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João Costa, CEO of FINEPAPER, in an interview with the magazine Pharmaceutical Marketing

After so many years of producing the magazine Pharmaceutical Marketing, I was challenged by Hollyfar to answer some questions. The result of this invitation, which greatly honored me, can now also be read here on the blog.

The following interview addresses the current moment and the impact felt on the printing and pharmaceutical industries, as well as some considerations about the future of printing.

Who is João Costa and how does he get here?

I decided at a young age that I wanted to work in the graphic field. Being the son of a designer who was working very close to the production phase, I can't even remember when I began to like being inside a printing company and recognizing its equipment and the various phases of the graphic production process. I ended up enrolling in a professional Graphic Arts course when computers began to be part of the process and, later, a Degree in Graphic Design and Production that I never finished. I worked in several printing houses and publishers, where I gained practical experience in printing, photography, finishes, binding and, essentially, all phases of preprinting. This learning path in almost every area of the production cycle led me to create the company Finepaper, which has been in business for 12 years.

Following an MBA in Graphic Production that I completed at ISEC, there was a desire to start an internationalization process, which began with the opening of an office in Chicago last year. At the same time, I have more than 20 years of experience as a graphic arts educator, having passed through several professional schools and Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa, among other schools and training projects, he is currently a professor of Graphic Production at Lisbon School of Design.

The Pharmaceutical Industry has traditionally been an important customer for the graphic arts sector. Have you felt any break in this relationship?

I cannot say that I have experienced a break in the relationship with our clients in the Pharmaceutical Industry, nor do I believe that the relationship between both sectors is at risk, essentially because the packaging and labeling areas continue to have growth projections for the coming years around the world. Regarding other types of materials, such as marketing materials and editorial products, I have not felt any slowdown either, but I believe this may have to do with Finepaper's particular situation.

We live under Buzzword of digitization. Everything will be digitized...

The digital transformation created new assumptions that led almost all types of companies to adjust the typology of communication materials. Obviously, some printed products now make much more sense in digital format. In the particular case of IF, because it is traditionally a sector that consistently seeks to use differentiation strategies, I think that they will make the switch as often as necessary to maintain the efficiency of their initiatives and products.

Do you consider this a trend that is cross-cutting across all sectors of activity and irreversible?

Yes, I think that the use of digital media will continue to grow irreversibly in all sectors of activity, simply because that's where people are. But I also think that there is already some information saturation and this will always create excellent opportunities for the use of printed materials.

I think it's safe to say that the use of paper will be more restricted to the areas of packaging, labeling, hygiene and catering products, with the reduction felt in the transactional and editorial areas. But I think it will continue to play a very important role in brands' communication strategies.

Do you still find advantages, from a marketing point of view, in the use of non-digital media?

In addition to thinking that it could be a good alternative in situations where differentiation is important, I think there are two other advantages that cannot be ignored: reading non-digital media is more efficient from the point of view of information retention and is healthier.

I think that the more generalized the digital media and processes are, the more relevant some analog products will have, but I believe that we are still a bit far from being able to say that analog media are reinforcing their position.

Is it possible to offer innovation to the Pharmaceutical Industry or the graphic arts are increasingly limited to Packaging?

I believe that the printing industry will continue to develop innovative solutions that will impact every industry. One of the most curious situations, in my opinion, has to do with the way in which it has maintained a presence in the growth of 3D printing for the purpose of marketing, in an attempt to position themselves as producers of this type of products, as a complement to their ability to customize them. Another area that I think is important and that could give a lot to talk about is the development of increasingly sustainable materials and technologies, which may prove to be a greener option than some digital communication alternatives.

As a company, they are experiencing the great challenge of internationalization. How does a Portuguese company in this sector reach a market like the American one?

Our internationalization process began to take shape when we realized that the level of service provided daily at Finepaper was highly valued and considered innovative by clients of various nationalities, with experience in graphic production in various parts of the world. We started by carrying out some projects outside Portugal and, based on a relationship with a large American client, we ended up deciding to start testing an international growth model in Chicago.

Could this process serve to break the chains of international alignment that force companies to work with global suppliers?

I think that in graphic production it will be difficult to counteract, for now, this trend with large productions, but production centralization systems are beginning to emerge that use a local production logic, as a way to increase service quality and reduce production times, while contributing to reducing the environmental impact of logistics. Our idea is to work on a basis that also favors local connections, for the same reasons and because we want to increase the network of suppliers.

In an increasingly technological society, how do you look at the future of your activity?

I think that, in the very near future, we will see a change in the logic of contact between clients and graphic companies, which will start to work almost exclusively through platforms online, making graphic products even more accessible. In combination with the trend of increasing consumption, this will keep the sector growing in some segments, while others will necessarily have to adapt to a new digital reality that will create different opportunities, which will force companies in the graphic sector to maintain the pace of innovation to continue to present good arguments for the use of their printed products.

Is there a new, fully digital consumer? Will it be possible to impact future generations through printed communication tools?

I have some difficulty imagining a world where communication is completely digital. I think we have some examples that show that even new generations are not moving towards a rupture with everything that is not digital and, therefore, I believe that successful communication in the future will be a combination of strategies online and offline.

Do you personally believe in the “end of paper”? Why?

I don't believe at all that you will see the end of paper communication, because a printed product is much more than just its content and I don't think that digital media will be able to fully replace the pleasure of using most graphic products.

Copy editor: Magazine Pharmaceutical Marketing and Marina Soares

Photography: Dília Lopes

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