Print is Far From Dead

October 1, 2021

By Cesar Jasso, Senior Print Producer

Whether you work in the marketing industry or not, you’ve likely heard it before: Print. Is. Dead.

I must admit I used to share the sentiment. Coming from a broadcast and digital content background, my exposure to print marketing was limited at best. It was obvious that people were swapping newspapers, direct mail, and magazines for blogs, email, and podcasts — even billboards and food menus were being replaced by digital screens! Wasn’t that most of the print industry? Print was dead, right? Or was it?

I joined The Marketing Arm in 2019 as a Producer on the Print Production team and almost immediately, everything I thought I knew about the industry went out the window. Here I was working on a print production team, as in more than one person — 28 people to be exact — not only thriving at one of the biggest agencies in town, but producing some of the most exciting print materials I had ever seen. Our team will often take wild ideas and turn them into a reality for some of the largest companies in the world. I’m talking about large-scale, point-of-sale, full-blown experiential activations, packaging takeovers, specialty cookbooks, branded pool tables, custom wearables, and anything else our creative team dreams up.

I know what you’re thinking: How is all that print? What I quickly realized is that print had been staring me in the face all along, I just wasn’t seeing it. Almost everything has some sort of eye-catching graphic that can be considered print. Think about it for a minute – how does a social media campaign go from something digital to something tangible in the influencer’s hands? Print. How does an in-store element stand out in an already cluttered environment? Print. How do we take an out-of-home experiential activation and make it an all-out immersive “share-worthy” experience? Everyone knows you can’t spell experiential without P-R-I-N-T.

Brands and marketers have the opportunity to build trust and establish stronger relationships with their consumers more than ever before. With the ongoing pandemic, it’s vital that we make authentic connections and interact where consumers feel most comfortable. For instance, when it’s time for me to shut down my computer after a long day of work, I look forward to disconnecting and getting outside. I want to walk my dog, have dinner with my wife, and read a book. It’s in these moments that I can interact with brands on my terms. I think we have all had enough of the constant barrage of pop-ups and pre-roll videos. The simplicity and efficacy of print is in allowing the consumer to engage with a brand because they choose to do so, not because an algorithm dictates it. I don’t need my next click planned for me based around “online behavior” that may have been work related, or because my Google Home and iPhone were listening in on my conversations. Maybe I sound like an old fogey, but many people, young and old, long for the memories of traditional advertising. Everyone and everything is living in a digital space, couldn’t print be the way to stand out?

“When I see everyone rushing in one direction, I know it’s time to move the other way.”

Armand Hammer

With so many advanced forms of printing and new outstanding levels of customization, it would be foolish not to consider print marketing an integral part of any 360 campaign. We live in an interconnected world, and no singular medium will ever replace all others. A well-designed and executed print program will complement and enhance the overall campaign. Print allows us to interact with consumers during their “me time” when they’re most receptive. Ultimately, it’s all about harnessing the synergy of digital, print, and experiential, all working together to captivate, drive, and deliver a cohesive message.

The beauty and effectiveness of marketing is most evident when a concept harnesses our emotions and makes us actually feel something, anything. Attention spans are shrinking, and there is a real need to disconnect from our screens. Whether it’s because of cost or outdated perceptions, brands are still sleeping on print, and therein lies a huge opportunity for marketers. More than ever people are searching for real-life experiences, and this is precisely where print marketing shines.

There’s no denying it, the print industry has suffered its fair share of blows – but it’s not dying. Judging by the work my team and I produce day in and day out (and the work piling up as I write), print is here to stay.

Cesar Jasso is a senior print producer based in TMA’s Dallas hub.