Print isn’t dead, and here’s why

‘Print is dead’. It’s an exaggerated claim. And a boring one. It ignores the multichannel marketing mix, and the environment in which we all exist – as marketers, as consumers and as humans.

Toby SmeetonManaging Director

The role of print has certainly changed – it’s no longer the primary comms channel, and certainly no longer a valuable news medium. But it’s not dead, in the same way that video didn’t kill the radio star, and the internet didn’t kill TV.

Here are seven reasons why print is not dead:

1. The medium is the message

A well-produced piece of print feels and looks valuable. It has an inherent value that other comms channels don’t have. It’s premium. By implication it tells the recipient that what’s inside is worth something.

2. Print is less disposable

Compare and contrast a well-designed piece of print to email communication, or messaging, or social. Essentially, digital communications are the fast food of marketing – efficient and quick, but transient. In contrast, print is the slow-food movement – more valued and more considered.

3. It’s great for browsing

People don’t ‘surf the web’ any more. The web has become a very task-orientated medium. Look at the top searches on Google – they are all questions. Generally, people go into the web, and then back out. Print is wonderful for serendipity. It delivers content that someone might find useful or entertaining, but that they didn’t necessarily seek out. It’s fabulous for brands trying to cross-fertilise or create associations out of specific silos.

4. A badge of prestige

Print is visible in a way that email inboxes and messaging apps aren’t. The casually curated coffee table can advertise a person’s association with a prestigious brand, or demonstrate visibly that someone is part of a ‘club’. But print also signals brand ‘fitness’ – a company or organisation that is solid and dependable – important in an online world where sometimes websites and brands aren’t what they appear to be.

5. Gravity and authority

Print has gravitas and authority, which is why brand apologies are still run in full-page ads in national newspapers. Print has a ‘weight’, literally and figuratively, that signals seriousness and authority.

6. Not expected

Print used to be ubiquitous. In the old days junk mail wasn’t in your inbox, it was through your letter box. Then print disappeared because marketers failed to understand that print, paper and postage are surprisingly efficient distribution mechanics for content. Half of your content marketing budget needs to be spent on the marketing – that’s as true for digital content (search, paid for, promoted, sponsored, etc) as it is for offline (print, paper, postage).

7. Print is emotive

No one gets excited about their inbox filling up. They do get excited by print – especially print that feels crafted and personal. Great print pieces make the most of the craft skills that the medium has to offer. It has physicality and, when well produced, has a tactility and three-dimensionality that digital content doesn’t.