Monday, August 31, 2015

August Observations - Epson’s EcoTank Printers make a big splash, for good reasons!

I had to hit Twitter when I first heard the NPR story about the new Epson Ecotank printers
My early-morning routine on most weekdays starts by tuning in to NPR’s Morning Edition. Its interesting news and eclectic feature stories are presented in a more soothing and non-commercial manner than is offered by my next media step in getting my day going, when I join CNBC’s Squawk on the Street for a half-hour of pre-market-open business news and economic assessment of that morning’s world. So I was quite surprised earlier this week, when the former and not the latter chirped in about Epson’s new printers, in a story with co-host Renee Montagne interviewing Wilson Rothman of The Wall Street Journal about his coverage on the benefits of the new products. (The headline of the Journal's article is worth noting - "Epson kills the printer ink cartridge."

On launch day I could not resist tweeting this shameless pun, which garnered a high level of attention on Twitter.
I had been aware of the new Epson products for some time through various backchannels, and was notified by the company that they had officially launched on August 4th. Printer industry coverage of the new products (printers and MFPs) emphasized the feature of high ink capacity of the products, as well as how this is achieved (refillable tanks and non-refillable ink bags, depending on the model) and the result being very economical cost-per-page printing compared to what most users are accustomed to. (Even if the entry price is somewhat higher.) It is tempting, as an industry denizen, to point to Kodak's failed attempt to make a place for itself in the inkjet printing market using a higher-hardware, lower-supplies pricing model.

But the popular press coverage grabbed hold of the benefits, as I have already stated, with less frequent user intervention (i.e. most ink cartridges tend to run dry very quickly, and the new EcoTank/"Supertank" printers can print for two years without fussing with them) - leading to "new standards of convenience and value", as Epson's webpage announcing the products declares (see below). And it all goes to show the truth behind the marketing axiom of advancing a product or solution's benefits - how unmet user needs will be met by the new offering - rather than focusing on the features that lead to the benefits.

All about benefits - classic marketing messaging that delivers meaning and leads to interest and even excitement
At risk of belaboring the point, the text of the email announcement I received on August 4th (launch day) reads as follows, directly hitting on the "pain point" of user intervention.
Today, Epson transforms the $40 billion North American printing market with EcoTank, addressing one of the biggest pain points for small businesses and consumers: running out of ink. To push the limits on convenience and value for color printing, Epson, today, unveils five new all-in-one color printers that come loaded and ready with up to two years of ink the box – revolutionizing the printer industry. 
EcoTank printers deliver unbeatable convenience with ultra low-cost replacement ink bottles and innovative refillable ink tanks for its home and home office models. The high-end small business models come equipped with ink packs that allow users to print up to 20,000 pages.
The NPR story (highly recommended reading and/or listening) also is worth mentioning another time, as it not only covers Epson's new products, but also insight into the market. Its approach was more of a "story behind the story" - highlighting the strong reader response that came the Journal's (and Rothman's) way following their August 4th review (the one with the headline about killing the ink cartridge.) Seems there is a group of users out there who are quite passionate about their printing, even in 2015!

(A footnote - I have always enjoyed this kind of "story behind the story" coverage and have done, as well, and this one took me back to one of my earliest columns (slightly a year after my start), with the tale of the small software company in Portland that gained the attention and praise of the venerable Walt Mossberg, then of The Wall Street Journal as well. See "Making it to the Top of the PR Mountain".)
(And while I am at it - another footnote - regarding my Graham Nash two-parter: In July I posted the first of a two-part exploration of fine arts printing based around curiosity inspired by seeing Graham Nash in concert in early July, and wanting to find out more about his photography and connections to printing, and share that with my readers. I am still on track for that, but in my post I suggested it would follow as my August Observations, which it will not, but stay tuned for September!)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Intermountain 3D featured on Built in Boise

Proud to announce my first contribution to Built in Boise, a website described as "...writers, photographers, designers, builders and business-owners set out to tell the stories of Boise companies and the people behind them." It was a natural, and builds (pardon the pun) from my February Observations"HP Alums Take On 3D Printing World".