Something “Completely Different” is Happening to Print

A funny thing happened to print on the way to its (alleged) demise. It didn’t die (we stopped even rolling our eyes when people talked like this; I was afraid they might stick in the back of my head).  Instead, print has truly embraced the luxurious future we saw evidence of four or five years ago.

As print and media consultant Bernd Zipper writes in Beyond Print, the print culture has gone decidedly premium.

“Print is changing, print is different – print is becoming premium! And that will have consequences,” Zipper writes.  “A ‘premium strategy’ is always referred to in marketing when companies consciously focus on high-priced products. Typically associated with this is a strategy of quality leadership. ‘Premium’ therefore stands for excellent products of high quality and above-average prices.”

Zipper admits it’s quite a 180-degree turn for the industry, which in many ways has been struggling against lower print runs, dropping quality to save money to keep the price low, and fighting ad agencies that would rather push their digital agenda. And it’s been fighting in many ways against customers “who want more and more service for less and less money.”

The key, Zipper believes, is creating print that is worth the paper it’s printed on … literally.

Image source: Beyond Print

Marketers and publishers must first sort out the value proposition of their printed communications.

“Print products must be measured by whether they are really needed,” Zipper writes. “The question quickly arises, do we really need brochures or mailings that go unread into the trash because they are of no value? Carelessly produced printed matter also has no future and should be disposed of before it is delivered.”

Carefully created print, however, can be a powerful ambassador for ideas, attitudes and a company’s overall philosophy.

“Such messages can best be conveyed via a printed product, because it can establish a highly personal relationship with the recipient via the haptics of the paper, the design of the object or the way in which language is found and addressed,” Zipper continues.

It comes down to the subtle yet critical difference of “broadcasting” a message versus truly communicating that message. And Zipper believes print – when done well and with the right intentions – can communicate far better than digital messages.

“In any case, paper will play a role in the future that is common to all scarce goods: it symbolizes a value,” Zipper writes. “This means that the trend, which is still regarded today as a niche market, can become a future path for print shops: To turn an ordinary printed product into a higher quality product with fine paper and finishing.

“The future of printed matter therefore lies in the intelligence of the printed product and in the excellence of its execution, in high quality and in the extraordinary,” he continues.

Is your printed material up to the task? Does it speak to quality and luxury, which garners it the attention it deserves? Yes, it’s more expensive. And yes, it’s worth it when you consider the cost of creating marketing that doesn’t make that kind of impact.

Zipper is lobbying hard for “[p]rint products that convey emotions, that inform and at the same time are entertaining, print products that arouse the desire for more print, that can do more than cheap standard prints.”

The technology exists to create high-end products in smaller runs. The consumer support is there, for refined media messaging that is personally relevant. At the end of the day, the will of the publisher is the final piece in this age of leaner, luxurious paper.