This piece is for those with new printing technology to offer, but no immediate queue of clients who understand its advantages or why they should be the first to use it.
I'm a designer and design strategist. Most of my work involves packaging, serving marketing leaders and brand managers for popular supermarket brands (and increasingly online).
I’ve championed the innovative benefits of digital print for a creative and agile approach to packaging for a few years now. And in the era of AI, the pace of change is accelerating, but the challenge remains of clients not seeing the opportunities clearly enough to try new things. Change is constant, but the principles and challenges of promoting technical innovation are I think timeless. In this piece, I’m going to share mine…
The 'new thing' you offer won't be suitable for everyone. Most customers prefer proven approaches over untested innovations. Therefore, your first task is to find individuals among your contacts who are open to trying something different and are inspired by being courageous. The ideal candidate is someone young enough to build their reputation and senior enough to make independent decisions. They should also have a genuine passion for improving their work, not just seeking efficiency.
Once you identify such individuals, focus on understanding two key aspects of their professional lives. Firstly, determine what keeps them awake at night, their concerns and challenges. Secondly, discover what excites them and motivates them to jump out of bed and go to work. By understanding their significant problems and questions, you can assess whether the innovation you champion can serve as a smart solution. The principle is straightforward: ask the right questions to the right people, listen attentively to their answers, and aim for a 'win-win' situation.
Additionally, it's crucial to be a passionate, well-informed, and inspiring advocate yourself. You won't be able to convince others if you lack conviction in your own beliefs.
As Henry Ford put it “You can’t build a reputation on what you propose to do.”
In order to ignite interest, you will need to show successful applications of the tech you are championing. The reality is that getting to these first concrete examples often comes from the first work being ‘given away’ to prove its worth. In blunt terms you have to put some skin in the game – on your own time and from your own energy. The Smirnoff work I developed with HP and the Yarza Twins came from an email I sent the Diageo design team headlined ‘Free Lunch?’ I simply asked them to lend me a brand on which I could prove the equipment’s capabilities. I was asking for a chance for us to prove ourselves. Happily, they obliged.
"We can deliver better, faster and cheaper, but can only do any two of these at a time" is a classic way of explaining your offer to clients. However, their expectations are evolving, and they now demand "all three, please."
To capture your client's genuine interest, the value of the innovation must align with multiple targets:
This key factor revolves around creatively elevating the final product. Will people be willing to pay more for it? Will it generate love and increased purchases? Will it grab attention that was previously overlooked? Will it make your clients' competition appear average in comparison? If you can provide comparative evidence against these fundamental points, you'll be in a strong position to tailor your pitch to the client's specific needs.
Only the reckless would bet their career and core business or brand on an untested new approach. There are two magic words that can unlock the proposed project: ‘Pilot scheme’.
Start small, think of the first steps as a low-risk experiment – if it fails, the only thing it has really cost is some time and energy. But if it works, the process can be reviewed, streamlined and made fit for larger and larger projects. Build trust, learn on the job, and there’s a good chance more work will develop organically from the process.
One topical thing to note: copyright issues around A.I. are live and challenging. I am encouraging my clients to explore the tech, but to hold back on publishing unless they are confident on the provenance of their work.
In the competitive landscape of creative agencies and solution-providers in the print industry, a 'dog-eats-dog' approach is commonplace. However, when it comes to innovation, solely focusing on selling your unique offerings may result in losing sight of your clients' larger challenges and future processes. To achieve significant breakthroughs, it's crucial to collaborate with other key suppliers or teams.
An analogy that resonates with this idea is the stained-glass window, which is arguably the world's first example of mass communication. Engineers devised techniques to create openings in load-bearing walls using flying buttresses, craftsmen mastered the art of coloring and shaping glass into images, and the marketing department weaved a compelling story about being the light. By combining these elements, Sunday worshippers could experience their faith in a whole new way. When I aimed to promote HP's SmartStream software, which underpins their digital printing solutions, I recognized that I couldn't make progress alone. It was essential to enlist the talents of esteemed artist Sir Peter Blake and skilled printer F E Burman to connect the dots. Together, alongside HP Indigo software developers, we pushed the boundaries of technology and initiated a dialogue on its cultural relevance. By connecting the dots with the assistance of others, we have the power to truly transform the industry we operate in.
In conclusion, I’d observe that there’s really nothing new under the sun. And success in promoting any radical leap in technology relies on very simple human values. Have passion, be positive, embrace new technologies, be open for partnerships and teamwork and care about genuinely resolving your client’s challenges. That way you’ll be well set to pick up new business whilst also having some fun along the way.
Silas Amos constantly drawing since he could hold a crayon, thinks in pictures, and aims to talk in plain English. He works as both a creative director and strategist directly into big guys like HP & Unilever, small guys like eve sleep, and global groups like Dentsu Aegis Network.
He was a founder employee of branding agency jkr, spending 25 years with them learning his trade. As their strategic director on the overhaul of brands such as Budweiser, Silas became increasingly excited about how technology is evolving the way packaging is designed and put to work, and this will be the subject of his talk.
“Success in promoting any radical leap in technology relies on very simple human values"
“Copyright issues around A.I. are live and challenging.”
“The 'new thing' you offer won't be suitable for everyone.”