Strategies: Tired of emails? Print is making a big comeback


Mark Lusky

 Mark Twain once said, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” This quote also seems to apply to incessant reports about the demise of print as a communications tool.

There are various reasons for its resurgence. A primary one is that print no longer is the primary communications medium, so it’s new and fresh again because it stands out from the crowd.

Evidence of this can be seen in the newfound popularity of direct mail. Because digital messaging now is the norm, print mailings have declined. While many people are weary and wary of email pitches, enewsletters and other digital marketing, they’ll pay attention to well-done print pieces (just the opposite of what occurred when direct mail glutted everyone’s mailbox years ago).

Another reason for print’s resurgence actually ties to the digital world, in the form of digital printing. Digital printing has made creating print pieces less expensive and more flexible.

This is evident everywhere from book and brochure printing to label printing. Companies can change course quickly because digital printing is convenient and cost-effective in quantities of a few to 10,000, making it particularly well-suited to small businesses.

On-demand book printing is gaining popularity because of the digital printing wave. Many authors, for example, publish both e-books and print copies to complement each other. In fact, reports are emerging that print books are gaining in popularity vis a vis their e-book counterparts.

Label printing is an obvious bastion of print popularity. While a book can be electronically presented, there’s no substitute for a print label on that bottle of wine, jar of honey or box of chocolates.

A third reason is tied to the desire of people to digitally detox. People increasingly want to unplug, and reading a print piece versus something on a screen provides a welcome respite.

Yet another reason for the increasing popularity of print is the prestige factor. People perceive that there’s something more permanent, committed and credible about a print piece versus digital counterparts. Ironically, the low-cost efficiency of digital distribution can make it appear fleeting and impermanent, lowering credibility along the way.

Given the surge of print popularity, how can small-business owners use this new-again tool to benefit their businesses?

• Combine the personal touch and attention-getting packaging in both marketing recruitment and retention. Sometimes, this is as simple as a handwritten and hand-addressed card with a personal message mailed to existing customers and prospects.

It’s also a nice touch for employees, suppliers and other stakeholders. Think of it as a year-long program featuring periodic mailings instead of the solitary holiday card.

While the level of personalization may fall off as the number of recipients rises, getting something individually addressed with a stamp versus being one among thousands receiving an eblast holds heightened appeal in this increasingly impersonal world.

• Tie together print and digital to strengthen messaging. The print-to-digital connection is growing with the introduction of such devices as the QR code. QR codes are those square maze-looking images on business cards, magazine articles and ads, which mobile media can scan, then connect with a website or other digital forum.

Or go the opposite direction. Digital marketing can set the stage for a sale; print can bring it home. After a prospect has seen the website, viewed the emails/eblasts, and/or digested the latest round of texts, a well-done print piece can provide the perfect reinforcement.

Traditional advertising mixes often include both print and broadcast media to reinforce a sales pitch. The same is true here, except that now print often occupies the role of complement to digital marketing, instead of the other way around as occurred in the early days of Internet promotion.

• Create some nostalgia. Just as vinyl records and remakes of old movies are currently popular, print can evoke a sense of nostalgia that makes people feel comfortable and content. Anything that helps accomplish this with stressed-out customers, employees and colleagues merits consideration.

Think about it: While egreeting cards have gained a strong following, print cards still fly off the shelves. It’s just more personal, comforting and credible for many to get that piece of paper instead of an email. That’s why we still see paper diplomas handed out instead of credentials saved to a flash drive.

• Use print to complement information backup. While paperless operations are gaining favor because of energy conservation and cost-savings benefits, there’s still a case to be made for creating paper backups of critical documents. You can back up digital documents onsite, offsite, in the cloud and elsewhere, but it’s still a digital format subject to corruption.

Depending on where/how the problem occurs, it can affect all digital copies, no matter where they reside. Print, in contrast, provides another form of permanent file not subject to this type of corruption.

Far from dead, print continues to occupy an important role in the small-businesses world.

Mark Lusky, a principal of Lusky Enterprises Inc., a marketing communications company, can be reached at or 303-621-6136.