Print Power: The value of print in the ‘fake news’ era

Ben Brigden

16th May 2019

If there’s one thing that embodies all 90s kids’ childhoods, it’s the Argos catalogue. My entire Christmas list came from that bad boy. Novelty Disney watch: check. A calculator that’s also a printer: hell yes.

But that was then, and this is now—the age of Amazon ‘wish lists’ and digital display adverts telling you what you need based on your search history.

Maybe I’m being nostalgic, but the digital world seems far more boring and predictable. Where’s the magic of flicking through a catalogue or magazine next to your monster truck glow light?

Well, perhaps the world is listening after all. At Eulogy HQ, we’ve been watching the growing movement of brands turning to printed media with the curiosity of a gang of meerkats.

From Facebook and Boeing using the Financial Times for public apologies, to Amazon launching its very own kids toy catalogue, the world’s biggest companies are taking a leaf out of an actualbook to engage with their customers.

But in a culture obsessed with ‘innovation’, why are businesses looking to the past for marketing inspiration? Here’s our take.

Seeing the bigger picture

It would be sloppy of us to argue that brands are suddenly turning to print in isolation of the rest of the channel mix.

In fact, print and digital go hand-in-glove—they’re complementary channels, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. The best campaigns are those that use print and digital media together in harmony, providing multiple touchpoints across the user experience.

For example, fashion retailer, Net-a-Porter, publishes a consumer magazine called Porter, which acts like an e-commerce website. Readers can hover their smartphone over pages in the printed edition and images come to life via the reader’s Net-a-Porter app—a clever way of encouraging loyal customers to download it.

Brands are now using print to connect the whole customer journey. Ads enabled by image and sound recognition app Shazam have run in Vogue, and Ellemagazine partnered with ShopAdvisor, using beacon messaging to drive customers from editorial content to brick and mortar stores.

Print builds trust, authority and credibility

Since the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the term ‘fake news’ has stampeded the public conscience. And while Trump has consistently pointed the finger at traditional media for spreading it, people’s mistrust of social media companies is growing at a much faster rate than their concerns about print newspapers.

A study by Mediacom found that 70 per cent of magazine readers trust magazines, but only 30 per cent of social media users trust social media. And, while brands shouldn’t ignore digital platforms for marketing, it suggests that print is experiencing a renaissance as an equally, and in some cases more significant, channel for communicating important messages.

Take Facebook, for example. Following the recent Cambridge Analytica and Russian meddling scandals, the social media giant went on the offensive to persuade users of its credibility. As well as embarking on a massive out-of-home campaign, the company booked prime advertising slots in the world’s leading newspapers – including the Financial Times – to publish its ‘Fake news is not our friend’ advert. From a reputational management point of view, this was a clever move. People can’t comment on a print advert with a cynical ‘side eye’ gif and crush its credibility with a swipe of a thumb.

In these uncertain times, brands are turning to print when they want to talk directly to their customer base. As a more trustworthy and controlled medium, their messages are deemed more likely to land.

Print reaches different audiences

When considered as part of the wider channel mix, print also has the potential to reach different audiences and objectives than digital marketing alone. As well as targeting older demographics who spend less time online, print is great for hitting specific audiences in local areas. It also tends to reach people in longer moments of consumption and dwell time—providing more impact and deeper message penetration.

Print creates deeper, more meaningful customer relationships

Terri White, editor-in-chief of Empiremagazine, has said: “The digital space is a hectic, loud and cluttered landscape with bloggers, influencers, journalists and marketers all shouting into the void.”

For anyone who frequents Twitter or LinkedIn, it’s hard to disagree.

While social media platforms allow brands to directly target demographics and accurately measure engagement, there’s no denying that a powerful connection is created when readers hold printed material in their hands—it’s far more tangible and immersive than a computer screen.

Luxury luggage start-up, Away, recently launched its own magazine after noticing that people were calling its customer service line for travel tips. The magazine is now included inside every piece of luggage purchased, so it directly targets the end consumer.

Other brands have also joined the craze. Online dating brand, Bumble, recently launched Bumble Mag, offering stories and advice about dating, careers and friendship. Similarly, Netflix is planning its first magazineWide– to promote its shows and stars ahead of this year’s Emmys. Even Facebook has launched Grow, a business-to-business magazine – or, according to Facebook’s PR team, ‘piece of marketing collateral’ – that is sent to select Facebook clients.

As well as being a great way for brands to introduce themselves to new customers, print also offers companies a way to extend their relationship with existing users in the outside world—building brand affinity and awareness. It also allows brands to evolve into something much bigger than ‘just an app’—representing people’s lifestyle interests.

Print is dead. Long live print?

Recent marketing trends suggest that print is on the rise and here to stay. Brands are increasingly recognising its potential for building trust and forging better customer relationships. In the big bad world of modern marketing, where consumers are bombarded with messaging from all directions, it’s sometimes the tried and tested methods that provide the most cut-through—especially when it complements the rest of the channel mix.

Perhaps more importantly, this trend provides fresh hope for print publications experiencing a rapid decline in readership. As well as providing new revenue streams, the era of ‘fake news’ has enabled publishers to cement their role as the trusted voice of the people.