People still have a desire to own tangible things and print is part of that. Even in this increasingly digital world, just look at the resurgence in sales of vinyl records as proof of this. Sales hit a 25-year high in 2016 with LP sales up by 53% on the previous year . Though it seems everyone has an electronic device glued to their hand, when it comes to reading people still want to curl up with a printed book.
A Nielsen survey this week reveals that in the UK while ebook sales are falling, sales of paper books grew 7% in 2016. The most popular reason given was “I like to hold the product.” 
So is print too old-fashioned for businesses? Does it have a damaging environmental impact? Can businesses just assume that they just don’t need printed brochures, leaflets or catalogues any more?
No, there is still a massive role for print to play when it comes to business-to-business communications and as a business owner you ignore print at your peril. As one of our clients said last week “print is far from dead”.
Print is alive and kicking
Both new technology and the 2008 financial crash have affected the print industry. However in the UK the industry still employs over 120,000 people in over 8,500 companies with a gross turnover of £13.5 billion . So the print industry is very much alive and kicking.
There is no doubt that there is a beauty to a lot of printed material. This is why people still engage with the medium. This applies to business-to-business material too: well-designed, very visually driven printed communications really stand out.
“Print is interesting because it actually provokes people to read it” says Brett Fero from New York ad agency Publicis. “It provokes the reader to engage in a way that digital doesn’t.” So if someone is taking the time to read a magazine, they are really engaging with the content in there, including the ads.
You still can’t beat a good printed book
Printed book sales have remained constant. A 2016 study showed that the number of people reading a printed book had remained largely unchanged from the previous four years . The same study said that 65% of Americans has read a print book in the last year. Only 28% had read an ebook. In the UK a study by The Bookseller  showed that 76% of parents with children under 8 preferred to read from a printed book rather than digital. This applied to “highly digitised households” too.
It’s not just the older generation either. Researching for the book Words onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World author Naomi Baron found that 92% of college students would rather do their reading with paper rather than pixels. They said “the likelihood of distraction is too high when it comes to online” . Other studies showed that students who read texts in print scored significantly better on the reading comprehension test than students who read the texts digitally . Away from education it seems that younger people are also using printed books as a break from their devices and social media . So it seems there is a definite cognitive advantage to print.
“People are in different mental spaces when they choose to engage with a printed item versus digital content.” Says Brett Fero.
Print establishes your brand
Magazine and newspaper circulation has undeniably contracted. However this means that those reading are now the most engaged, which is great news for the advertisers. YouGov research has showed that 44% of adults still buy and read printed magazines and a further 15% read without buying. 43% of magazine buyers said they preferred print to digital, saying they like the look and feel of printed magazines. 33% said they find print more convenient. 
According to a study by GfK Panel Services, magazines and newspapers have the highest ROI at 125%. This is compared to TV and digital at 87%. 
“Print [is] really for establishing brand worthiness in the marketplace, for establishing the value of the brand, for communicating very broadly to the right target audience.” says Andy Blau of Time Inc “Print… is a very efficient way of establishing a brand identity and for communicating that to the target market.”
Beautiful print is vital for businesses
Printed leaflets, brochures, catalogues etc have been a vital business tool for decades. But whilst this was the only way that information could be previously handed over, today websites carry so much detailed information. So whilst a brochure might not be as important for the fine details, it is still a high value takeaway for a prospect. Beautiful images, high quality print and concise information all reinforce the emotional side of making a commitment. This is especially true at an early stage in the decision-making process.
Print is a physical product. It can also stay with a person for a relatively long time. So compared to digital, print has many more “impressions”. There’s also a pass-along and audience reach that accumulates over at least two weeks. Thoughtfully designed and well-printed brochures are produced to be kept and to be referred to. This means they keep a business name in the forefront of potential customers’ minds.
So it seems that there are still some great advantages that print has over the digital competition. It is tactile, so you can touch it and smell it. Also, you can’t turn off a leaflet and a beautifully printed brochure in your hand doesn’t take forever to download.
Print is greener than you might think
Printing is also greener than most people think. Rather than paper-making destroying forests, the opposite is actually true. European forests have actually grown by over 30% since 1950. Schemes such as the Forest Stewardship Council mean that forests are well-managed and sustainable.
The use of vegetable-based inks and recycling cleaning solvents makes the process more environmentally friendly than ever. Paper is one of the world’s most recycled materials. It is one of the few materials that can be completely recycled and in 2013 the European paper recycling rate reached 71.5%. 
Print is essential for customer engagement
Market research shows that consumers still want a brochure to support high-value high-risk purchases. It’s the same for business to business. A prospect can research your business online but this doesn’t match a brochure in their hand to convey a feeling of permanence and stability.
If someone has accepted your printed brochures then that person has become “engaged”. This is a commitment to them finding out more and represents so much more than clicking on and off to your website. Also, you shouldn’t discount the fact that some prospects might just prefer reading a hard copy rather than staring at a screen again.
When attending trade shows or networking events then having printed collateral is absolutely vital. When prospects are sorting through what they’ve collected, if your item catches the attention then you’ve still achieved some degree of engagement.
The irony of writing this as a blog post and then publicising it through social media and email marketing is not lost on me. But hopefully this brief insight has shown that print isn’t dead – it’s just evolving. High quality printed material such as that created by Designworld still has an important part to play in publicising your business or organisation.
To discuss how Designworld can help with your design and print requirements, please get in touch. If you’d like a printed version of this article, drop me a line and I’ll put one “in the post”!
- Record sales: vinyl hits 25-year high The Guardian
- Ebook sales continue to fall as younger generations drive appetite for print The Guardian
- BPIF UK Printing the Facts and figures 2015
- Pew Research Center February 2016
- The Bookseller
- Words onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World author Naomi Baron
- TechTimes February 2016
- Nielsen Book Research UK reported in The Guardian
- Marketing News April 2015
- BPIF UK Printing the Facts and figures 2015