The print experience can't be duplicated

Published on .

Is print dying? I hope not. But then you'll have to answer that question. All three of you—you the marketer, you the reader and you the publisher.

As a marketer, perhaps you've experienced the fervor and futility of the newly enlightened who rely solely on digital and social media to build their business brands?

In one category I know of, companies' marketing activity consists almost exclusively of showering their audience with digital content that's devoid of a compelling, unifying creative idea. The result: Awareness and familiarity of each of the competitors in the category is less than 10%.

Too bad they haven't discovered some of the unique, persuasive qualities that make print powerful in its own way:

  • It provides immediate scale and reach.
  • It can portray the essence of a brand in a highly memorable way through the synergy of words and pictures.
  • It connects the brand's point of view with the unique world view of a very specific target audience.
  • It creates an environment of contemplation and learning instead of simply sound-bite gathering.

So why do nine out of 10 adult Americans decide to spend an average of 43 minutes an issue with such a creaky, old analog method of getting information as a magazine?

It's the experience. People enjoy the pure act of reading a publication even when the same content is available online. A publication doesn't click on and off. It doesn't deliver ads that pop out of nowhere. You can't TiVo a magazine. It invites you to linger if you want. You can enjoy a visual pun or savor for a moment a true insight. You can write on it or tear it apart, both figuratively and literally.

Sometimes understanding and advice cannot be dispensed in 140 characters by anyone with a Wi-Fi connection. Sometimes you want the expertise of recognized specialists all in one place. Sometimes you want to turn to experts who have earned their credentials, checked their sources and facts—and who have the professional discipline to actually engage their minds before they put their mouths into full throttle. Sometimes you want to drill down as well as just skim the surface.

It's not that screens are bad and print is good, but that what print does depends on the totality of what publications offer—from the tactile experience of turning pages to their total self-sufficiency and, above all, to the way they draw us into an activity at once mentally strenuous and physically still.

The secret of success, if there is one, does not lie in print, or digital, or TV, or video, or online or offline anything. It is in understanding, exploiting and integrating the shifting strengths of all these contact points to create unique, compelling and relevant brand experiences for each audience.

Gordon Hochhalter is managing partner of Mobium, a b-to-b marketing agency based in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]

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