Vice President of Strategic Marketing and Brand Management–Graphic Systems, Fujifilm North America
Fujifilm has a history of innovation when it comes to digitizing many processes, particularly as it relates to the print industry. Brent Moncrief, Vice President of Strategic Marketing and Brand Management for the Graphic Systems division, explains that the company’s value to its customers springs largely from their significant investment in R&D for both analog print and digital imaging and the innovation they have brought to the print industry over the last 15 years.
In selling printing technology to their customers, Moncrief says there are three segments on which they focus: commercial printing, sign and display, and labels and packaging. When it comes to how well Fujifilm’s clients orchestrate the go-to-market process, he says that less than 25 percent are truly proficient.
“The companies who do a good job with go-to-market are typically those who have the right skill sets and infrastructure to be able to do it well,” he explains. “The other 75 percent are generally taking the order and committing to meeting a deadline. They are focused on transactions rather than providing oversight to the broader process. In many cases, they either aren’t asked or aren’t set up to coordinate the process themselves.”
When it comes to the marketing supply chain, he is most excited about the innovation that springs from companies who are looking to gain an edge on their competitors in critical moments.
“Having worked at an ad agency and within several companies that did promotional work, it’s really exciting to see how brands come to market with products around the holidays,” he says. “It’s a once-a-year window, and it’s a unique opportunity because it’s not just about a price play. In the retail world, it’s more a matter of, ‘If I don’t get there, someone else will,’ and whoever gets there first usually wins in the space. Once of our customers calls it ‘the cure for the crunch,’ which I thought was a really appropriate description.”
While printing is top of mind for the company and the agencies who utilize their technology, brands are generally more focused on the “next big thing,” which more broadly encompasses mobile, web-based advertising, beacons, geofencing, etc. This can sometimes slow or halt the disruption they are working toward.
“For some brands, print has become a necessary evil, and the execution of print has been demoted to the procurement department, which is focused on saving money,” he explains. “They do not typically respond well to value-adds—they want the cheapest version of something that they can buy, and that is the challenge for a lot of our customers. Additionally, we have have seen aggregators or brokers come into the picture with the perspective of print being a commodity, which has created a fair amount of disruption in the industry from both our customers and the brands.”
Fujifilm’s ability to impact supply chain performance is largely due to its inkjet technology. They are very integrated with both the inks and the print heads and have the ability to utilize those across different platforms, which creates real value for customers and the brands they serve. However, the ability to add variable capabilities to existing analog platforms will provide an opportunity to deliver even greater competitive advantage.
“We can leverage what both of those printing technologies can do well in terms of creating long runs of the same image at a very cost-effective price point, but we can also leverage digitization to add variable content within other parts of an image or package that is static,” he says. “That's a tremendous focus for us in terms of current technologies, in addition to the R&D and integration partners we're working with behind the scenes.”
Fujifilm’s R&D methodology is organized by technical expertise rather than business units. Moncrief says that this is a benefit for his graphics division as it relates to both analog production—where they have more than 50-percent market share in North America for offset plates—and inkjet. This means that they can work with customers to continue getting value from their analog technologies while layering inkjet and digital capabilities on top of them.
“Fujifilm is committed to and well known for our R&D efforts, which approach $1 billion annually, and that is a key point of differentiation for us,” he says. “Our tagline is ‘Value From Innovation.’ We have a history of innovating and digitizing many processes, from digital photography to X-rays in the 1980s. That level of innovation has also extended to the print industry over the last 15 years.”
Combining analog and digital printing technologies poses potentially the greatest value for Fujifilm in the future, and one product they have on the market today called Graphium allows them to combine flexography with digital inkjet. Ultimately, they want to enable marketers to connect with specific individuals through print by allowing them to create increasingly nimble and deeper experiences. He explains this could potentially be a great opportunity for the company to work more directly with brand marketers.
“Brands want to be powerful so that customers can rely on them, but they also want to make more personal connections, which is what we’re looking to create,” he explains. “It all comes back to our corporate tagline, which is to enhance the quality of life for people worldwide through the power of print. In order to do this, we have to educate brand marketers about what modern print can deliver because many of them simply aren’t aware of the capabilities. The biggest challenge in the print world is that people don’t always view us as exciting or different, but in many ways, we are. As an industry, we've been our own worst enemy in terms of not promoting how smart, nimble, effective and efficient print can truly be.”