Print is being integrated with digital in ways we never would have thought possible, writes Vaughan Patterson, product marketing operations manager for Production Print at Ricoh SA.
One such way is through printed circuits. Brands can literally print an electronic circuit in a magazine for a novel form of advertising. There are examples of outdoorsy brands that have printed torches so people can rip a page from a magazine and light up the trail. It’s gimmicky but it’s novel and stands out like a lighthouse on a remote and storm-tossed shoreline to paraphrase bad novels.
Another example of how that’s been used is connecting buttons to speakers. So you can put a button on a magazine page, connected to a printed circuit that, when pressed, activates the circuit so a speaker placed by a reader in a marked location on the page, plays whatever audio track has been pre-recorded. One sporting organisation has used it to replay selections of recorded commentaries from past matches, reliving glory moments, specific players, and season highlights. Again, it’s gimmicky, but it’s also novel and it gets noticed. And it’s a cleverly personal way to connect with fans and lure them into the digital realm of far richer content and many more potential points of engagement.
These new opportunities go well beyond print advertising of old. In the old days your creative team came up with the ad which their people then placed on your behalf – if you had budget. If not a desperate ad salesperson and a sympathetic magazine would force their designers into overtime on your behalf and you’d fork over a few thousand rands then wait for the phone to ring.
But the new opportunities go beyond that. They require some constructive thought by educated and experienced people followed by more than a dash of effort, some honesty, meaningful engagement with complete strangers, and a consistency borne of dedication, dependability, and a smattering of reliability.
People know that it’s easier to slap together a promotional e-mail and spam it out to hundreds, thousands or even millions of people. But we know that it’s a lot harder, takes longer, and costs a lot more to put out a piece of personalised print, particularly one with good quality creative work and some innovative design that goes beyond mere pictures to include new technologies such as printed circuits, food, or even plants. Yes, you can now print your ad on a piece of paper a reader can push into a potting box or soil bed that will grow into the bush, plant, or tree of your seed’s particular genetic design. A company that’s prepared to go to those lengths to communicate with you sends the unwritten message very loud indeed: “You’re worth the effort,” then whispers: “So am I.”
Now, we’ve all been stuck at a party or in an office at some point in our lives listening to some bore drone on about how brilliant they are. You know the type: “Anyway, enough about me,” they say as you finally think they’re giving you a chance to contribute meaningfully to a conversation: “What do you think about me?” Only the narcissist loves the narcissist. As for the rest of us, we more willingly give our attention when we think others genuinely care about us.
People who care will listen because your opinions matter to them. They won’t care if you’re constantly yelling stuff at them that has absolutely no bearing on their lives. Nor will they care if you constantly yell at them and never give them an opportunity to reply. Sending them a handwritten letter covering topics of their interest is a pretty neat way to tell them you care. Who wouldn’t want that? And printing a communication that considers their interests, even if you are trying to convince them that your running shoes are better for them, or your holiday destination is what their soul craves, or that your car will pamper them from A to B like mollycoddled royalty, they will pay attention because you have taken the time to know that’s what they’re interested in in the first place and followed up with a premium and personal missive.
Tie that into a digital channel that gives them the opportunity to reply (and let them know you’re listening – then actually listen) and you make manifest the winning formula. It’s simple even if it isn’t easy, cheap, or quick. But then your brand isn’t easy, cheap or quick, is it?
We love print, even in our deeply digital world, because it speaks of old world traditions, a time in which we believe ethics were generally better, things we made were better quality, people were better and nicer and kinder to one another, the world was a better place and, although things may have moved slower, they were executed with care and attention. We crave those things because they are everywhere scarce.
Print connects our fingertips and our eyes to transcend the boundaries of time in a capsule of nostalgia romanticising the past into a more glamorous version of its true self. As marketers trying to reach people with the message: “You are important to us and we want to offer you a better life” there is no need to create the effect anew; you can simply employ it through the power of print.
That is a robust bridge to connect your customers’ emotions with the promise of your brand and offer them a deeper view into your world of product or service where people actually matter.