Commercial Headlines
Special Feature 2 October 2014
Evolution takes Trico Group from printing to data-driven agency
Printers have been exhorted to become marketing services providers for a long time. But so few have done it that MSPs have become a kind of urban myth. Trico Evolution, seems to be one company that has managed the transition.

Back Row: Left to right: Simone Aubin, Sherry Mullen, Catherine Maciaszek, David Shackleton, Andrew Inderwick. Front Row: Dean McJannet (seated), Steve Hutton, Scott Wakeman

Formerly known as Trico Group, and before that as Trico Printing, the traditional offset company with a focus on direct mail has morphed into what vice president Dean McJannet calls a data-informed marketing company that happens to also print. It’s a strategy that’s brought in lower revenues, but significantly higher profitability.

McJannet is quick to stress that Trico doesn’t simply do variable printing. “1:1, by itself, doesn't work,” he says. Trico’s services are based on data. This includes collecting client data for marketers based on customer touch-points, analyzing that data, building customer profiles, creating marketing materials that are relevant to the recipients, and deploying them across multi-media platforms. “We have moved from delivery services to strategy engagement,” says McJannet.

The changes they’ve made have thrust the company onto an international stage.  Recently Trico was one of three North American companies invited to speak at an event called Digital Shockwave, held at the Xerox Gill Hatch Centre for Customer Innovation. McJannet spent 30-minutes speaking about Trico’s metamorphosis as a company in front of primary senior vice presidents for Xerox, technology subsidiaries and industry participants.

“It’s a bit humbling,” he said. “We’re a small company from Ottawa and we’ve captured the imagination of an international stage. We seem to be solving some significant business problems as it relates to the graphics industry, analytics and the climate of strategic communications. I may have an arch in my spine some days but I left that engagement with my spine totally straight.”

Trico’s transformation began about four years ago as its leaders realized the bottom was falling out of the offset business and change was needed. They brought McJannet on board and injected $2 million into the makeover.

Most of that financial infusion went into software systems, including XMPie, analytics and database systems, collaborative software tools and delivery platforms, says McJannet

While the production facilities, including two offset presses, several digital presses, and an upgraded letterpress shop, was left relatively intact, the front end of the shop was totally remade. Instead of prepress operators, composition technicians now walk the aisles. Other new job titles include marketing IT specialists, database engineers, analytics specialists, and a creative team that knows how to execute design based on collected data.

In all, about 25 to 30 jobs rolled over, and the staff complement now stands at 65. Three of them are senior account executives.

So how do you sell this to clients? “With a lot of hard work,” says McJannet. “A lot of talking and pushing for opportunities, and delivering results. Now we’ve reached a point of critical mass.”
 Trico was able to retain most of its direct mail clients, but the traditional volume, commodity offset work disappeared

The vice president has recently picked up two international brands that have already downloaded data to the company—although he remains mum on naming them to honour client confidentiality.

“They’re asking us how they can build data informed engines, and guess who my competition is? IMB. They brought us to the table and said, here is your competition on an international stage. There’s a big enterprise but we’ve been told by these clients they’d like to have you on the table because of your thinking, your passion and what you do.”

McJannet grew up in the printing industry. His parents owned the now-defunct Love Printing in Ottawa, and he spent about 10 years at Gilmore Printing, also in the national capital, honing his vision for a data-driven company.

In five to seven years McJannet imagines the 1:1 market will rollout into other industries. He  sees the futre as one where consumers will be able to walk into a store where packaging will have an embedded printed circuitry with the ability to capture information and transactions. He believes new technologies will answer the question of who should I be talking to, at what time, using what medium.

The journey to transform Trico hasn’t been easy, he says, but it has re-enforced one crucial belief: “I get tired of hearing the printing industry is disappearing. I see a world of opportunity, it’s just different. We don’t give ourselves enough credit. We’ve been handling one of the most successful communication channels in the history of man. We have to stop calling it print, call it communications and understand that there are many more channels that we can apply our craft too.”

*This story was also featured here, in our October 2014 issue.*
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