When the British government announced in July 2010 they were scrapping the UK Film Council, the body which has provided funding to much of the British film industry since 2000, voices of dissent there were many. But among the various statements of vitriol directed against the Conservative coalition there were some more positive noises to be heard. For it is a long-established truism of the arts that poverty and creativity can indeed go hand-in-hand. Some of the world’s most impressive paintings, novels and films were produced in the most impoverished of circumstances and it is often the case that limited funding gives the writer, the film-maker or the artist much greater artistic integrity. It seems that for many creatives in the world of business too, struggling to reach consumers with their ever-dwindling marketing budgets, necessity has become the mother of invention there too. In recent months, we’ve been hearing how increasing numbers of office creatives have discovered the hidden potential of the humble photocopier. While for many, photocopiers long ago became a tired cliché of the office scenery, for those who have been paying closer attention, the growing range of features with which photocopiers are now equipped, have expanded functionality into completely new territories. Not only can photocopiers handle all the copying and printing that can be thrown in their direction but more sophisticated on-board publishing software enables users to create truly eye-catching designs and the extensive array of finishing tools provide format options that would have been unthinkable even ten years ago. Such is the modern photocopier’s power, it is becoming the trusted aide of many an in-house marketer/PR person, to the extent that some companies have come to seriously re-think their overall promotional strategies. Here, Canon Copiers reveals how other businesses looking to economise on their marketing budgets may be able to follow on this example and leverage their photocopiers to far more ambitious ends.

With tougher economic times seemingly here to stay, many companies have had to make certain sacrifices to keep their costs more under control. One area of spending that has suffered disproportionately more than others is advertising and marketing, an expense many companies have come to regard as somehow peripheral to their essential costs. While marketing and branding agencies have argued recession after recession that economic downturns are often the ideal opportunity to seize valuable market-share, most businesses simply do the obvious thing and slash their marketing budgets. But look at the many companies who have transformed potential adversity into opportunity during the recession. Take Waitrose for instance, whose prospects were seriously questioned by many business analysts as the country headed into the economic slowdown. Instead, the company capitalised on the change in circumstances, launching an ‘essentials’ range with accompanying marketing campaign and also positioning the more traditional Waitrose offering as ‘everyday luxury’, again with extensive TV and glossy advertising. It means that Waitrose has been able to increase its market-share to an unprecedented 4.4% and in 2010 recorded record sales of £5 billion.

While companies should do what they can to maintain existing marketing budgets or even invest in branding/marketing to a greater extent, the fact remains that many businesses, which can’t find sympathy with the banks or simply aren’t bringing in enough revenues to cover all their overheads, have had to sacrifice the prospect of potential new business just to stay afloat. It is for these businesses to which this article is addressed. Advertising doesn’t have to involve the employment of an outside agency or for that matter, vast expense. For many organisations a fresh perspective on their marketing requirements and a radical re-evaluation of the tools at their disposal could make all the difference.

For those working within organisations who lease photocopiers, it may come as some surprise to learn that most of the latest photocopiers are equipped with various features that could be enormously helpful for the purposes of in-house marketing and PR. The latest Canon imageRUNNER Advance photocopiers for example include standards of colour production previously only available on professional production devices, with a new toner, drum and controller delivering crisp, vibrant colour prints. For one-pagers, such as mail shots or postcards, Canon imageRUNNER Advance photocopiers are able to provide comparable standards of printing to what would be possible on some litho production printers. Postcards, in particular, are an increasingly popular way for businesses with limited marketing budgets to reach their potential customers. Depending on the type of business, B-to-B or B-to-C, they can be mailed, hand-delivered, inserted in magazines or company literature, left in office waiting rooms or with other businesses which share a similar customer base. A memorable postcard is a superb way to reach potential customers and Canon imageRUNNER photocopiers can provide this format at the highest ever standards and at pretty affordable prices too.

Besides what can be achieved with regular paper/card, today’s photocopiers or multifunction printers (MFP’s), as they are often known, provide a range of other capabilities to enhance any company’s communications powers. With wide media handling and extensive finishing tools as well, modern photocopiers are able to significantly increase a company’s internal marketing capabilities. Again, taking the Canon imageRUNNER Advance photocopiers as an example, many of the latest photocopiers provide the ability to create entirely new types of documents. Gone are the days when the addition of staples to a document would excite office administrators. Today’s photocopiers, such as those in the Canon imageRUNNER Advance series, offer users the ability to create impactful booklets as well as various other types of folded documents. For many businesses that would usually have to outsource their quality stationary, promotional materials and brochure printing to third-party printers, this functionality is an enormous help. Particularly when the alternative involves riskily pre-ordering materials in large quantities, booklet/brochure printing using photocopiers, provides the ability for customers to place more conservative initial orders with third-party printers and respond with internal output, depending on requirements/demand. In times of great economic uncertainty, this level of flexibility provides a much safer approach to company promotional and marketing materials. C-folding and Z-folding may sound like descriptions of things we would do well to avoid but again these are short-hand for describing some very impressive tools available on modern photocopiers and which provide the potential for more sophisticated in-house marketing capability. For pamphlets, product/service overviews or menus, Z-folding on Canon imageRUNNER photocopiers offers the opportunity to create eye-catching fold-out materials in a wide range of media types. Again, the option of C-fold finishing on Canon imageRUNNER photocopiers provides another possible format for company marketing materials.

Now that many photocopiers offer on-board document publishing suites as well, actually putting marketing materials together is much easier as well. Canon’s iW360 printing/publishing software for instance allows users to combine documents and information from various sources and formats, preview them and also to edit, annotate and add headers or footers. What’s more, this functionality can be accessed via the device’s user interface, so producing professional-looking documents doesn’t have to take a great deal of time.

From the trundling juggernauts of old, modern photocopiers have evolved to become the ergonomic lynchpins of many offices around the world today. Most users are aware of the added functionality as far as scanning, faxing, printing and network integration are concerned but many don’t necessarily realise just how far media handling tools have come-on as well. Combined with the more advanced printing technologies, these finishing tools have the power to handle a far greater proportion of an organisation’s promotional and marketing materials than would have been conceivable even ten years ago. Now it is a straightforward possibility for businesses to use their photocopiers to print their own business cards, postcards, leaflets, pamphlets, reports, document presentations, catalogues, booklets and much more.

In times of great economic uncertainty where many business’ marketing budgets have been significantly curtailed, the features of modern-day photocopiers provide invaluable flexibility – the flexibility to avoid large bulk printing costs and the flexibility to adapt to conditions on much of a company’s marketing materials as the market takes its course. And for organisations whose marketing activities have not previously embraced such formats, today’s photocopiers provide a great opportunity to migrate towards more cost-effective and manageable in-house methods.