Inca Summit 2014 - Time to Inspire

A land of opportunity - the view from the Inca summit

As the Inca Digital Excellence Awards (IDEAs) entries demonstrate (click here), Inca believes that the best argument in favour of inkjet is the remarkable range of products the technology makes possible.  The same theme ran through the first Inca Digital Summit recently held during Fespa Digital in Munich.  Under the banner “Time To Inspire” the summit explored trends and opportunities in large-format UV inkjet through an intensive half-day programme of thought-provoking conference sessions and interactive discussions.  Whilst technology topics were prominent, the summit also addressed the question on almost every print service provider’s mind:  how to make marketers and brand owners aware of just what the technology is capable of adding to campaigns.
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The data on inkjet’s growth bear out consultant John’s Charnock’s assertion in his presentation (“The clever thing about inkjet”) that inkjet will be the predominant printing technology of the future:  Smithers Pira, for example, predicts growth from $33.4bn to $67.3bn between 2011 and 2017.  While it’s difficult to identify graphic arts’ exact share of this, inkjet’s impact is wide-ranging, with projected growth rates of 600% and more in sectors such as commercial print, industrial, advertising, signage, security, labels and packaging.

Driving the growth are inkjet’s acknowledged advantages — it’s fast, data-driven, stable, non-contact and scaleable — plus it has an unrivalled ability to lay down a dizzying variety of fluids on a huge range of substrates with extraordinary precision.  As Charnock neatly summed it up, with inkjet you can deposit “what you want, when you want, where you want”, creating everything from cardboard-engineered furniture and fashion, through laminate floors and ceramic tiles, to printed electronics.

That inkjet is the catalyst for innovation in the printing industry was vividly demonstrated by presentations from innovative businesses that are successfully applying the technology to create new markets for print.  Taking as her topic “The potential for digital printing in interior design and home décor”, Francesca Selby from Papergraphics described how the company’s revenues from digital wallcoverings have grown by 40% in each of the last eight years based on the fact that digital printing “means any blank wall is a massive opportunity, both for retailers and for Papergraphics.”  Chris Jones of Novalia showed an intriguing, entertaining and illuminating selection of applications from the company’s pioneering printed products incorporating electronics, such as audio-enhanced posters for Becks beer in New Zealand and interactive pharmaceutical packs that remind patients when to take medication as well as enabling pharmacies and doctors to monitor compliance.  User panel participant Todd Meissner from Color Ink, Wisconsin, USA, described how the company responded to a decline in the retail print sector during the financial crisis by adding a new direct-to-consumer business built around large-format print and cardboard engineering:  you can see the result at www.fundecofurniture.com.techsummitfespa2104_bs

It’s likely that all the summit delegates took heart from Till Schütte’s analysis of what lay behind the success of Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” integrated multi-channel marketing campaign in 2013.  Coca-Cola Europe’s former Head of Design and Graphics Production, Schütte described how personalised digital print was “at the heart” of the campaign, and that none of the other channels could have functioned without the ability to mass-personalise millions of bottles and cans.

While exponential inkjet growth figures and successful case studies are clear evidence of the opportunities out there, for many PSPs the big question is how to get their ideas in front of the decision-makers in the brand owners’ marketing departments.  Mark Clews from marketing communications agency Inspired Thinking Group (ITG) addressed the question directly in “What do brand owners really want?”, and the good news is that marketers have a voracious appetite for ideas.  In today’s multi-channel environment, standing out from the competition is increasingly complicated, yet being one step ahead is the minimum requirement.  “As channels explode, ideas need to follow suit,” Clews said, adding that “brands insist on a constant flow of innovation across all channels.”  ITG adopts a disciplined approach to generating ideas, holding monthly meetings with the company’s account managers at which ideas and innovations are discussed and then shared with their client base to prompt campaigns.

till_schutte2Till Schütte sees a key challenge for PSPs in understanding where print adds value in a multi-channel environment in which “brand connection points” — TV, social media, POS, packaging, and so on — are proliferating in a media landscape that is “sophisticated yet fragmenting.”  He also makes the point that PSPs need to communicate to the brand managers, not procurement, to move the focus from pricing to innovation and the possibilities of print. PSPs hoping to work with major global brands need a similar global outlook, plus investment in the IT infrastructure — from web-to-print to financial management functions — that brands insist on from suppliers.


At the end of the summit the loudest message for many delegates was that inkjet’s future, while very bright, depends on PSPs coming up with the innovations that exploit the technology to the full. Sean Smyth stated “as an industry we have to work out what the next big thing is”. As to how to do this, Till Schütte’s explanation of the origins of the Share a Coke campaign held a valuable lesson.  It was, he said, a product of the 70/20/10 innovation model, where a business dedicates 70% of its time to its core business, 20% to projects related to its core business, and 10% to projects unrelated to its core business.  For some PSPs, finding that 10% might seem daunting, but in the future it’s likely to be a key to success.