The Case for Print: Why Print is Very Much Alive

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Adaptation is critical for survival, and we’re always paying attention to the pulse of the industry. Our digital advertising agency’s rapid growth is proof that online and mobile are an essential piece of any modern marketing strategy. At the same time, we firmly believe that print is just as important as ever.

Strategic targeting

Advertising in any one space is likely to overlook a segment of the intended audience. Many of our senior living clients are testing the waters through online advertising and retargeting, but print and direct mail remain an important part of the mix. Our efforts are aimed at adult children and their parents, and while even the older generation is becoming more tech savvy, there is still a real value in print pieces. Print has permanence, and if posted on a refrigerator or bulletin board remains closer to top of mind. Even as we move more deeply into a digital world, we must not assume that everyone has an email address or surfs the web. Or, more dangerous still, conclude that if one isn’t active on the internet, one isn’t part of the intended target audience. It’s worth remembering that not everyone is playing in the same space we are, and print allows us to extend our reach far beyond the keyboard. 

Triggers for behavior

The connection between print and online behavior has even spurred former catalog giant J.C. Penney to rejoin the game. After nearly five years, the retailer is bringing back a print catalog specifically to generate online sales. While the 120 page version is a far cry from the 1000+ page Big Book sent to homes for more than 40 years, it underscores the reality of shopping behavior. Decades ago, shoppers browsed at home and ordered by phone. The revived catalog delivers the same basic experience. Only the checkout method has changed.

As the parent of a high school junior, my home mailbox (the physical one, next to the house) has been filling up with college catalogs and mailings. We’ve also brought home pieces from college visits (pieces I wish we’d created). Our recycling bin has certainly received its fair share, but many of these printed items have real staying power. Whether it’s the message, the copy or the strong imagery, they connect us to the institution in a different way. My high school student’s email account is probably filling up with digital mail, but it’s the physical pieces that stand as a reminder of the decisions to be made in the year ahead.

Permanent residency

Not so long ago, the digital photo frame was the next best thing – easily updated, always changing, filled with hundreds of images. What’s on my desk today? A few carefully selected snapshots of memorable times. Static. In picture frames.

Print pieces can be physically shared, pinned to a cork board, taken with you. They provide a physical reminder of an errand, sale, appointment, event. The fact that they’re not constantly changing and moving is why they’re so effective.

Watch what’s happening

There’s been a lot of noise lately about Apple running 12 pages of print ads for their newest tech item. Why would high-tech go so incredibly old school? Obviously we’d argue that’s exactly the reason – the enduring nature of print. The tactile experience of turning pages to see what’s next. The permanence of the image on the physical page. In an era where everything is temporary and disposable, print still has a place, an important role in the advertising mix.

And, again, Apple is controlling the message. Their announcement of the Apple Watch came months ago, and videos are easily found on the internet. But this massive print spread grabbed headlines and focused attention right before announcement of the actual availability. Twelve pages in Vogue position their tech gear as high fashion, as wearable art, as something exclusive and aspirational. And has given media outlets something to talk about to keep the story top of mind and their product a must-have.

Sticking with tradition

Today, as we embrace online advertising and social marketing, we cling just as tightly to the traditions of print. The written word is as powerful as ever. Even as I type this on a computer and review it on a tablet and submit it to the web, nothing can replace the bulletin board of treasured memories or the smell of an old book or the satisfying feel of a crisply turned page. Print is still kicking and will outlive us all.

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