Over my years of selling Print Solutions and now more recently, integrated communication strategies to an array of organisations, it has allowed me to have meetings with some of the great (and not so great, I’ll be honest) marketers of our time.

As the position of “print buyer” got consumed into other titles over the last 15 years  it became more and more difficult to engage and have the right conversation with a decision maker that actually cared or understood (I did put a rather less polite term in here but was made to take it out) about the power of the printed page.

A new friend.

This was largely due to the fact that all of a sudden, marketing had a new best friend. This friend demanded absolutely loyalty and attention, and dazzled them with glamour and excitement. You guessed it, their friend was digital, and let’s call it “Pixel”.

Now Pixel (and for the purposes of this article I’m going to call it a him) was new on the block and turned everyone’s attention. Mr Johnny Come Lately was shiny, new, and could be seen by many more people. Pixel was variable and could change the way he looked very easily. He was often seen in some of the great and new places that were deemed to be cool and relevant.

Meanwhile our old friend Print was receiving fewer and fewer invites to the parties where he used to hang out. Print’s reputation was seen to be drab, inflexible and certainly not trendy to be around. He got the boring but dependable jobs and wasn’t being talked about much anymore.

The come back kid.

But Print wasn’t laying back and just taking it. Print went out and got himself a gym membership and bulked up, ready to take on the 21st century. The digital press, large format inkjet and then software that could create digital variable text and images meant that once again he was whispered about in dark corridors.

Cheesy analogy aside, there’s a powerful message that everyone in the print & marketing industries need to listen to; print is BACK and is better and fitter than ever before.

Back to the meetings.

There I was, many miles from home attending an appointment with a customer that we did a small amount of business (print) on a monthly basis. The customer once spent a great deal of budget on DM, but, had decided to deploy a “digital first” approach for their main strategies around engagement, acquisition and retention of their customers.

They had evolved an elaborate system that could profile customers with digital variable content that was relevant to within an inch of its life. Promoting the brand message and tailored offers within a fully variable email page, using conditional logic based on customer preferences and behaviours.

All was going well, for a time, but then the coming of “The Dark Lord” made its entrance;  GDPR.

Their system became confused, overheated and hung its virtual head in despair when the following logic presented itself;

“You have been a customer, you browse my site, you sometimes leave things in a basket, but do not purchase. I see you are not opted in to my promotional messages, but nor are you opted out, and all of the emails I have sent you are never opened or clicked. What do I do with you?”

Which is the question I was posed, and to me, the answer is simple:

“You send me a piece of direct mail.”

And with 20,000 customers being contacted each week, that definitely means that print is back

Meeting No. 2

This time, I was in a totally different industry, one where Pixel had also stolen their friendship. The business was totally “digital first”, but for different reasons was now revisiting print because digital was too noisy, too saturated and they were no longer getting the results they once did.

It’s a common problem that we see time after time, it’s increasingly more difficult to stand out against the melee. Ones that have deep pockets to spend on SEO or ever-greater offers.

I’m there thinking it’s another pitch conversation about bulk brochure production, preparing for the price battle when I hear from stage left: “We need to start looking at re-introducing direct mail and working with our data more intellectually, and introducing regular DM engagement”.

Take that Pixel.

In closing:

While digital is relevant, it’s not the be all and end all, and print has its place.

We are all sensory beings, we see, touch, smell and have the ability to hear, and I find it fascinating how the marketing and communication Industry is still evolving and learning how people respond.

Like the evolution of man, print is back as part of the eco system of communication… now can we get on with the work?


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