The disruption of print

The phrase ‘disruptive innovation’ has been around for over 20 years. In his 1997 book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen launched the phrase that has since become synonymous with innovation and transformation. With a legacy of ink on paper and the evolution of all things internet, digital technologies and trends have become major print industry disruptors, forcing generations of print professionals to struggle for survival, while leaving many to proclaim print’s premature death.

Leading the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies, Industry 4.0 is driving printers to become more efficient, streamline their processes and stop mistakes before they result in customer experience nightmares. New print automation technologies, finishing, inks, papers and more have resulted in an industry pivot that’s driving the need for a new way to market and sell printing solutions that create memorable and relevant customer experiences. This brand differentiator is predicted to surpass price and product by 2020, according to experts. World-renowned entrepreneur, marketer and publishing guru Seth Godin’s keynote at Print 18 shone a spotlight on the customer experience and reminded printers that (to paraphrase) “you’re not selling print; you’re selling a story your customer can tell their boss.”

You don’t sell ink on paper – you sell a feeling!

Selling feelings is not something that most printers are comfortable doing. Selling machines, quality output, services and features fall in their comfort zone. For printers to stake their claim and abolish the stigma many still associate with print, requires a mindset shift. It requires a disruption – and that disruption is marketing. When you can pinpoint what’s motivating your buyer, you can develop, and sell, print solutions that help them achieve their goals. To do that, you need data that comes from a variety of sources including your website, your CRM, and anywhere conversations are taking place. This is the stuff of a marketer’s dreams. According to, the demand for market research analysts is expected to grow by a huge 19% by 2022, per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is much faster than average, putting the market research analyst as one of the 10 most-in-demand jobs in 2018.

During Print 18, I asked 30 exhibitors and visitors 10 yes-or-no questions to see just how market-ready we are for the workplace revolution happening next year, when more than half the workforce will be made up of millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996). Roughly 77% of the people I surveyed have internal marketing departments and 83% say that they’re active on social media. But when asked the following question, only 57% answered yes. Nearly half of the people survey answered “No” when asked: Can everyone in your company explain what you do, who you do it for, and why it matters?

According to the USPS, 84% of millennials take the time to look through their mail. About 87% like receiving direct mail, 57% have made purchases based on direct mail offers, and 50% say they like to discover what the mail brings every day – and they consider the time spent looking at and reading it as time well spent. About 70% of printers surveyed use print to generate business and 70% use content marketing to generate leads. Some 63% of companies surveyed have websites that generate qualified leads. However, 60% of companies surveyed answered “No” when asked if their website visitors could figure out what they do, and why it matters to them, within the first five seconds of landing on their homepage.

People I spoke to admitted that taking this survey, particularly answering this last question, was a wake-up call for them regarding the impact of having a message that matters. For me, it’s a wake-up call to the fact that there’s still a lot of education to be had—both within and outside the industry—on the new roles that print and marketing play in mass communications and the customer experience. Want to see how you stack up against the competition? Visit or scan the QR code below. Take the survey and see the results in real time. Hopefully 2019 will be the year we all thrive from this ‘disruption of print’.



Joanne Gore

Joanne Gore is a B2B marketer who’s passionate about print and has spent the last three decades helping companies maximize their marketing and communications efforts. Founder of Joanne Gore Communications, she helps companies tell their story to a new generation of print and business buyers. Email: Follow her on Twitter: @joannegore121