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    « Is Your Shop a Destination? | Main | Even Really Smart People Underestimate Technology »

    April 19, 2006

    To be Blue or Not to be Blue

    Do a search on Google for “blueprint”. You get 61.3 million hits. Do a search on “Blueprinter” and you get 28,200 hits.  Do a search on “reprographer” and get “10,600” hits. What does this mean? A couple things. The industry has an identity crisis and a branding problem. That was in now way a scientific study, but I believe an effective litmus test.

    Not long after I came to PLP. I was at the CRA show in St. Louis. I was in the elevator with several CRA members. We were all wearing our CRA name tags and someone on the elevator looked at one of the badges and said “CRA. What kind of convention is that?” Someone spoke up proudly and said “we are reprographers”. The man leaned forward as if he had misunderstood the response. The person responded a little louder and little slower “WE ARE REPROGRAPHERS”. The man realized that he had heard correctly the first time AND looked very confused. Mike Duff from, Cushing & Color, broke moment of confusion by stating “Sir – we are blueprinters”. He smiled and nodded his head.  He understood.

    The industry refers to itself as reprographers, but customers don’t really know what it means and most people are embarrassed to even say the word because they have received a similar reaction as the elevator at CRA. Most customers have shortened printer to “printer”.

    There are two things that are important in branding: (1) being easily recognized, and (2) creating a perception in your stakeholders mind of what that brand stands for. Walmart and Target are both well known brands. Both are very recognizable.  When one hears Walmart the perception that come to mind is big and cheap. When one hears Target they think of good value and good selections. Both create different perceptions.

    The challenge for reprographers is:

    1. Nobody knows what a reprographer is.
    2. Blueprint is a VERY strategic word. It conveys emotions of a strategic plan or a solution.
    3. Blueprinter is a tactical word. It conveys an organization that may be at the bottom of the food chain in the construction supply chain.

    We all know that is no true, or if it is kind of true – we don’t want it to be true. Reprographers are investing heavily in technology and training their employees new skills. Reprographers are handling the logistics or project critical documentation. If a reprographer doesn’t to his job right a construction project can come to a halt. With some of the new document management technology that is being embraced the opportunity exists to be even more strategic.

    How can reprographers break the tactical perception that “blueprinters” or “printers” creates and be perceived by the construction industry as a more strategic stakeholder? It can be done, but it takes a lot of work and commitment. It can’t be done by one reprographer. And most importantly it requires leadership.

    Luckily the IRgA has embarked on a branding project. As a member of the board I have been lucky to be involved in this project. I believe that a lot of good work went into this by SmithBucklin, the board members, and other participants. The results will be shown at the upcoming IRgA show. It is by no means a forgone conclusion, but a summary of findings from customers and reprographers. It is a good start and it will require the work of everyone in the industry to take it to the next step.


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