A Symbiotic and Successful Relationship: Print and Digital

Choosing the Right Medium: Digital Versus Print 

There’s a debate brewing over the validity of print. I say debate because depending on your side of the argument, there is no argument. According to one camp, print is dead and digital is the future. You can pretty much guess what the opposing view is. To support the digital opinion, Victoria’s Secret just announced that it is halting print efforts and shifting those dollars to social media. And yet, brand after brand says how important the catalog is to their customers. Ikea, Restoration Hardware, Anthropologie, all three brands have an avid following when it comes to their printed collateral. These catalogs aren’t tiny little 20-page collections. They have heft to them. Fans of these brands are sitting by their mailboxes (the real ones, not the email ones) waiting for these tomes to arrive. These companies aren’t running away from print. They are running to it! Oh, and you think print is dead? Let’s look at Vogue magazine. The fashion bible consistently prints between 700 and 850 pages per issue. And I won’t even talk about the September issue!

At the end of the day, after you are found (SEO plug), creativity and being memorable are critical.

Right now there seems to be this mass confusion about how to reach people. “Write content.” “Be on Facebook.” “Give it to the young kids to put online. They get it.” “Advertise, but not on [insert medium here].” “Work with bloggers!” “Don't forget to be authentic!” You name it, we’ve heard it. Companies are frantically scrambling to figure out how to reach their audience, and they assume the audience is full of millennials and that those millennials apparently have money. Those that target baby boomers are assumed to have a short track life. No one targets Generation X, and they are kind of bitter about it but expect to be cut out of the equation. (Could I insert any more stereotypes and assumptions in here?)

A Case for Print and a Case for Digital

Recently Britton Marketing & Design Group had a representative from Sappi Paper come present the company’s book The Neuroscience of Touch. It was amazing. Now I’m going to ask you to put aside the fact that Sappi is a paper company, so it obviously has a vested interest in print. In the beginning, I was skeptical for that same reason, but upon listening, it prompted me to write this blog. If you have a chance to watch the presentation, or see it in person, please do.

the case for print versus digital marketing - catalog spread

The basic premise is that touch is a powerful tool. Embodied cognition kicks in when a friend touches you versus a stranger. We know by one touch who that person is. How powerful is that? What does this have to do with print? Read on.

These companies aren’t running away from print. They are running to it!

We serve a sophisticated audience that has come to expect immediate gratification and has expectations in place for almost everything. Think about the last time you picked up a magazine. You have an expectation of the kind of experience you are about to have. If you are touching a glossy fashion mag, your experience will be totally different than if you were holding an Anthropologie catalog. The better the production of the catalog, the more people will expect from it. If the paper is the best paper but the imagery and messaging fall flat, there is a huge disconnect. If the feel of the paper is amazing and the imagery is on point, it’s magic, people. Magic!

I asked our creative team what they love about print or digital. Graphic designer (and millennial) Molly Stronczek backed up the thought about the feel of the paper. She said, “I love to touch the paper, smell it, stare at it. It’s a more romantic experience to me. It takes me on more of a journey than online.”

Sue Britton, chief creative officer and co-owner, said, “I love getting a beautiful catalog for a number of reasons: It visually connects, tells an inspiring story (hopefully), and comes to me. I don’t have to reach out to digital to get the information. But it’s a problem when you receive a beautiful catalog and what you see online is degraded in terms of photo quality. It recently happened to me when I received the first catalog ever for a brand and it was amazing, but when I went online the clothes looked frumpy on the studio models. Complete disappointment, and I did not trust that the clothes would fit well.”

the case for print versus digital marketing - Vogue

So what about digital? Stronczek said, “Digital is amazing because I can access it almost anywhere at any time. If I’m in the middle of a conversation with someone about some top I want from Anthropologie, I can just pull up the website and search for it, and, voilà, I don’t have to wait.”

Britton added, “Digital is great because it is a twenty-four-hour support to brands and where I can access time-sensitive promotions.”

So not only do we serve a sophisticated audience, but we also serve a demanding “I want it now” expectation—and at the best price.

5 Ways to Marry Print and Digital

“Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder today.” —The Princess Bride

Here are five ways we marry print and digital for our clients.

1. Who is it for?

Based on your target market, you may be reaching many different demographics. If your baby boomers want a catalog and they have spending power, why cut off that revenue stream? If your millennials are viewing everything as a goal in life and coveting your products, why not foster that? Blending the properties and products on print and digital is key to who the audience is for that particular piece of collateral. Don’t get me wrong. You don’t want print to look totally different from digital (see No. 3 below), but there are ways to produce and serve up the content to both audiences and maximize your ROI. There are slight subtleties to image and voice needed across social media, depending on the audience. Shouldn’t the same be true of print?

2. Weave a story

Catalogs are only good for so many products, and websites are only so good at conveying the quality of a product. At some point the customer can become really overwhelmed. Enter the call to the website. Instead of putting all 250 fabric swatches on each page for the latest sofa, maybe put a callout to see more options online. It’s kind of obvious, but make every printed letter count!

Perhaps there is a really engaging story about one of the items and how it was created or produced. Put that authentic story in a blog and then share that story on social and as a callout in the magazine. Doing this will intrigue all three demographics and create content to share. Likewise, there can be catalog-specific promotions to help track ROI and the success of certain layouts, products, and even demographics.

3. Merge the teams

“I’m on the digital team.” “I work on our direct-to-consumer collateral.” These are statements we hear frequently when talking to marketing teams. Notice the s on the end of team? Yeah, that’s gotta stop. These days, brands tend to put digital on one side and traditional on the other. The end result is often an entirely different brand, depending on the first and second touch point. “It needs to blend seamlessly with digital for convenience,” Britton said.

Too often we see brands struggle with the blending of their different team members and who has the lead on the brand via traditional and digital properties. Who owns the photo shoot? What budget is tapped for the photo shoot? Both sides of marketing will use the photos, so shouldn’t both digital and traditional pay for and influence the shoot? As mentioned earlier, we are in a shift from print to digital. That’s not shocking. What’s shocking is how difficult it is to blend those two disciplines. We see clients get tangled up because the photo shoot was for a catalog, and then digital was supposed to grab the photos. Digital didn’t receive enough photography and so now a second shoot needs to take place. Not only does that increase costs and frustration, but it’s also not efficient.

Obviously there needs to be a creative brand lead, but this person needs to integrate with interdisciplinary teams to build a strategy that addresses the ever-present omnichannel needs of today’s marketplace while also understanding that the company’s marketing budget cannot double to support the wide breadth of marketing channels required.

4. Analyze this!

At the end of the day, each piece of content must have some ROI to show its worth. Is nothing sacred?! One of the things we do before beginning the next season or campaign is analyze the past tactics. We look at how the products sold and how they were featured in the catalog, online, or on social media. We review why they did or didn’t sell and analyze the reasons for the outcome.

As an example, our client had a pretty amazing jacket. Everyone expected it to sell really well. The photography was amazing, the copy was on point, and it was easy to find online and in print materials. At the end of the day, though, it didn’t sell. The reason? Everyone on this side (and the client) knew how soft the material was, but the customer couldn’t tell since the photography was at a distance. Given the price point, it just looked like any other coat. We never assume that work is sacred. It is always up for review, and there is always room for improvement.

5. Stand out

My wise father once said, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” (I may or may not have just driven my car into a cornfield while freewheeling in the family Taurus on a gravel road. I had to be pulled out. Also, the cornstalks in the tailpipe may have given me away.)

Now don’t get me wrong. Don’t print a catalog just for the sake of printing one. This is your chance to make your mark and stand out. Do something beyond the normal product descriptions and photos. Don’t create an e-com site just because you feel like you need to. (You do, by the way.) Everything has to have purpose and a call to action. And (almost) above all? A story. Remember No. 2?

Standing out is important in print and digital. The internet is a very crowded place. There are a number of standard web facts I could toss out about SEO and how important setting up a site is, but at the end of the day, after you are found (SEO plug), creativity and being memorable are critical. Likewise, a mailbox is a crowded space. When people are sorting through the mail, you want to be the piece they don’t set aside or throw away. The paper you use, the story you tell, and the imagery you create all measure up to the success you have.

So how does Molly Stronczek view the mawage of print and digital? “I anticipate my print catalog because it’s almost like getting a new magazine to flip through, but anytime I want to see the most up-to-date product selection, I can spend as much time on their site as I want to find all of that content,” she explained. “Also, if I want it, I can easily buy it right this second (however good or bad that may be).”

Have you heard of Wolfgang Riepl? No? Well, in 1913 he developed a hypothesis that “new, further-developed types of media never replace the existing modes of media and their usage patterns. Instead, a convergence takes place in their field, leading to a different way and field of use for these older forms.” Just something to consider.

Photos: Shutterstock

Meghan Britton-Gross

Meghan Britton-Gross

Hi, I’m Meghan. You know what I love besides my handsome husband and two adorable girls? A great book, a comfy chair, and a cup of tea I’ll never drink (just to hold because it feels cozy).

Meet Meghan Britton-Gross