Print persists and prospers

13 Dec 2016
Topics: seminar, Power of Print

Cedar Communications' Kim Willis discussed print's ability to talk authoritatively


An eclectic mix of speakers at the Power of Print seminar shared their views on how print remains relevant and effective, reports Michael Walker.

Print's long heritage may have been hanging in the air at the Stationers' Hall in London on 1 November, but the content of this year's Power of Print event was very much focused on recent events and forecasting current trends.

Opening the day to a packed hall, Charles Jarrold, CEO of the BPIF reported on a 'year of great change', which had seen the continued decline of newspapers and magazines but a strengthening in the engagement capability of print as a marketing medium. While drupa had provided a 'sense of optimism', the more pressing concern for UK printers has been the implications of the EU referendum vote. The 'Brexit bounce' observed across the UK economy as a whole meant that rather than being a disaster, the third quarter of the year had just been 'not great.' The chief concerns were impact on the economy (interestingly also seen as the top opportunity), rising consumable costs and likely changes in access to European markets and labour. On the flip side, increased export competitiveness was already helping some.

Dare to be different

Moving away from contemporary economics to the currency of ideas was advertising guru Dave Trott. Responsible in his 40-plus year career for numerous iconic ads, Mr Trott said that most advertising is ignored, as he proved when only four people in the audience could recall just one ad they'd seen the previous day. Following technology fads is missing the point when what's needed is different thinking; the mind groups items into 'like' and 'not like' so the key to any brand standing out is to reposition the competition, because 'conformity equals invisibility'.

 Print Power Wayne Hemingway

Designer Wayne Hemingway spoke on the importance of the tangible and good design

Co-founder of fashion brand Red or Dead and Hemingway Design, Wayne Hemingway took the audience through his career since arriving in London at the age of 18, to designing affordable housing. Following the theme that 'design is about improving the things that matter in life,' he pointed out that 'we are sensory creatures' and that 'we're not going to have a generation that thinks things just come from the ether.' Print in his view extends beyond paper to wallpapers, textiles, clothing and flooring, all applications in his firm's student accommodation designs.

A right to print

David Gold, head of public affairs at Royal Mail, spoke about Keep Me Posted, a campaign for consumers' rights to receive paper communications. Saying that it's 'not just about the elderly or computer-illiterate', Mr Gold reported that young people were having difficulty managing their finances online. Research has shown that a majority of consumers want both digital and paper communications; the latter are invaluable as proof of identity or when dealing with the estates of the deceased. 'There's always going to be a need for paper communications,' he concluded. 

Environmental issues were brought to the fore by Jonathon Porrit, co-founder of Forum for the Future, who stressed the need for urgency in responding to climate change. He said that the energy-intensive pulp and paper industry 'is not in denial, except for the speed at which it'll have to move.' Innovation in finance as well as science and technology is key: 'Print and pulp ought to have a safe, prosperous future, and are close to having closed-loop carbon-neutral cycles but it will depend on leadership.'

Advocating print

Waving the flag for print's place in a multi-channel world was Martyn Eustace, managing director of the Two Sides and Print Power campaigns. Saying that 'the physicality of paper works both for and against it,' Mr Eustace explained how Two Sides is tackling 'greenwash', in which money-saving moves are presented as environmental initiatives, with considerable success, as well as changing consumers' sustainability perceptions of print. Print Power produces resources to demonstrate the value and ROI of print, which now has increased 'cut-through in a relatively empty mailbox'.

Bucking the trend in newspaper and magazine circulation, The Times has seen 12 consecutive months of growth and other titles are being launched, said Tiffanie Darke, founder and director of Method, News UK's creative agency. She attributed this to the newspaper's authority (particularly since the Brexit vote), and print's strengths in luxury, engagement and innovation. Explaining that we now operate in an 'attention economy', Ms Darke added that research shows growing resistance to the online reading experience.

Baroness Susan Greenfield, a neuroscientist at Oxford University, presented the findings of various research projects into how print- and screen-based media affect thought processes. Extended screen time brings similar responses to gambling, in which immediate rewards outweigh longer-term consequences with 'the senses trumping cognition', leading to short attention spans and dependence on external stimuli. Paper, however, lowers eye fatigue and does not distract with links or multi-tasking lures. 'Print helps you to think,' she concluded. 

Customer magazines are also flourishing, according to Kim Willis, strategy director as Cedar Communications, which produces BA, Iberia and Cathay Pacific's in-flight titles. Using the example of how the Michelin brothers started a travel guide to sell more tyres, she explained that brands use print to create demand, to position themselves as authorities, to build loyalty and ultimately to generate additional sales. However, print is now one option, and the key is to develop ideas that work across multiple channels including print.

Print Power Rachel Aldighieri

The DMA's Rachel Aldighieri advised the audience to 'stop talking digital-vs-print and to start with the customer'

Trust print

Opening with 'every campaign should have data at its heart', Rachel Aldighieri, managing director of the Direct Marketing Association explained how consumers are prepared to trade their data for perceived value. Trust and relevance are key factors in successful campaigns. Print scores highly on the former attribute, as it is 'more considered and less disposable'. Giving examples of several multi-channel campaigns in which print was essential, Aldighieri also made a plea for the quality of copywriting: 'If you don't think the words matter, no else will.' A lively Q&A session rounded out the day. The topics raised included how effectiveness can be measured for both print and online media. Ms Aldighieri's comment summed up the advice: 'Stop talking digital-vs-print. Start with the customer.'

Read the December issue of Digital Printer online here 


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