We’re pretty sure that in 1436, Johannes Gutenberg had no idea what he was starting. In the next 575 years, printing presses made information increasingly cheap and available. The political and social ramifications were huge.
Last year, we passed the 50% mark. About half of all information is now distributed online instead of or in addition to print. Oddly enough, this could give even more power to the print collateral that is left. I call it ‘super collateral’ because it’s much better than we could source from any printer just a few years ago. Even more important, the strategy and power of print is set for a renaissance.
Super collateral is cheaper. Technology has optimized the guts of the printing process, making it faster and more accurate while requiring fewer print craftsmen. This has lowered the price of print, especially color printing, dramatically.
More viable. A huge run will always be cheapest, but digital printing gives us alternatives that make much smaller runs viable and many more sizes available.
More flexible. Variable data printing allows a change on each piece (think of addressing each letter personally). You can’t get much more targeted than that! Giclee printing reproduces artwork with dazzling precision and allows for printing on surfaces as diverse as canvas.
Having alternatives to print means marketers choose print more carefully, and that adds to the medium’s ability to go ‘super.’
Extra-special. Reserving print for times that deserve it makes print a high-end option, encouraging more creativity and special techniques.
Only for you. Paper puts the user in control of distribution. In today’s transparent world, only print can be given only to the chosen few.
Felt. Print has heft, texture, scent and action. Paging through a beautiful piece of print is a memorable, multi-sensory experience that can make a screen, however colorful and flashy, seem shallow.
We see low-end uses for print almost gone and the high-end uses made even more luxurious with print-only techniques, like special papers, folds and surfaces.
You can expect to get less direct mail in years to come (hooray!) and to find it hard to locate a big, beautiful brochure when you are in the market for something special (inconvenient). What you might not expect is a growing appreciation for print and more ‘super collateral’ marketing uses for it.