The Power of Print
I began my media career in newspapers some eighteen years ago. I soon moved into magazines and was hooked. In those early years, I think I thought that ink ran through my veins. Now, working across digital and print, not only can’t I shake the ink in my veins but it seems as if none of us can!
Have you heard that print is dead? It’s been proclaimed so many times, yet print endures. As silly as it sounds in retrospect, people once argued that photography would destroy painting with the same earnestness.
Consumers continue to engage with print in a tactile way; stocking up on magazines before a holiday or flight, pawing over the in-flight magazine or settling into one of the tens of millions of books we purchase annually. Printed material speaks differently to consumers; it’s personal, doesn’t need to be powered up or down, and, can be passed on or kept and treasured forever.
It’s a measure of the power of print that people have been announcing its death knells ever since the Internet started picking up steam, and yet Australians are still buying 18 million newspapers every week and 12 million magazines per month!
These numbers don’t even include the myriad forms of printed materials, such as postcards, business cards and leaflets which are given away for marketing purposes and other means of communication. Rather than dying, the industry continues to evolve, with new niche titles, contract publishing and self-publishing all flourishing.
For almost three years, we (Espresso Media) have been publishing Kudos, the in-room magazine for Quest Serviced Apartments. Despite the bulk of our work now involving digital in the mix, I still get a thrill turning the pages when the copies of Kudos arrive. So do Quest’s guests it would seem, given that almost every copy of every edition is taken from the room by a guest when they leave.
The readership is high; it would probably be safe to deduce that the pass-on rate is also rather high. It’s that tangible, sharable quality which means that print still works hard for the consumer and the brand.
Print has evolved though. Today, print has to work harder to maintain its relevance in a world where people have adjusted their behaviour and are exposed to print as part of a digital mix (or even as an alternative). Print continues to act as a starting point, even for many digital campaigns, and involving print in the mix increases the longevity of these campaigns.
The Print Effect
Print, especially printed pieces with an online component for support, is still the most effective medium for specific types of messages. Holding a printed object in your hands provides greater tangible value than fleeting and transitory online links. It’s about more than just the raw information. Printed materials carry subtle messages of quality and value that don’t translate to websites. Some types of activities just work better with printed materials, such as a relaxing read, in-depth research or a targeted members-only magazine that builds brand authority and generates interest among non-members.
Print’s authority may even be increasing in the face of a constantly revised online world. The printed word can’t be changed, unlike websites and online media, giving print a unique sense of permanency for brand-building power.
Next time you hear that print isn’t doing so well, refer to this list of options and you’ll see that print still has a serious impact (and will for the foreseeable future).
Here are the top five printed materials that people love to engage with:
1. Blended materials – Print and Web can work together through QR codes, augmented reality or other new cross-channel technology, engaging contemporary consumers in a wholly original way. Last year, Webb Mason had great success with its Storytime LIVE! automated marketing campaign using a combination of direct mail, social media and mobile communications.
2. Creative collateral – Printing technology is advancing rapidly with new techniques for high quality messaging on virtually any surface, including glass, fabric and metal. The Future Factory in London recently collected over 100 creative marketing collateral concepts, ranging from flash drives to flip book animations to near field communication cards that employ innovative uses for print. These forms of printed media give the impression that the organisation offering them offers real value in areas which matter to the target market.
3. Magazines – Michele Levine, CEO of Roy Morgan Research, has spent a great deal of time leading studies on Australian reading habits. She summed up the power of magazines this way: “Our data continues to show a very important place for magazines, especially across these well-informed ‘niche’ audiences.” In the new world of personalization and hyper-segmentation, magazines are becoming more effective than ever at reaching targeted receptive audiences. Member and customer-targeted magazines can offer opportunities to reach a client’s core customer base in a relevant and tangible way, and, offers up the opportunity for increased pass on rates to non-clients. Magazines can also provide a good starting point for content that can then be repurposed and disseminated via other channels (social media, email, web and blog platforms), leveraging the initial investment in producing the content.
4. Annual reports and company documents – The real purpose of an annual report is to convert confidence into something tangible. People want to be able to look at all the details, compare charts across different pages or even across different reports. Investors and other interested parties need access to hard numbers in a format that doesn’t require scrolling or batteries.
5. Posters – The original product of the printing press, back in the 15th century, is still a popular medium today. Posters are excellent for communicating dramatic material using text and graphics. They’re infinitely portable and people rarely tire of seeing them. Posters can often disseminate information about other mediums too, for example publicising films, live music and festivals. While a poster’s function may be short lived, they often become collector’s items and keepsakes because they provide a powerful and tangible reminder of transitory events and experiences.
Print remains not only highly relevant, it’s an indispensably powerful medium for reaching new audiences in a way that is unforgettable.
Successful marketing should include searching for new ways to integrate creative printing ideas with an online presence as part of any comprehensive brand strategy.
The more our world depends on the Internet and mobile technology, the more printed materials have the opportunity to captivate consumers with something fresh and original that they can touch.
As marketers and strategists, we cannot do without print, we just need to come up with clever ways to utilise all the value that printed work can provide for our communications strategies and campaigns.