2023 CMYK Manifesto: Disrupt, Disclose, Do Better

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Greetings Citizens of the Printerverse and welcome to a New Year! For the first time in 3 years, it feels like an actual NEW year and not a continuation of what I refer to as the uni-year. The uni-year covers anything that happened between March 2020 and December 31, 2022. All the maintaining status quo and treading water to keep print business going and print customer’s buying.

Despite all the factors working against us, and there were many and most were out of our control, many print businesses made it to other side. YAY! Some are stronger, some are leaner, some are merged, and some are acquired. No matter how you got here you are here now and finally, it’s time to look ahead and plan with purpose.

This is the 10th anniversary of the CMYK Manifesto. It is my annual assessment of attitudes and opportunities that can drive print business, print customer relationships and the printing industry forward. It’s a milestone post at a pivotal point in time. I truly hope it gives you some actionable new business ideas and plenty of ‘printspiration’ for a successful year.



Print IS the new digital disruption. Social media use is down around the world. Digital marketing scams are rampant. Ransomware attacks are on the rise. Technology giants are facing a value and trust-based reckoning with consumers and with Wall Street investors.

While these topics are prevalent across news cycles and around kitchen tables and water coolers, the effectiveness of digital advertising and marketing has been called into question by the biggest brands with the biggest budgets, and they have pulled back their dollars, significantly.

As I wrote in this post, Twitter Advertising is Dead. Long Live Print!, there has never been a better time to pitch print as a SECURITY solution. It is a TRUSTED way to communicate. Do you question the authenticity of a letter or postcard from your bank asking you to visit a website or scan a QR code? What about an email with the same information? Or an SMS message? Are you scanning or clicking?

Assuming you, like I, become a forensic detective for ‘safety’ evidence when a call, email, or text comes from someone or something you don’t recognize, assume your customers do – and their customers as well. Turn that into a conversation about trust, and how print is a safe first step in any customer journey, especially if that journey leads online.

In the post referenced above, I stressed this point, and it is worth repeating here. We live in an omnichannel world. This is NOT about trashing or creating more fear around digital marketing and media. It is not going away, it’s evolving. This is about positioning print in a new way by adding ‘safe and secure’ to the top of your list of value propositions with your current print customers and prospects.


The era of bullshit is over. It had a loooooong run and many benefitted from coloring outside the lines or making them disappear. The pendulum is now swinging back, and we are entering the era of accountability.

Accountability relates to trust as well as tolerance for spinning the ‘truth’ according to needs. For the printing industry improvements are needed regarding transparency around data collection and data reporting – including events providing actual registration and attendance numbers and not stories about them, questioning analysts who consistently conclude that it’s a great time to invest no matter what economists and financial advisors outside of the industry are reporting, and talking points from vendors that conflict with customer experience across the industry.

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Those are just a few examples pulled from conversations I had last year about authenticity with print business owners, OEM’s and vendors. If you don’t want to spin any of that information, don’t lead with it and create marketing around it. Forensic detectives work these cases, too.

Accountability and authenticity also apply to print customers of all sizes. Right now, one of the hottest topics is print and sustainability. I have personally heard misinformation and half-truths about this subject from industry consultants and finishing manufacturers in 2022.

The good news is that there is PLENTY of positive and authentic environmental information to share about print and finishing with print customers – especially from brands and agencies. And, as each year goes by, we are getting better. Keep your print customer conversations focused on FACTS, seek facts out from many sources, and be truthful about what can and can’t be repulped, recycled and reclaimed. Listen to this podcast for intel and messaging strategy: Embellished Sustainability Claims with Karen Kromat, Case Paper.


This may be the most important, especially regarding customer relationships. How ‘better’ is defined depends upon where you are now. I offer these examples for you to build upon.

Customer Journey: Can a customer get everything they need to educate themselves, make a purchasing decision, place an order, pay, and get notifications for project progress and delivery WITHOUT ever speaking to you? If not, do better.

Customer Connection: Do your customers (who care about such things) understand the things you care about? Are you giving back to the world? Doing something positive for your community or underserved communities? This used to fall under ‘social selling’ and it was marketable. It still is, and even more so, if it’s authentic. There are 12 months in a year. If Black History Month, Women’s History Month and Gay Pride Month are the only time you speak about and support diversity, equity and inclusion, for example, do better.

Communications: Consumer privacy is topical around the world and growing outcry has forced lawmakers to address it in more meaningful ways. Tolerance is at an all-time low for intrusive communications and has third-rail potential for opt-outs and spam reporting. Keep this in mind as you talk with print customers about data-driven marketing, buying and using mailing lists. If you aren’t being appropriate with your communications, providing relevant information and opt-out options, do better.

Access: If people can’t attend industry events and gatherings they should not be penalized. If your education and sales model is based on butts in seats and/or attendees walking trade show aisles, do better.


I describe myself as a realist. Adding some reality-based optimism that signs point to this year being the start of many good years to come is not a stretch. Here’s to YOU, here’s to US, here’s to EVERYONE having a peaceful, productive and profitable 2023!



See Deborah’s featured post: 2022: A Year of Tepid Transformation for the Post-Pandemic Printing Industry


See all posts by Deborah


Deborah Corn is the Intergalactic Ambassador to the Printerverse at Print Media Centr, a Print Buyerologist, international industry speaker and blogger, and the cultivator of Print Production Professionals, the #1 print group on LinkedIn. She provides printspiration and resources to print and marketing professionals through education, events, Podcasts From The Printerverse, ProjectPeacock.TV, and an array of community-lifting initiatives including Girls Who Print, Elevate Print, #PrintChat, #PrintLife and International Print Day.

Deborah also helps companies create more meaningful and profitable customer relationships by utilizing more than 25 years of experience as an agency, brand, and corporate print buyer who has assessed, hired and worked with a plethora of printers and service providers.

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