The short answer is… no. The long answer is below.
I was winding my way through a web-link rabbit-hole when I stumbled upon this article. As a print designer, I’m often challenged by the technology behind web and digital design. It’s not that the design principles have changed but my ability to accomplish what I’ve envisioned when it comes to the web makes me feel sheepishly handicapped.
For example, if I’m working with print software, I can just move the logo a few points to the right or make the margins bigger with a couple of mouse clicks. But, if I’m working in WordPress… oh my, I don’t even want to go there. I don’t even know how to describe what it’s like to attempt to move the logo a few points to the right – I’ll be flooded with flashbacks and probably start crying. There are holes in the wall where my fist once was. Well, not really, but that’s what I imagine doing.
So it pains me to hear that Print is Dead. That basically means… I’m Dead. Naturally, I gravitate toward articles, statistics and ideas that prove print is alive and thriving in this digital
Before you read the article I’ve linked to (if you bother to at all), I want to highlight a few biases that could throw off a reader with a less critical eye when it comes to data.
First of all, this article was published by a printing company. Despite the obvious bias and the fact their logo is so blurry it makes me cringe, I do believe there is some truth to their argument. Even though the numbers they have carefully crafted into infographics are misleading, I think businesses and individuals who embrace print marketing have a great opportunity to rise above the online marketing carnage.
Secondly, oh wait… I kind of just said it all in the previous paragraph. Well, there goes my carefully planned paragraph structure.
There are some interesting points they make and I’ll summarize them here to save you the hassle because I know you are busy and should probably be working on something more important right now.
“Socrates was afraid that writing would kill human memory and destroy our ability to reason.”
1. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Or did it? I’m only sort of kidding. The point is that new developments in technology have always freaked people out. From human travel by train to Guttenberg’s printing press, it has always been in vogue to declare some beloved facet of society is dead now that this new technology is thrust upon us.
2. Online ads are so prolific that your chance of expose is slim. The stats cited in the article are designed to make print advertising glow in comparison, and perhaps it actually does, but the stats that are used here are very misleading. Comparing online impressions and response rates in 1997 to 2011 is like comparing… I don’t know, two things that can’t be compared. There were very few people even online in 1997, heck, I hadn’t even graduated from design school yet and I don’t think I had an e-mail address until 1998.
According to Internet World Stats there were 70 million people using the internet in December of 1997. That’s 1.7% of the world’s population. Jump into your DeLorean and fly into the future to discover that in December of 2011 there were 2.267 billion people using the internet, or 32.7% of our fellow man (and women). So yeah, of course there was a huge uptick in ad impressions and a reduction in response rates.
Maybe they were hoping no one would notice that 1997 was a very long time ago. In web years that’s like, ancient history, man.
3. We are physical, three-dimensional beings and we connect powerfully with physical things. Maybe there will be a way to make us all digital in the future but so far we are still made of flesh and bone. That means we need physical things and those things often come in packages. Even food without packaging has stickers on it and is usually carried home in a bag. Even if you bring your own bag, that’s still a physical thing and most bags have some kind of printing or branding on them. This is only a small example but if you glance around the room you’re sitting in now, or even consider the device you’re reading this on, we live in a physical world.
Print makes a closer connection with all of our senses and therefore allows marketers more opportunity to access our subconscious and encourage us to develop an affinity for a particular brand.
Imagine getting an online gift basket. I don’t know exactly what that would look like or how that would be possible but I certainly know that a physical gift basket has a lot more access to our senses. The crinkle of the plastic, the feel of the cool jar of jam, the smell of the cheese, the rough paper label and the texture of the paper card with your name on it. The fact that you actually have to get up out of your chair to get the door. That’s not the same as an eCard.
4. Direct mail and e-mail cost about the same in order to acquire one new customer: $51 and $55 respectively, according to the National Mail Order Association. How they generate these numbers is beyond me and no good references were available (the link they provide is dead) but let’s pretend these numbers make sense for the sake of experimentation.
5. Direct mail response rates are higher, especially for existing customers. The smarty-pants who compile the numbers to determine effectiveness say that direct mail has a 3.4% effectiveness over e-mail at 0.12%. Although some e-mail maestros might have more impressive response rates.
6. Print has longevity. Physical things tend to hang around longer than digital ones do. Think about the articles in your favourite magazine compared to those on your favourite social media platform. Stuff online is being pushed out of view every few seconds, but printed material hangs around the living room for ages until you recycle it, store it or pass it along. I have a set of magazines from a now defunct publication that I’ve kept for over 15 years. I don’t know about you but I don’t keep web articles for more than 15 minutes (the time it takes for me to read it and share it).
7. In the end, print and web are great collaborators. They complement each other and when used harmoniously can help to strengthen a brand and keep me employed. Here’s their conclusion:
“The future of marketing isn’t electronic media over and against print media, but it’s a dialog between the two. Even more than that, it’s a way to create dialog with people.”
The final thoughts here are well said. I like the idea of a dialogue between people. This is what design is at it’s essence, regardless of the format – a communication medium. So which camp are you in, if any? Is print dead to you? Is that just because you’re a web designer? I’d love to hear your perspective.
P.S. While I was working on this piece my internet went kaput. No amount of praying nor restarting would get the darn thing to work. This led me to think of another advantage print has over digital. Even if I don’t have wifi – my books and magazines still work perfectly.