Lessons from the World’s Biggest Digital Brands on the Power of Print

“Last Christmas,” writes Chaymae Samir in Reuters, “Amazon announced that it would print a toy catalogue during the holiday season. For any other traditional retailer, this wouldn’t be a novelty. But the e-commerce giant has built its $100bn empire entirely on digital platforms. Why would the company turn to print when they have the world’s devices through which to advertise?”

It’s a valid question, the same one we asked when Facebook, Airbnb and other digitally-born brands launched their print titles.

“Are these brands feeling nostalgia for the 1990’s?” Samir asks. “Possibly. But it’s more likely they understand that generation z and millennials see novelty in print, thus leveraging printed media as a special component in their media mix. In a rush to digitize everything, sophisticated print magazines are a great way to stand out from the crowd.”

I believe Samir is spot on. We know print is highly effective for marketing to millennials. And we know millennials also love a good print book. As this generation grows into its role as a massive consumer audience, print makes absolute sense.

Samir points out a few examples of how brands are leveraging print to this market, including fashion brand ASOS which claims a print distribution of more than 700,000 for its branded magazine.

“The in-house editorial team produces content about fashion and beauty trends. It built itself a strong reputation, challenging the likes of Glamour and Teen Vogue, and featuring A list celebrities like Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lawrence and Lena Dunham,” Samir explains.

With brands now having more access to consumer data than ever, we can be fairly certain that these print publications are working … or they wouldn’t continue producing them. Amazon, for one, has come out with an even more “tangible” catalog experience this holiday, with stickers and wish lists designed to foster human engagement and make those digital dreams a reality.

It keeps coming back to our human need to experience life in the moment, rather than on the screen. Rather than digital being the end of human engagement for brands, it’s become a pathway to more personalized … and therefore more effective … marketing.

“In a world where consumers are fed up with too many online ads and retargeting campaigns, the payoff for print ads seem to be higher than digital ones,” Samir continues. “According to MarketingProfs, 92% of 18- to 23-year-olds find it easier to read print over digital content and the response rate for direct-mail marketing is 37% higher than the email rate.”

Samir cites several brands that are effectively leveraging print to reach out to the digitally-connected millennial and gen z markets, from luggage brand Away to Dollar Shave Club to Casper. The motivation? Brand elevation, deep engagement with a highly specific audience, the trust bump that comes when brands market in print – these are the results of marketing to the human side of your customer.