Playing the name game

By Jon Severs, Monday 12 January 2015

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Printers, on the whole, are not a bashful bunch. They are proud of their work, their skills and their machines and they will happily tell you as much.

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So it’s slightly puzzling that when it comes to having the word ‘print’ (or ‘printing’ or ‘printers’) in their company name, so many of them have become rather coy: the ‘print’ element in the title of print businesses is fast disappearing.  

The driver behind this phenomenon is not as simple as it first appears. You could see, perhaps, a value in generalising your business name to reflect a more diverse offering than simply ink on paper if you had indeed moved to a more cross-media offering. Yet the reasons appear more varied than that and the impact of ditching the word ‘print’ not as straightforward as some may imagine. 

Rapidity Communications changed its name from PrintFlow in 2011, ditching the print element of its name well before the current trend. Managing director Paul Manning says the aim was to differentiate the company from rivals.

“We wanted to try and sound less like an online or high-street print company and more like a company that could provide more than just print,” he explains.

However, he has never been entirely comfortable with the switch. 

“I still question to this day whether we should have changed our name,” he reveals. “We have found that with the advent of faceless online and print management companies that customers value the fact we are manufacturers and so ironically from changing our name away from a print we have since been trying even harder to make sure people know we’re printers!”

Manning says if other printers were dropping the print element of their names for the same reasons, he could understand it, but he doesn’t think this is the case. He believes the trend is symptomatic not necessarily of companies wishing to differentiate themselves, but of printers struggling to know how they should present themselves to clients. 

“Unfortunately, the trade has an identity crisis,” he explains. “For whatever reason, we’ve become embarrassed to be printers.”

Gareth Roberts, managing director at Bishops Printers – a company proudly sticking with the print element of its name – agrees.

“I think that dropping the print element of the name is often done more from a point of view of fashion or, worse, embarrassment,” he says. 

Crisis of confidence?

If true, and the connotations of ‘print’ have got to a point where companies want to hide the fact it’s what they do as a business, surely this would represent a crisis for the industry? In fact, both Roberts and Manning don’t think this is the case.

“I actually feel that print is going through a mini-revival in terms of ‘coolness’ and that what we’re starting to see is a new perception of print from new types of print buyers,” says Manning. 

Remous Print is an interesting case in point, being a company – previously known as just Remous – that has actually decided to insert the word print into its name, rather than remove it.

Managing director Alan Bunter explains why: “I don’t think we should shy away from the reality that we are a print company. Fundamentally we provide a print service; it’s nothing to be embarrassed about and sometimes people do need it clear and simple.

“Remous.com was the first name registered all those years ago, when the internet was new and we relied on someone else to do that for us. There will soon be a remousprint.com,” he continues. 

Yet some of those printers that have changed their name argue that it is not embarrassment about print that has driven their decision, but more a desire to be known for all their services rather than just one. The overwhelming majority of the companies making this point are in the cross-media marketplace. 

Eclipse Colour – formerly Eclipse Colour Print – is one such printer. 

“We have made a conscious decision to present our business as more of a complete marketing services provider,” explains Owen Purkis, marketing communications manager. “To call us purely printers would be like Tesco calling themselves Tesco Food. Our concern is that by having print in our name, clients will think that we can only help with the printed elements of their campaign and not all of the other services that we offer.”

It’s a similar story at Hunts, which went from ‘Hunts – people in print’ to ‘Hunts – paper and pixels’. 

“Having the word print in your name suggests you are a typical printer and people make that assumption. We are anything but typical,” explains chief executive Timon Colegrove. “And now we are gently removing ‘paper and pixels’, which we have used for the last couple of years. Brand names should be as simple as possible nowadays and are often one word.”

Yet how much negative impact would there really be in the cross-media sector if you had the word print as part of your business? Les Pipe, managing director at cross media agency Rhapsody, believes there is very little problem with the word itself, but admits that having a brand name that reflects the range of services is necessary. 

“We don’t believe that print carries negative or outdated connotations. 2014 has seen the launch of some innovative and impressive print titles which have their legacy in digital, so in some ways the tide is turning.

“We are a cross-media agency so print is one element of what we do. It is an important and significant part of our past, present, and future. However we are now creating apps and responsive websites that complement and enhance our print services. We also have a thriving photography, retouching, and production workflow business, so are a fully integrated agency. Adding ‘media’ to our tagline more accurately reflects the diverse range of services across print and non-print media given to our clients.”

Horses for courses

Perhaps, then, it is sector specific. While the printers should use print and be proud to, should cross-media companies avoid it to better represent their businesses? Won’t that mean those cross-media companies are missing out on print work because people don’t realise they offer it?

Roberts thinks that may be the case. 

“There is a certain value in being understood ‘at a glance’ to be a printer if that is what someone is searching for – if we dropped to just Bishops then I do think we would both miss out on some opportunities or enquiries,” says Roberts. 

Manning agrees. “Yes, there is a danger and I think there are quite a few companies now shrouding themselves in every term other than ‘print’, who might find opportunities are passing them by,” he states.

Colegrove concedes this could be an issue but that proper representation of services on the website can mean this does not occur.

“Yes, there is a danger of a prospective buyer not appreciating that we print. However, we use our website as a place to go to find out more rather than attract a new prospect – in other words we expect and hope that a visitor to our website already knows of us,” he explains.

He adds that business in the print – and indeed cross-media – fields so often comes down to relationships rather than random orders that the name of the business can often not matter at all.  

“The name is irrelevant if the brand is already out there. We put a lot of resource into building the brand Hunts and what we call the groove or soul of Hunts, which is all about ‘Huntsyness’. Colleagues, clients, suppliers and the community pick up on that Huntsyness.”

‘Irrelevant’ may be putting it a bit strongly, as clearly a name does matter or all these companies would not be changing it. But it is true that companies may be putting too much power in the hands of a brand name as a vehicle for changing the perception of a business. Just because you call yourself something that reflects well in cross-media circles does not, as Colegrove says, make you a cross-media printer. The proposition and marketing is often more of a determining factor. 

This was the point Manning reached in his own deliberations about his company name. He remains a little conflicted about taking the print element out but he says he is growing less worried as he comes to realise the name does not define his business. He argues that if you do have a more general name for the business, as he does, you can compensate for this by ensuring your marketing and brand makes it clear you offer print – and the reverse would work too: if you have print in your company name but offer other services, then get your marketing and proposition right and you need not worry.  

“If you get these elements right, then it makes not one bit of difference if we were called Rapidity or Big Fat Lemon Limited,” says Manning. “Ultimately, if a customer chooses a printer for the name alone then frankly they’re probably not a customer we would have. Print is about relationships with clients, it is about more than just a name – it’s about the service.” 

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