to print. But perhaps the most interesting finding of this report is that many buyers believe that print will continue to remain important. In order to dig deeper into data provided by this study we talked to Mathew Faulkner, EMEA Senior Marketing Manager for Canon Europe’s Professional Print business.

Do you think Covid made print more relevant or less? Why?

Marketers were already under pressure to reach multiple audiences, with complex messages, via a growing range of channels, using limited budgets. COVID has intensified these pressures, removing some tried-and-tested channels and forcing brands to be agile in responding to a changing landscape and consumer behaviour.

Our research shows that brands are spending more of their budget on digital, but they are worried about whether it can continue to give them the results they need. At a time when most face-to-face communication is on hold and has been replaced by digital touchpoints, marketers are seeing real proof of digital fatigue in their target audiences. Judging by an increase in unsubscribes, opt-outs and ad blocking, many consumers are disengaging from digital marketing.

Research Canon conducted in association with ME Printer in 2020 revealed that brands favour print’s value, despite the trend towards digitisation. The EMEA-wide Insight Report reinforces this confidence in print as a creative, authoritative and trusted medium.

So, there’s never been a better time for PSPs to remind brands that print has the power to break people away from their screens and cut through the digital fog, which makes it particularly effective. In the wake of COVID, PSPs have a clear opportunity to highlight print’s USPs (unique selling points) and emphasise that it can be cost-effective, fast to market, agile, responsive and ultra-targeted.

In the Insight Report you mentioned brands who currently spend at least a quarter of their communications budget on print expect it to become more important, what about Canon? Are you planning to increase your print marketing budget?

Actually, the Insight Report reveals that brands are spending as much as a third (33%) of their marketing budget on print.

Canon faces the same challenges as any other global organisation with a diverse range of products and services, targeted at multiple audiences. To reach them, we must use a complex mix of analogue and digital channels, with carefully chosen tactics along the customer journey. And, like any large organisation, we have to tailor our channel choices to each audience and reflect the consumer behaviours and nuances of each geographical region.

We strongly believe in print as a vital part of the marketing mix and promote its unique attributes, internally and to the market at large. Like all brands, Canon looks to use print’s creative impact, reach and authority in multiple ways to support our multi-channel marketing campaigns. For example, through printed direct marketing brochures and other printed sales and marketing collateral, high quality photobooks, customer publications, educational materials, print media and OOH (out of home) advertising and so on.

According to your report brands are calling for more input from PSP’s. They expect PSP’s to offer them consultation and different options, but PSP’s also expect their equipment suppliers such as Canon offer them solutions beyond the box. They want to know how can they use and manage hybrid workflows, how to integrate digital printing with traditional offset printing, what is Canon approach to help PSP’s work more efficiently?

We’ve started by using the findings from the Insight Report to draw up a 10-point checklist of behaviours for success, which we’re calling the ‘Make it Mantra’. It’s designed to remind print professionals that lasting success comes when they exceed their buyers’ expectations.

For example, we’re encouraging PSPs to work harder to interrogate briefs and go the extra mile to demonstrate their knowledge. In doing so, they will be able to build more opportunities for print by showing how it can be used at different stages along the customer journey to achieve a better return on investment from marketing campaigns.

It’s supported by a growing bank of mentor-led educational content that gives print businesses more guidance on how to implement these behaviours in their everyday work.

In the Middle East, Canon has a direct sales relationship with its customers in UAE, KSA and Qatar, using a dedicated team who specialise in digital print technology solutions. Canon also has a network of channel partners to support the additional Middle Eastern countries to provide a dynamic and evolving programme of content and knowledge-sharing that has been shaped to the region’s customers’ needs. This dedicated approach helps our resellers to equip their PSPs with the necessary expertise to help them make better decisions that will enable them to grow and protect their bottom line.

Knowing how to get the most out of their print and finishing investments, as well as optimising their workflows is only one side of the print professional’s pathway to success. Canon’s direct operations and authorised partners are also pivotal in ensuring that our customers (both PSPs and in-house print professionals) become more consultative and harness the opportunity to build a closer working relationship with brand marketers, i.e., the people who buy print.

There is no doubt print advertising is more reliable than digital marketing, although brands are well aware of this fact (including Canon, I suppose) They are slashing their marketing budget even before pandemic hit the globe and they are reluctant to advertise in print media, so many publications are forced to close down and the number of PSP’s also dwindling and subsequently equipment manufacturers face a shrinking market. It is a vicious cycle. In an apocalyptic scenario soon there will be no more magazine to advertise. Do you think this is inevitable?  

Brands have certainly told us that their marketing campaigns perform better when they use a mix of digital and analogue channels, including print. In fact, 40% of the respondents said that they would invest more in print if budget were no object, because of the positive impact it has on their campaign outcomes.

However, the real challenge for print is the widely held view among marketers that print isn’t trackable or measurable, so they can’t calculate its contribution within a campaign. One in three respondents told us that they have no way of measuring the success of print campaigns. Digital marketing, on the other hand, is superficially easy to measure. Marketers can get instant feedback in the form of click throughs and open rates, Google Analytics, web and social media traffic data.

Ultimately, brands will gravitate towards the media channels that reach their target audiences and deliver the greatest return on investment. In a specialist sector such as professional print, it’s logical that specialist publications with genuine influence with decision-makers will be recognised as an effective channel.

Brands value print because it is creative, trusted, authoritative and enables them to reach audiences that can be difficult to engage digitally. Trusted trade publications have an opportunity to emphasise these attributes, if media owners can demonstrate that they understand the audience and deliver creative propositions for brands that address the fundamental importance of measurability.











Many brands are now looking for innovative ideas such as AR, QR codes etc. which is something that PSP’s can offer them. Does Canon have a plan or solution to offer to PSP’s in order to help them bring these innovative ideas to the market? 

We’re always looking for ways to support PSPs and enable them to maximise growth opportunities in the market. Augmented Reality (AR) is just one technology that is poised to transform marketing by delivering immersive experiences with the potential to engage audiences from all backgrounds and generations. Brands have seen the creative scope of AR and how it can give customers an enriched experience of a product or service.

Print is an essential part of the multi-channel customer journey and can function as a familiar ‘launch pad’ into the virtual space. By gaining a solid understanding of what AR can do, PSPs have an important role to play in helping brands find the best way to lead the consumer into the online environment, which also has the advantage of making it possible to measure print’s role in the campaign.

At Canon, we have several initiatives designed to help current and prospective Canon customers stay abreast of trends and developments in online and offline communications. For example, the Future Promotion Forum covers the whole spectrum of omni-channel marketing communication topics and how different media can be used to increase sales success and marketing ROI.

In addition, we produce a range of mentor-led content, including guidance on Extended Reality (XR), giving PSPs knowledge that will help them to add value in conversation with their print buyers.

Having identified the vital importance of measurability to brands in the latest Insight Report, we’re working hard through 2021 to build PSPs’ confidence to talk about measurement, and

E commerce and web to print are gaining momentum and Corona crisis is also giving them a boost, what is Canon’s approach to these popular trends? What sort of solutions you are offering to your customers to take advantage of these trends?

One key success factor for many PSPs in the last year has been the ability to interact with customers digitally and to onboard jobs online, with minimal manual intervention. This has led to increased recognition of the need to adopt web-to-print capabilities.

We’ve seen an uplift in demand from PSPs for ways to improve production line automation, including pre-flighting and printing. Using our PRISMA production solutions, PSPs have been able to cut manual intervention and turnaround times, while the EFI Digital StoreFront solution has been invaluable for PSPs looking to establish a customer-facing self-service web-to-print interface, allowing print buyers to create and submit their own jobs for production.

By innovating and sharpening their business processes, including web-to-print, PSPs can put the time they save to good use. These solutions enable them to be more creative, build a more consultative relationship with their customers, and update their product and service portfolio accordingly. All of these prepare the ground for increased customer satisfaction and repeat business.

Direct mail campaigns proved to be quite successful, it is even more successful if it is targeted and personalized.  On the paper personalisation which is perhaps the strongest attribute of digital printing is yet to take the world by storm, where is the problem in your opinion?

If a PSP has digital print-on-demand capability, then they also have the capacity to personalise print. And there are certainly clear opportunities for brands to make their printed applications even more effective by adding an element of personalisation.

But, while most brands collect customer data in some form, there’s a tendency for marketers to equate data with online marketing, and to ignore its potential to make print marketing more targeted or individual.

To close this knowledge gap and access this opportunity, PSPs need to be having more exploratory, consultative conversations with buyers, identifying the areas where personalisation or individualisation could add real value by increasing the relevance and emotional impact of communications.

What are Canon solutions to help PSP’s offer personalised print products to their customers? I am not talking only about hardware, I am talking about software, workflow etc…

The Canon software portfolio for production print includes various software tools that enable PSPs to create personalised assets, from straightforward variable data applications, right through to tools to support sophisticated multi-channel campaign management.

Using a combination of Canon’s PRISMAprepare and a third-party solution called PrintShop Mail, we are able to deliver personalised print solutions for the Arabic language.

We also offer a comprehensive range of educational content to help customers understand the potential of personalisation and think about how they could build this into their value proposition.

Sustainability is not a buzzword anymore and now that pandemic forced many of us to work from home the sustainability begins at home, especially when we are using printers or any multifunction devices, what is Canon’s approach to sustainability during these strange times? New designs, new consumables, less waste?  

As you would expect from a technology innovator like Canon, sustainability is a high priority within our continuous product development programme. We’ve made great strides in making our print production technology more environmentally responsible, for example with reduced energy usage, and with innovations that help customers to reduce waste and maximise productivity and efficiency.

But, while we can make strides to improve individual technologies, true sustainability gains for PSPs come from end-to-end workflow optimisation, which makes the business operationally efficient and reduces waste in every area. So, what’s good for the PSP’s bottom line is also good for the environment.

I think it’s also important that we as an industry work to dispel the consumer myth that print is environmentally harmful. We need the marketing community to understand that well-targeted print is one of the most sustainable communications media available. We have an opportunity to remind brands that digital print on demand allows them to order smaller print runs, just in time, and tailor production to need. So, they can be smart and more targeted in how they use print.

Ultimately, we must look beyond the print engine and support PSPs to implement future-proof business models that help their customers to produce print that is aligned to their needs, without over-ordering or holding inventory. We have many incredible print-on-demand success stories in segments like book production, which are making entire value chains more sustainable. The potential to deliver significant advances that impact the printer, the buyer and the end customer is really exciting.

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