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A New Rap for a New Era

Reinvent your customer base. Launch new products that fulfill needs in novel ways. Show customers you are a purveyor of ingenuity, not an order taker.

December 2013 By Ken Macro
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Snoop Lion gets it. Or at least his advertising agency does.

Lyrics from the rapper's songs were printed on 10-lb. onionskin with a perforation at the gutter and bound together with a hemp-covered case and a red phosphorous textured spine. Rolling Words debuted at the 2012 Coachella Music Festival in California where 420 elite and rare "prototypes" were handed out to fans of the hip-hop star formerly known as Snoop Dogg (but whose real name is Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr.). So highly coveted were these books that websites have appeared specifically designed to demand that the product be mass-manufactured and sold.

But why all of the fuss? I mean, it's a book after all, and books are passé, right? All of the American retail book stores that once populated every town across the country are rapidly disappearing only to defer their customers to the online storefronts, which allow you to simply download content onto shiny e-readers and i-devices. In fact, in a socially-driven wave of self-fulfilling prophecy, the era of printed ephemeral and publications—as we know them—has gone the way of the Betamax, the Linotype and the Pet Rock.

How many people have subsequently canceled printed newspaper subscriptions in lieu of electronic versions only because their neighbors said that the newspaper was going to stop producing a printed version anyway? We have talked ourselves into believing that the printed product is, in fact, already dead. Many of us staring into retirement have decided that the time to cash in is now. Pack up our boxes and our things and think of good times from years gone by.

"We gave it a great run," said a former press operator who retired from a prominent printing company in San Francisco that recently closed in doors. "We can't compete with these electronic gizmos; everybody gets their information online." So says mainstream America.

Fulfilling a Need

But Snoop Lion gets it (or at least his advertising agency does).

By developing a product that engages your senses, your needs, and—most importantly—promotes novelty (albeit activities that are not condoned nor endorsed by the author or publisher of this fine magazine), the impetus is not placed on the content as much as it is placed on the experience and on fulfilling a need. The demand for Snoop Lion's book was based upon the novelty of it. It isn't cool because it is "a book"; rather, it is cool because it is a well-designed novelty item that represents his culture. This is innovation and this is called product development.

Designed by the Pereira and O'Dell advertising agency, Rolling Words became a product that fulfilled a need. And this is how in-plants must begin to think as they prepare to strategically position themselves into the core mission of their parent organizations.

Swimming in the Blue Ocean

The 2005 book Blue Ocean Strategy, by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, suggests that traditional Western management ideology focuses primarily on competing directly with other suppliers in an existing industry­—the Red Ocean. All resources go into outperforming the competition by building a strategic position based on defense of a familiar industrial-based space.

The Blue Ocean, comparatively, represents an unknown market space, bereft of competition, where an organization can create new demand. These are the uncharted waters of value innovation where, according to the authors, "you focus on making the competition irrelevant by creating a leap in value for buyers and your company, thereby opening up new and uncontested market space."

In the printing industry today, uncontested market space has expanded into marketing solutions, Web design and development, ancillary services, mailing and shipping, wide-format and grand-format printing, and any other unique, trendy special business services that pop up in the field.

Although these service opportunities can be profitable and provide much-needed value for one's customer base, the nagging and haunting question keeps rearing its head: "What do we do with the iron sitting on our floors?" The answer is to create uncontested market space—the Blue Ocean—through the development of products that subsidize existing print sales and open doors to untapped targeted markets once unnoticed or unreachable by traditional sales tactics.

Strategic Product Development

Long gone are the days of order-taking. Today, strategic product development that can give reasons for establishing rapport with print buyers, designers and creative staff within the organization are required. (See sidebar.) In order to sail the waters of the Blue Ocean, you must recognize that it is about reinventing your customer base while servicing your existing clientele. It is about identifying the non-customer.

"To reach beyond existing demand," wrote Kim & Mauborgne, "think non-customers before customers; commonalities before differences; and desegmentation before pursuing finer segmentation."

Monthly Product Launch

The key is to design, develop and launch a new product each and every month. Have a preprinted swatch booklet to drop off with each new and existing customer monthly. This will ensure that you will get into their space. And, although it may not generate droves of volume or significant revenue, it will ensure that you are well represented and seen now as purveyor of ingenuity—one who generates products through manufacturing processes that use sophisticated traditional and digital printing presses. This is far better than being viewed simply as order-takers desperate for soliciting high volumes of non-existent print from a constituency of people who question the validity, and ROI, of investing in the in-house graphic communication establishment.

Snoop Lion gets it. In his song "Rebel Way" he writes:

"Time is moving fast.
Can't dwell on the past.
Make the moment last.
While we have the chance."

Even if you are not a Snoop Lion fan, you must take council of his words. We can no longer think like we used to think. We must become highly entrenched with the parent organization, put on our creative caps and become the designers, innovators and inventors of products that can be manufactured using the very technology that we possess. Our destiny does not lie simply in disseminating information, but also in navigating the Blue Ocean of uncontested markets that will keep our printing presses moving and our customers (and parent organizations) talking.

Snoop Lion gets it, so why don't we? To think from Snoop's perspective, we must consider entering into a movement that attempts to change society's stance on the destiny of print. To do so, we must not be afraid to step into the water of the Blue Ocean. To put it into Snoop's terms, from his song "Here Comes The King":

"Here I come a steppin inna the dance.
Posted the wall here inna mi stance.
We never fail, we only shine with brilliance."

Yes, Snoop Lion gets it. Do you?

Dr. Ken Macro is an associate professor and chair of the Graphic Communication Department at The California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. He leads courses in marketing and sales, print production management, post-press processes, and teaches the Introduction to Graphic Communication class. Prior to academia, he was the director for Reprographics, Mailing and Shipping Services at both Cal Poly and The University of Akron, and has held various sales and management roles in the graphic communication and healthcare industries. His new book, The Future of Print Sales: The Renewal of Print Manufacturing through New Product Development, was published by Printing Industries of America Press. Contact Dr. Macro at



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