The power of print
We live in a world of instant communication, and whether it’s email or Tik Tok, online shopping or sharing files via Dropbox, our social, business, and commercial lives are intertwined with digital tools. So where does that leave print?
In around 1440, Johannes Gutenburg perfected his printing press in Germany. Capable of printing up to 3600 pages a day, his machine changed the world, allowing the written word to be recorded and distributed more efficiently, widely, and cheaply.
Literature rates grew, the cost of books dropped, and ideas started spreading. It’s thought that the printing press was a key element that led to the Renaissance. Many say it was the start of the Age of Information.
Flip forward several hundred years, and we’re sharing masses of information every day. We created 2.5 quintillion data bytes daily in 2020. That’s 18 zeros, if you’re wondering. Digital certainly outstrips print in terms of capacity, but what about quality? Despite the ease of digital comms there’s still a good argument that print has a place.
Kindles and e-books were briefly heralded as the death knell for printed fiction, but book lovers it seems are exactly that: loyal to print. iPods revolutionised music by promising ‘a thousand songs in your pocket’, but the literary equivalent never quite landed, and e-book sales stabilised at just 20 percent of total book sales.
Vinyl has also made a massive comeback over the last few years. Maybe through nostalgia, or a deliberate move away from screens, there seems to be a growing trend for tangible, touchable materials, which suggests there’s still room for print in our digital world.
When it comes to marketing, printed materials can say a lot about your brand. The haptic nature of print allows us to communicate brand values more subconsciously. Choose a paper stock with a higher weight and matte texture, and you convey luxury and expense. Recycled paper speaks of a sustainable ethos. Embossing and laser-cutting techniques can show your creative flair and individuality.
The differences are subtle, but the effects can be significant. One behavioural study conducted by Ogilvy found that by using thicker, more expensive-feeling paper for charity envelopes, the donations increased by 14%*.
Then there’s longevity. A beautifully designed book or brochure can be taken away, then revisited. If you want to make a lasting impression, print is the way forward.
Will Howard, our Head of Production and in-house printing guru, believes that print is most valuable at two ends of the spectrum: short-life print and high-end print.
Short-life print, things like direct mailers, catalogues and leaflets are still incredibly valid, as the internet is great for searching for something specific, but being shown a curated selection of products you weren’t aware of is very useful. And a play on the benefits of a printed piece, framed in the expectation of a digital product, is beautifully used to show this by IKEA.
Then there’s high-end print. If you had an invitation for tea with the Queen, it’s something you might want to keep forever – the sense of occasion simply can’t be reflected in an email.
So, we won’t be putting away our paper samples just quite yet. Print can make a big impression, or make people aware of product ranges and key piece of information very quickly. While digital comms have made a dent, print remains a valuable tool at every marketer’s disposal.
Because the digital world is almost all-consuming, stepping back to a piece of print can offer a point of difference, and can subconsciously suggest that time, effort and thought has been put into it - and therefore the end-user - even if it would take the same time and investment to run a piece of digital communication.
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