As the Vision 3 Summit approaches, we asked a few of the speakers to share their thoughts on the industry in blog form. This blog is from Kevin KeanePresident, International Association of Printing Craftsmen. Mr. Keane will be speaking at the Vision 3 Summit about how to keep print relevant in a digital world.

I did a speech for a group of small commercial printers circa 1989 forecasting the digital deluge and all its permutations. Frank and Larry, two printer pals, were in the audience. At the conclusion, Frank turned to Larry and said, “What do we do now?” Larry paused not a moment and said, “Sell!”

A decade later I was asked to pinch-hit as the luncheon speaker at The Executive Outlook conference that precedes each GRAPH EXPO. In my remarks, I suggested that manroland, KBA, Heidelberg, and Komori would no longer be the only name plates in the pressroom and offered Canon, Ricoh, HP, Kodak, and Xerox. The then-CEO of one of the heavy iron press manufacturers, a very suave gentleman, approached me and begged to differ. He was elegant in his defense of conventional offset, but his firm never did develop a digital partner and eventually sought protection against creditors. The digital die is cast.

This morning, 15 December 2011, Cheryl McClorey, who is in training as Marketing & Social Media Manager at {Express Image} in Aberdeen/Edinburgh, Scotland sent me a note on our IAPHC Facebook Group page: “Right back at you Kevin, and Merry Christmas to everyone on your end 🙂 I don’t see why we have to choose one or the other. I think there are huge benefits in blending both traditional and digital. You just have to be clever about it. I made the point to the person who posted the article that in actual fact, I am more likely to look through the pile of catalogs that comes through the post than I am all the spam that comes through my email. I love the tangible effect print has, and I feel many others are the same.

Cheryl is spot-on; it is not an either/or choice. Print, radio, and TV no longer have hegemony over marketing spends, but do not mistake the landscape has changed. Print is merely one of many arrows in the marketer’s quiver. If we want print to be a partner in the media mixology, then we need to pay attention to the wicked ways technology is changing our fortunes. Take a moment and note Cheryl’s job title. Does your firm have such a person, and if not, why not?

In the speech I will give at the Vision 3 Summit, we will take an A–Z survey. Much as the nameplates on our digital presses have changed, so too will the tools we use to make print come alive. A friend sells for GPA, Specialty Substrate Solutions, and he saw a YouTube video we had shared about a Blippar–enabled Heinz Ketchup Label. His bride works at General Mills and he shared the reaction of the senior marketing personnel— “way cool” is the meme.

A glistening new array of intelligent print recognition technologies are thrilling in their construct, and the plain fact is they require (indeed they demand) print as the essential launch pad to a fully immersive multi—media experience. Whether a digitally printed label, a silk-screen imprinted T–shirt, a Guinness pint glass, a web-offset printed newspaper, or a flexo printed bag of marshmallows, print is the needed first step.

This latest technology revolution requires two things:

1) The premedia department becomes the nerve center for the entire business. Neither Sales, Pressroom, nor Finishing are in control any longer. The hub of all creation is in the premedia team’s purview.

2) The cobbler’s kids need some shoes dude! If you want to show your customers how to implement these cool new marketing techniques, you need to show them how you have effectively and measurably used it in the marketing of your own print and marketing services business.

Print is no longer paramount. But it is a partner.

So we watch in wonder at Aurasma, Blippar, Clic2C, Daqri, Documobi, Enlighten Smart Poster, Touchcodes, Zappit, AR, iQR, NFC, and more.

We are either condemned to live in interesting times, or we are enlivened by them.

I look forward to seeing you in February and ask you to watch this charming holiday shopping video from JCPenney and muse to yourself—the printed tag is just one part of the overall campaign, and yet, without it the whole idea fails. Print is the essential launch pad to a fully immersive multimedia marketing experience.