Veckan 8-12 maj är det åter dags för Fespas stora europeiska tillställning – den här gången i Hamburg. Samtidigt är det klart att den här mässan, som först var treårig, nu återkommer vartenda år. Nästa år blir det Berlin, följt av Hamburg året därpå. Men i år ska det vara i Hamburg, vilket bland annat innebär att stora delar av södra Sverige kan ta en långdag och besöka mässan på en dag. Besökare från Göteborg och Oslo kan ta färjan till Kiel och med tåg på en dryg timme vara helt framme vid mässan. Eller så finns flyget, som dock ofta är svindyrt till just Hamburg.
Årets övergripande tema har mässchefen Neal Fenton fastställt till att Våga trycka annorlunda. Han syftar då på att tre fjärdedelar av alla tryckare säger att det är kundernas önskemål som driver dem i bestämda riktningar. Över 80 procent av tryckerierna räknar också med att växa inom tyger, dekor och förpackning.
Men de tror också det finns mer att hämta inom traditionella områden. 49 procent tror på tillväxt för banners, 40 procent för affischer, 38 procent för skylttillverkning och 37 procent för utomhusreklam.
En stor majoritet tror också att deras storformatsdel kommer att påverkas av digital signage. Fespa möter det behovet genom att ha en egen avdelning – European Sign Expo – just för information som bara presenteras på skärm.
45 procent av de tillfrågade tryckerierna planerar att investera för att gå in på helt nya marknader. Så det finns mycket förväntan när dörrarna öppnas till 2017 års Fespa den 8 maj.
THE FESPA CHALLENGE — ‘DARE TO PRINT DIFFERENT’
The strapline for May’s FESPA 2017 — ‘Dare to Print Different’ — can be read two ways. On the one hand, it acknowledges the entrepreneurialism that has fuelled wide format’s growth over the last decade; according to the latest FESPA Census, overall revenues grew at a CAGR of about 9% between 2007 and 2015. On the other, it challenges wide format and speciality printers to stay brave, using FESPA 2017 to explore the latest innovations and create new products and services to showcase their creativity and build their customer base. Meanwhile, the stunning image accompanying the strapline — a robotic hand releasing a brilliantly-coloured butterfly — highlights the essential role technology plays in the process.
But strapline and image do more than simply promote FESPA 2017 as an important venue for the wide format community. They are also powerful reminders of how printing — and what it means to be a printer — have changed in the digital era. Several of the overarching trends identified by the FESPA Census reinforce this message. For example, the Census noted the continued shift away from high-volume commodity print and towards customised, higher-margin products. It reported a much tighter focus by PSPs on the evolving needs and expectation of their customers. And it found that while manufacturing economics remain an important factor in allocating capital expenditure, strategic planning is equally important, with 45% of those investing doing so to move into new markets with new products and services.
Digital media competitors may have made the printing industry smaller — there are fewer PSPs and overall volumes have fallen — but they have made PSPs’ horizons much wider. Pre-digital, printing was a smaller, more predictable world. Offset and screen were well-established stable technologies, the variety of printed products was limited and familiar, and customers’ demands — what they wanted, and when — were also largely predictable. Under these conditions, manufacturing economics were what usually determined investment; new equipment was needed to speed production, add capacity or improve quality. For most businesses, ‘the competition’ was the printer down the road — not the volatile, fast-moving world of digital media.
In this world, printers could survive and prosper simply by continuing to do what they had always done. They didn’t need to be constantly on the lookout for competitor technologies. Neither did they need to concern themselves with what their customers were doing; it’s doubtful many printers showed much interest in why a customer needed a particular print job.
Today, print is just one medium among many competing for a slice of the marketing budget, but it is a medium with unique advantages. Digital media cannot match print’s multisensory quality, its ability to exploit and enhance so many materials. At a time when digital communication has shortened people’s attention spans, print can make them stop, feel and think. Print has the all important element of surprise.
None of this is news to the thousands of PSPs travelling to Hamburg in May — they know all about print’s advantages. Unlike their predecessors, they also know what their customers want, and why. This is clear from the FESPA Census, which painted a picture of an energised community in which business leaders’ strategies for the future are based on responding to clients’ changing needs and diversifying their product portfolios accordingly.
It is an optimistic community, in which 80% of respondents to the Census were very, or fairly, optimistic about their business prospects. This optimism is largely founded on a grasp of what is happening both inside and outside their own businesses. Over 70% recognise that customers’ needs are driving change, for example. And they are ready to venture outside what they know to take wide-format technology into new areas; hence while there is a familiar look to the top four applications — banners (49%), posters (40%), signs (38%) and billboards (37%) — almost 80% of PSPs report increased demand for garments, décor and packaging samples. Many PSPs — over 75% — also anticipate that digital display will impact their wide format business in the foreseeable future, which suggests that the European Sign Expo event for non-printed signage will prove a popular draw.
‘Dare to Print Different’ is a clear, resounding call to the FESPA community, to arrive with the ambition to explore and identify something that could expand their boundaries and give them fresh impetus. For many PSPs, ‘Dare to Print Different’ is not only an acknowledgment and a challenge, but a mantra that they already live by.