How Konica Minolta's marketing leader is harnessing internal innovation for brand rejuvenation

Few organisations are thinking as laterally as Konica Minolta, as this B2B marketer well knows.

Mark Brown
Mark Brown

Sometimes in changing markets, you need to think laterally to thrive. But few organisations are thinking as laterally as Konica Minolta.

An organisation with a heritage in printing and photographic technology that stretches all the way back to 1873, in recent years Konica Minolta has brought to market a diverse range of products ranging from additive manufacturing processes to warehouse automation robots. The company’s next product innovation stretches further again, with Konica Minolta set to launch a service that can assess the structural integrity of concrete bridges.

Much of the responsibility for bringing each of these innovations into the Australian market rests with general manager for marketing, Mark Brown. While the latest innovation is a bold move for a company best known for making printers, Brown says this and earlier announcements simply reflect the company playing to its strengths.

“It is about the things that we do really well, which is imaging technology and scanning technology and linking all of that,” Brown tells CMO.

In the same way, previous forays into additive manufacturing and warehouse automation are also extensions of existing capabilities, the former stemming from Konica Minolta’s strengths in 3D printing. Brown says in each instance, the greatest challenge has not been technical, but has come from convincing the market Konica Minolta is the right company for the job.

“A new product, in a new market, and without any recognition of who the company is within that space, is a tough one,” Brown says. “It is about recognising where you are going to add value and where you are going to help. And where we don’t have the [market] expertise, then in those areas, we look for partners who will take on that technology and sell it into the Australian market.”

Each of these new products and services is the output of Konica Minolta’s regional Business Innovation Centres. In Australia, Konica Minolta’s innovation teams reports to Brown, which gives him a bird’s eye view of what the centres are developing, and the opportunity research customer requirements.

In the case of 3D printing, that meant spending a lot of time in companies looking to see the kinds of physical objects that needed replacing, and where a 3D printer could provide a solution. This business case has been boosted by the Covid-19 crisis and subsequent problem with supply chains, which have led many organisations to seek solutions that enhanced self-sufficiency.

“We were looking at their internal processes of how things work, and also we looked see what they kept on their shelves to keep their machines running,” Brown says. “Companies could then start printing their own parts when something broke down.

“I have always been a big fan of marketers spending plenty of time in the field understanding customers, and that is where we have picked up a few of these things that we were probably blind to if we were more removed. That has given us some real insights into other areas that probably are very non-traditional for Konica.”

Despite its leaps into new markets, Brown says at its heart Konica Minolta remains an office technology supplier. But he sees the needs of modern clients have changed significantly also.

“Print is still there, and it will be there for a time to come,” Brown says. “But the whole industry is moving towards a virtual era, so there is a big focus on software and services, which is where I spend a vast proportion of my time.”

In the meantime, the innovation centres will continue to create new capabilities and services that will broaden awareness of what Konica Minolta can deliver.

“People might come to us maybe for 3D printing or robots, but they may buy a multifunction printer as well,” Brown jokes. “Those innovation areas are critical for portraying us as a business that is flexible and agile and wants to move into other areas. But at the same time we are not ignoring our traditional customers and heritage of the business.”

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