Why the Net’s Biggest Brands are So Into Print

The world’s biggest internet brands — Facebook, Google and Amazon — have something new in common lately … and it might surprise the digital diehards out there.

Question: What do Google, Facebook and Amazon – three of the world’s most well-known brands – have in common?

Answer: They’ve all turned to print for important marketing messages.

Richard Stuart-Turner writes in PrintWeek, these giant internet brands are turning to printed medium for messages that rebuild trust and encourage deeper engagement.

“With its own platform facing so much distrust, print appears to have emerged as Facebook’s medium of choice to communicate various messages to the public,” Stuart-Turner explains. “It has taken out multiple adverts in newspapers, magazines and out-of-home locations in recent weeks, both to apologise for the data scandal and to heavily publicise its ‘Fake news is not our friend’ campaign.”

According to BPIF marketing director Amy Hutchinson, Facebook turned to print when they needed some gravitas. 

“By choosing print for a public apology, I think Facebook is saying that the medium of print conveys a message to be taken seriously,” Hutchinson said to Stuart-Turner. 

And of course, they launched their remarkable print magazine Grow, which caused quite a stir earlier this summer, proving that print can indeed capture fresh attention in a digitally-fatigued audience.

“Print is really powerful for online brands because it is an arena that their customers aren’t used to seeing those brands in,” she continues, “so it offers a unique opportunity to grab attention.”

Amazon is doing exactly that with their upcoming toy catalog, looking to capitalize on the void left by Toys ‘R’ Us. And Google, as we know, has been using printed direct mail for years to market their Google ad programs.

Why would these companies – who undoubtedly have all the potential reach they could dream of via digital ads – use print?

There are several specific reasons for this, explains Stuart-Turner, referencing the glut of fake, cheap and unreliable info online that has made most of us into hearty skeptics of social ads. And while a print campaign isn’t cheap, it’s worth it. 

“While it will typically cost more for a business to produce a printed campaign than a digital one, online brands are finding that their return on investment from print is continuing to grow,” he explains.

Between general consumer mistrust of digital content, and the growing regulations around privacy and data, leveraging print for important messaging is becoming more the norm.

“When you look at the cost of digital media, which is going up significantly in pay-per-click terms, and then you look at the cost and flexibility of a printed communication, which is actually going down in real terms and making it more accessible, then you’ve got a bit of a tipping point going on,” says Webmart chief executive Simon Biltcliffe.

“People have realised that the panacea that they perceived as digital client acquisition and retention policy isn’t going to carry on forever.”

It all speaks to the growing awareness of consumer choice and preference, and the indisputable trust bump brands find in print as part of their multi-channel campaigns.