A fireside chat with EFI’s Guy Gecht and Xerox’s Jeff Jacobson highlight opportunities in inkjet and industrial print.
The annual January EFI Connect conference has become a part of our annual trek across the country. Held at The Wynn in Las Vegas, Jan. 17-19, it is by far, the most comprehensive and informative meeting that addresses high-volume inkjet printing.
The speakers at the conference are all highly knowledgeable executives who thoroughly understand the world of print. They speak directly and address the issues and call it as they see it. These are dubbed “Fireside Chats” with CEO Guy Gecht conducting the interviews with an imaqe of a fireplace on stage between Gecht and his guest.
To know Guy Gecht is to love him. He has done a masterful job of repositioning EFI from a software provider to an industrial print leader (second to HP) within the industrial print segment. This year Gecht had two fireside chats, including the first with Xerox CEO Jeff Jacobson and the second with Joe Quadracci, CEO of Quad/Graphics. Jacobson and Gecht have been friends for 17 years and it was obvious during their chat that the two have a genuine liking and respect for each other.
This is the third time we have had an opportunity to listen to Jacobson and he remains an unassuming yet compelling speaker. In our opinion his style is very effective and most important, his message has been consistent every time we’ve heard him speak.
In his initial response to one of Gecht’s many questions, Jacobson announced that Xerox was reviving its old Brother Dominic commercial—an ad campaign that goes back to the mid 1970’s. View the original commercial. The commercial has been updated for today with the new Brother Dominic a millennial. View the new commercial. It’s an excellent commercial. In the commercial Brother Dominic is asked by his superior to produce 500 copies of a manuscript in 35 languages, personalized, and shared across seven continents. Of course, Brother Dominic knows his way around Xerox and comes up with the completed assignment in short order. The Brother Superior looks at the results and exclaims, “It is a miracle.”
This is a powerful commercial message that should serve Xerox well. It also allows those of us who have been around a while (think in terms of industry leaders) who will recall Brother Dominic the first time around. Xerox tied in the miracle message in many ways during the 1980’s, most memorably for me at a show at the Javit’s Center in New York City Xerox which showcased the company’s new DocuTech’s set up to address different types of businesses.
One of those businesses was manufacturing and the person speaking worked with McDonnell Douglas on the development of the F-15. I remember him telling us that the paper to produce the F-15 weighed more than the F-15.
What is Jacobson all about? To sum it up Jeff Jacobson is all about winning. His goal is to put the best player at every position the team fields. “If you played sports it was always about winning,” is how he put it. “You have to play to win.”
In our opinion Jacobson is betting the ranch that Xerox can once again dominate in the high-volume market as did 30 years ago. That means taking on inkjet competitors such as HP, EFI, Canon/Océ, and others such as Mimaki. Jacobson reinforced how important this is when he noted that the line item for inkjet is Xerox’s largest investment.
Jacobson then doffed his cap to Gecht, stating, “Print is not dead, digital packaging is where it is heading and EFI has done it. It takes courage, it takes vision. You have to play to win.”
We asked Jacobson and Guy both the same question. Where do dealers fit in on the distribution of these high-volume inkjet products?
Both were less than enthusiastic about the prospect of expanding their industrial printer distribution into the dealer channel. They said all the right words, but what I really heard was, “I don’t think so.”
However, that is a story for another day and a day that will come soon.
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