By Elizabeth Budd
It’s come to our attention that there are two meanings for ‘iGen’. One definition is a large digital production press; the other is an alternative term for Generation Z, a.k.a Gen Z or ‘Zoomers’. As we look ahead to 2022, we’ve decided to consider what the iGen generation is looking for when it comes to print, as well as how you might embrace opportunities that arise (potentially on a Xerox production press!)
What is the ‘iGen’ generation?
In the UK, it’s fair to say that we tend to refer to this generation as Gen Z. The term iGen to describe the same generation was coined by Jean Twenge in 2006 for a book, although the title was later changed. Depending on the definition you choose, the iGen generation was born any time between 1990 and 2012. Usually, the range is a little tighter than that, starting in the mid to late 90s and ending in the early 2010s.
By these measures, members of the iGen generation are as old as 31 or as young as 9. Two things are for sure: plenty are already economically active, and their choices shape our markets.
What is a Xerox iGen 5 Press?
The Xerox iGen 5 Press is a substantial digital production printing press with a 5th print station, extra-long sheet capability and advanced automation. The 5th station can take Orange, Blue or Green Gamut Extension colours, or White, Clear or Fluorescent Yellow Dry Ink. It can produce 150 pages per minute and up to a million pages a month.
The iGen platform launched in 2002, so today’s versions – iGen 5 configurations – build on two decades of innovation and improvement. Across the globe, Xerox iGen devices produce high-end colour brochures, posters, direct mail, and digital packaging, often with Xerox FreeFlow Core and XMPie for the ultimate in workflow automation.
What does the iGen generation want from print?
We’ve all read that Gen Z, having grown up with access to the internet, are digital natives. Perhaps we’ve also read that they spend too long on screens and read fewer books than the generations that came before them. While it’s convenient to describe an entire generation, we can’t lose sight of the fact that members of a generation are still individuals.
Making sweeping generalisations is unfair. Saying all members of Gen Z want the same thing is as inaccurate as suggesting all Millennials or all Boomers have the same outlook. Yet, we do know that technology and trends change. So which trends are evident when asking members of the iGen generation about print in all its glorious forms? In an admittedly unscientific experiment, we asked our Gen Z staff (and took to Twitter) to find out.
Below, we look at ten themes that arose in our discussions and consider how commercial printers can embrace these themes as commercial opportunities, perhaps by partnering with a Xerox production press (particularly an iGen, Iridesse, Versant or Nuvera) or associated workflow software and solutions.
We’ve rounded up our thoughts in the following ten categories:
3. Multi-channel opportunities.
7. Attention to detail.
“I hate wasted glossy paper that can’t be recycled. Why not offer paper you can plant (with seeds in it?)… we’re more eco-conscious now that it’s our future at risk.”
“Sometimes I think, ‘why did you print this? This is a waste of paper!'”
“I don’t think the need and desire for printed materials will decline, it’s more that we’re more conscious of environmental impacts. Either use recycled material (or material that can go on to be recycled) and move towards more energy-efficient devices.”
Everyone is talking more about the environment, and arguably, Gen Z includes the loudest voices. For many reasons, print needs to become greener: the technology, the toner, the media, the distribution of the finished product, the lifecycle and eventual recycling of all of the above.
Opportunity: Find a press, like the Xerox Iridesse, with deinkable prints. Ensure your devices come from manufacturers working towards net-zero and that you offer recycled and sustainable stocks. Consider replanting schemes, make sure your used toners are returned for recycling (e.g. EcoBox) and limit wastage as much as possible. What’s more, make sure you tell your customers that you’re doing these things; they’re interested!
Learn more: Environment and Corporate Social Responsibility
“I prefer everything printed. I can’t read on screens well because it hurts my eyes.”
“Charts and short posts, I like online. If it’s a book or something long, I need it in person. My dyslexia is slightly better when I read long text in-person versus online. Double-space is important.”
Good design means not just being eye-catching but being easily understood and getting a message across. At best, poorly-designed print can be confusing and off-putting. At worst, it can be downright impossible to read and give a brand a bad name.
Opportunity: Consider how to make print more accessible to more people. Can you offer versions in large print, other languages, braille, or provide a QR code to a talking version? Inclusivity is increasingly important to brands and, in many cases, is a requirement, not an aspiration – especially in the education and health sectors. Think about contrast, font sizes, letter spacing, and colours. More accessible design could well be better design for us all.
Learn more: Accessible Information Standard (Opens on Mencap website)
3. Multi-channel opportunities.
“As for [printed] magazines, I don’t really care for them; you can read all the drama online!”
“Yes to [printing] books and magazines. Yes to unwieldy documents for work…yes to anything you need to edit or annotate.”
Yes, the two quotes above oppose one another – that’s the point! Different people prefer different channels, both printed and/or online, for their information. The challenge is finding the best channel for a particular goal – even the trusty business card now has an electronic rival. But does it have to be books vs ebooks, letters vs emails, flyers vs eshots?
Opportunity: Adapt the design for a piece of print and use it in different and complementary ways. When creating a flyer for a customer, offer to add value and upsell with social media content, electronic newsletters, landing pages, even personalised videos and loyalty cards. Adaptation can be as simple as augmenting a printed flyer with a QR code that links to a landing page or as complex as creating a truly omni-channel campaign, where all customer channels offer a cohesive message.
Learn more: Omni-channel marketing (opens on HubSpot website)
4. Knowledge of market trends.
“I personally think there’s still plenty of room for print. My ‘knee-jerk’ reaction is that I love physical books! I think ebooks are fantastic technology which help more people access reading, but for me, I love a printed book.”
There have been articles about whether the printed book is dead for years. So far, it’s not. That said, customers want choice, and they might prefer some types of publications printed and others digital. Others still might be best published in multiple formats, several languages or in the form of audio. Consumers weigh up how long it will take to access the information they need, whether they have room to store it, and how it looks on their shelf: so which option is best for a particular audience? Your clients need advice, and you have the market knowledge and experience to supply it.
Opportunity: Guide customers to the right product for their aims and target markets. Point 3 above aside, while you *could* offer multiple channels for a project, it doesn’t mean you always should. While providing choice is essential, your customers could be blinded by the sheer number of options. Your experience and expertise are vital as trends change; customers often need guidance as to the most appropriate format as well as the end-product itself.
Learn more: Xerox’s 2022 ‘Powering Today’s Workforce’ video, featuring several trends across office and production print.
“I love printed books; I don’t think ebooks will ever replace them. They’re more personal. Also, I think TikTok (BookTok) has made having a bookshelf in your room a trend.”
“Hand-written letters for the win!”
What do your printed possessions say about you? What do the printed things you buy and gift say about your feelings towards others? Electronic communications can feel cold and impersonal. Our interviewees agreed that physical birthday cards almost always trump electronic ones. You probably have multiple printed materials around your house that you’ve held on to because they are functional, attractive or because you received them from someone you care about. Do you display your emails in the same way?
Opportunity: Short-run digital print can enable you to personalise greetings cards, photograph albums, stationery and all manner of other printed products; the kinds of items that will be treasured, not trashed.
Learn more: Watch the XMPie video below for an ‘at a glance view’ of how it could help you.
“I’m guilty of chucking away print because [I think] it’s clutter if it’s boring, dull and holds no interest for me. Create something that drags me in, that’s fun to read and even take part in.”
Content is all around us. Messages bombard us from screens and printed media 24/7. Clients want their print to stand out and cut through the noise for the right reasons. Many of us are eschewing houses full of ‘stuff’, wishing to retain only what we need, use, or find beautiful – ‘Sort Your Life Out’ style!
Opportunity: Make your print stand out with great design and the latest toner technology and media. Use attractive stocks up to 400gsm, unusual shapes, fluorescent and metallic inks, colours on white or white toner on black. Think about finishing, quirky cuts and memorable embellishments. How can your work be different, eye-catching and worth keeping?
Learn more: What is Beyond CMYK?
7. Attention to detail.
“If it looks professional and the image is a nice quality, I’m more inclined to flip through the pages. If it’s cluttered with text, I don’t read it – it makes me think they’re rambling and haven’t edited anything. What it’s printed on makes a difference, too.”
“I think print is still very relevant and important in advertising – I’m a sucker for clever and interesting packaging, and I know plenty of people that have impulse-bought an item, saying they ‘just really liked the packaging’!”
Ever got a flyer through the door with an obvious error, non-ironic Comic Sans, or finished so badly you threw it straight in the recycling? We’re all getting better at spotting phishing emails and flyers, and we know that looking professional and trustworthy matters. What’s more, we are short of time and want straightforward, to the point advertising.
Platforms like Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest showcase colour and branding from goods from around the world – global PR to entice new consumers. Sometimes the packaging is far more attractive than the product; if a product comes is wrapped in something too good to throw away – high quality as well as eco-friendly – you might feel you got more than your money’s worth. Print is all part of the experience of buying something new.
Attention to detail, then, follows from advertising flyers onto the packaging and even the products themselves. You could argue that mass-produced goods are gradually giving way to more personal, quirky and more homemade and low carbon mileage items, especially when it comes to gifting. Whether it’s personalised gin, crafting kits or personalised greetings cards, do it well.
Opportunity: Could you expand your packaging or labelling offerings? There are ways to broaden Web to Print to bespoke boxes and more. Can you partner with local businesses using Etsy, Not on the High Street and other platforms to help them with all aspects of their printing needs?
Learn more: Digital Packaging
“Some homework [is submitted] electronically, and other items are printed and handed in. I suspect it’s as much down to personal preferences of each teacher.”
Decisions are made based on personal preferences as well as the demands of those around us. Even if one generation did want to do lots of things electronically, they might not be able to: one generation does not exist in isolation from another. Work might need submitting to lecturers, editors and managers in specific ways, parents might insist on printed invitations for a wedding, target markets might still appreciate a printed business card.
Opportunity: Become a flexpert! Grammarly’s word of the year describes “that teammate who always figures out what to do and how to do it—and they make it look easy.” Work with your customers to provide options for the most-wanted formats in each of your target sectors.
Learn more: Web to print storefronts with uStoreNG from XMPie
“Physical books also get you away from a screen – same as magazines, although I don’t like the ones where you get plastic stuff on the front.”
“If it’s a magazine, I like it printed. If it’s a newsletter, then no, I could read that on my phone; I still like a physical element to reading material.”
Smartphone notifications, emails, push messages, Teams calls – pings of all kinds – clutter our days and minds. Do we really want *everything* to be on a screen, or does printed material give us a welcome break from electronic communications?
Opportunity: Create reasons to put down a tablet or smartphone. High-quality magazines, direct mail, children’s books, life stories, novels…print something that gives someone a chance to sit, read, and relax.
Learn more: Xerox iGen 5 and Xerox Nuvera
“If you’re a self-published author, you’re more likely to release an ebook rather than a print book due to the cost, for example. Products need to be reasonable on a budget.”
In this day and age, it’s much easier to shop around. As Gen Z enter the workplace, they’re likely to have less disposable income than other age groups (at least initially). In addition, they can find competitive prices online quickly. Affordability encompasses not just the cost of the product but access to it in terms of time and money.
Opportunity: Match your press to your output. What quality do you need in order to get the correct Quality-Price Ratio? Can you run lots of different types of jobs efficiently, even short runs? What value can you offer over and above the financial cost to make your product a worthwhile investment? Can you support e-publication as well? How convenient can you make the order and delivery process, e.g. Web to Print?
Learn more: Entry-level machines and used Xerox presses
The feeling we got from our iGen generation was that – almost unanimously – sustainability was necessary for the future of print. In addition, the same generation generally expects more integration with digital media (if not purely electronic formats). There is a desire for items that feel personalised, well designed and attractive, and that ‘mean something’. That said, there was much less harmony about what should and shouldn’t be printed. Choice is critical here: enabling printed books for those that prefer them, ebooks for those that don’t, for example.
While this blog post started with print for the iGen generation, the information above proves that good print and design are not really about a single generation. Yes, the iGen generation is coming through, and in a few years, so will its successor, Generation Alpha. However, really, it’s still about the customer as an individual, their preferences, and potentially the preferences of their audience, regardless of the customer’s age.
Commercial printers have opportunities to champion choice, drive new trends and support sustainability, inclusivity and accessibility, all of which will shape the years ahead. The print industry can embrace what’s already possible and look forward to what soon will be possible.
How can today’s production print technology support your business goals for 2022?
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