A printer that doesn’t let its legacy business get in the way of its opportunity business

LL Bean bags

First, a caveat. I’m in the content business. To explain it as simply as possible, I’m in the business (at Hammock Inc.) of helping companies find and deploy the content they need for whatever they have as business objectives. While I personally don’t like using the term “content” for such creative expressions as award-winning photography, beautifully written essays and professionally produced video, I am a business person, so I use the language of the marketplace to describe what I do, be it content sourcing, acquisition, creation, deployment, distribution, analysis or, well, whatever term some MBA dreams up next week.

As a “content sourcing” and “deployment” professional, I’m constantly looking for clients who have large-scale content needs, and for how they are fulfilling those needs — not only for business opportunities, but to to see if there is something we can learn to help us be more efficient or creative.

This morning, I ran across one that is not only interesting — it’s inspiring. It’s inspiring because it underscores the dramatic opportunities that exist when a “content” company doesn’t let its “legacy” get in the way of its opportunity.

In my scan of “content” news, I ran across a press release from Quad Graphics, a “printing” company I greatly admire and with whom my company has worked over the past two decades. Quad is one of those unique companies that has never let the term “printing” define who they are, despite being one of the largest printing companies in the world.

Today, they are announcing a relationship with L.L.Bean (another company I have a relationship with — I buy stuff from their catalog all the time) in which Quad will provide all the company’s photography.

“As part of the unique partnership established by this agreement, L.L.Bean will build Studio 1912, a state-of-the-art, 16,000-square-foot all digital photography studio in Westbrook, a Portland, Maine suburb, about 20 miles from L.L.Bean’s Freeport corporate headquarters.

Okay. Let all of that sink in. And then think about the “business” of content creation and deployment.

And then think about this: One of the world’s largest printing companies has recognized that opportunity is created at the same time threats occur. Think about a printer and a direct marketing juggernaut like L.L.Bean recognizing the opportunities and competencies of one-another necessary to envision such a relationship.

Will all of those photographs only live on the printed materials of L.L Bean? Of course not.

Those who know the history of Quad and who were ever privileged to know its founder will understand that such thinking is in the DNA of Quad. Too bad such creativity is not in the DNA of other legacy “content” businesses.

  • Rex,

    I couldn't agree more with you about the extraordinary nature of the firm founded by Harry Quadracci, and now managed by his son. By remaining independent and family-owned, they set the pace for innovation in the printing business. The recently announced merger with World Color Quebocor could be a big win for both, but it strikes me as similar to an Olympic athlete teaming with a child. Nonetheless, I wish them well.

  • Rex: Great catch while scanning a PR. I couldn't agree more about Quad. I was one of Quads very first customers when they had one terrible old press. From that an empire was built. Not on the iron but on a vision. Harry was amazing and his vision still runs very deep the company. I've recently toured one of the plants and as you well know the “chemistry” and the belief is still very tangible. You can touch it in every employee.
    Bob Sacks

  • Rex: Great catch while scanning a PR. I couldn't agree more about Quad. I was one of Quads very first customers when they had one terrible old press. From that an empire was built. Not on the iron but on a vision. Harry was amazing and his vision still runs very deep in the company. I've recently toured one of the plants and as you well know the “chemistry” and the belief is still very tangible. You can touch it in every employee.
    Bob Sacks