The Opportunity of Applications, Part 2
As I navigate the printing industry, seeking fascinating people and interesting angles to highlight, I’m often struck by the degree to which industry convergence changes what we do and presents opportunity. In some cases, convergence happens is broad, obvious strokes, such as a commercial printing company branching into, say, folding carton production. In other cases, it’s much more subtle.
In Part One of this article, which was published in May 2022, I discussed how the “thing” that is produced can often be a feature of more then one printing segment. Using decals as an example, the article, which stemmed from a visit to Longmont, Colorado-based StickerGiant. I asked at the time whether the company considered itself more a packaging company or a promotional products company. While StickerGiant is truly both, Jesse Freitas, senior director of marketing, said he believes it exists more in the promo side.
From there, I spoke with Dolf Kahle of Visual Marking Systems, a company that produces decals for OEM applications: things like safety warnings on small equipment or branding on products like lawn mowers. Essentially they’re still decals. Still imaged, pressure-sensitive vinyl. But the VMS decals have very different purposes.
Earlier this month, my colleague Cassie Green and I had the chance to visit the headquarters of Otter Products, a Fort Collins, Colorado-based company that has expanded its offerings greatly since its starting point, which focused on dry-boxes and smartphone cases. The company’s offerings now include insulated vessels for coffee and other liquid libations, coolers, and even gaming accessories. While Otter surely sells stand-alone products, their products are widely available in the promotional products space as well. Honestly, your company logo on an Otter product is a pretty sweet give-away or incentive.
Depending on the product, Otter’s OEM markings are done in numerous ways, including metal embossing, injection molding when a plastic item is produced, even laser-etching to remove powder coating and decoratively reveal stainless steel. Regardless, it is that OEM branding that gives the product its authenticity and sells the value of that brand.
When that OEM-branded product is then branded again with someone else’s logo, to produce a promotional product, the value of that promo piece is raised due to the prestige of the OEM brand, as is the brand for which the promo has been decorated. It’s a win (for Otter) win (for the promoted brand) win (for the recipient) situation.
There are a couple of key points here. Like the universality of the decal discussed in Part One, an insulated coffee mug can be more than one thing: a consumer product, a branded promotional item, even a specially decorated item. Whichever the case, decoration is done, either by the manufacturer, by a contracted company that handles that part of the manufacturing process, by a promotional products supplier, or by a company that supplies them. Within these last three entities in particular, industry convergence is present. While some of these entities will surely stay within their existing lanes, others, seeking adjacent opportunities to grow their businesses, will not. The reach needed to get to those opportunities is often not that long.
While the scenarios presented here can be seen as examples of realities in certain spaces of the industry, they can also be viewed as metaphors your business can use, regardless of the processes you use or the application areas you serve. The variety of printing technologies today can be used to do many things indeed. By viewing what you do (or could do) in a different light, you may open doors of opportunity.