Back to school: HP, Canon, Epson shift their communication strategy from B2B to students

Printing technology has undergone a major shift, especially in the way printers are being positioned and marketed. Prominent brands in this space comprising of Epson, Canon and HP are no

e4m by Sarmistha Neogy
Published: Mar 7, 2016 8:21 AM  | 6 min read
Back to school: HP, Canon, Epson shift their communication strategy from B2B to students

In the last few years, the printing technology has undergone a major shift, especially in the way printers are being positioned and marketed. Prominent brands in this space comprising of Epson, Canon and HP are no longer talking to office-goers as their focus has shifted to school kids.

The new Epson ad, which is currently running on TV, showcases a kid talking through printouts in order to highlight that a single printout is even cheaper than her toffee. HP has been stressing that with the help of their printers; kids can shine and get good grades in their school projects. Canon has been positioning their printers among these young decision-makers and their chance of becoming super students.

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Elaborating on this shifting trend, Harish Bijoor, Brand Expert & Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc said, “Kids are consumers, at times reckless consumers. Printing, school-work, creativity and learning are all adjunct categories. Kids carry assignments home and that requires a fair bit of printing. What crayons were for kids in the generation that grew up in the seventies, and what felt-tip pens were for kids in the generation of the eighties, printers are to the kids of today’s generation, and therefore, I think HP has it bang on”

Young decision makers take the centre stage...

A decade back, home computers were actually a very rare thing, but today it will be difficult to see an urban middle-class household without a computer.

Pranesh Misra, Chairman & Managing Director, Brandscapes Worldwide stated, “Schools are becoming increasingly tech-savvy and parents are also getting more competitive and are willing to invest a huge portion of their money in the education of their children. There is a huge opportunity for both laptops and tertiary businesses like printers to justify their investment in that sector. Also, printers are usually sold on the ‘loss-leadership’ formula, they are priced very low, and the real profit is in the ink and the ink cartridges. Therefore, here lies a huge opportunity to sell a product on the back of the whole thrust for education.”

Ramanujam Sridhar, Founder, CEO, Brand-Comm highlighted, “It has also become a trend in the metropolitan cities that schools have started assigning a lot of project based work. More and more parents are also getting involved in it. Like business schools, they are not accepting handwritten projects. Therefore, these kids form an important segment whose role is to influence their parents to buy. The printer companies are trying to shift their focus from B2B to the B2C space. They have outgrown the market in which they were functioning and are now trying to tap new customers. Also if parents want a print-out, they will get it from their respective offices, so ideally kids are the only ones who are working at home. Thus, they form the right target audience for the printer companies.”

Saurabh Uboweja, Founder, CEO & Chief Brand Strategist, Brands of Desire has an interesting take, “HP first launched a campaign in 2012 building on the insecurities of the parent's desire to see their kids secure top grades. They later kept building on it with new adaptations but the format remained similar--if you want top grades, use HP and by the way, we will be around if you need last minute print-outs in the midnight. Great consumer insight backed by research, resulted in profits for HP. Canon followed suit. But hey, wait a minute? What are they encouraging here- competition among kids by creating winners on who prints better? Wasting more and more paper, making use of toners which may not be fully bio-degradable?  The worst of all, when schools in India are finally beginning to wake up to skill based learning and life skills, they are supporting learning or the lack of it for grades? And all this on the back of an insight that builds on insecurities of children and parents. What happened to concepts like sustainability, community, social responsibility? I thought MNCs considered them important.''

Ad campaigns reflect the change...

Suresh Eriyat, Founder and Creative Director, Eeksaurus said, “For printer companies, office-goers and teenagers as a market has become saturated, they are therefore looking at a huge consumer segment comprising of school kids. Consumption in this category is quite high because schools today are demanding printouts and not handwritten projects. I feel that is the reason, we are seeing more number of communications which are talking to this segment of consumers.”

Prathap Suthan, Managing Partner and Chief Creative Officer, Bang in the Middle highlighted, “In most offices, printouts have become rare, they are exposed to the whole notion of eco-friendliness and the consciousness has seeped in, as a result of which the consumption has reduced on the industrial side. However, on the domestic side, be it the kids or the housewives, they are actually the ones who are using it. The kids take printouts to decorate their rooms or for their school projects, the housewives are either helping their children or are somehow using it to bring up their own skills. Therefore, for these printer companies, the home sector has become very important, which the ad campaigns have also started reflecting.

Amitava Mitra, Founder & Managing Director, Bee Advertising Private Limited cited, “The communication focus has shifted from business and commercial printers to home printers. This is the growing market and for commercial printers the focus is on the B2B market. However, the market everyone is targeting today is the home segment where the focus is on children and the activities they indulge in, which requires a lot of downloading, project work, visual referencing and printing etc. Such activities have created a huge demand for home printers and marketers are therefore focusing on this segment. So quality of the printing, richness and true to life colours and of course the price becomes a key reason for purchase, and therefore the communication focus areas.”

As per CMR research report 2015, HP (48% market share) is the leader in this segment, followed by Epson and Canon. Clearly the shift brought in by HP in the marketing strategy is now being followed by other players.

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