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Look! It's Alive, It's Moving! It's Print

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Look! It's Alive, It's Moving! It's Print
Look! It's Alive, It's Moving! It's Print

A message to all the haters: Print is not dead. First of all, who doesn't like getting something in the mail (with the caveat that it's targeted and relevant)? Print is tactile. It's personal, it's colorful, and it doesn't require an Internet connection.

For a “second of all,” put this in your pipe and commence to smoke it: According to PostNet, the commercial print industry is poised for greatness—to the tune of 2 to 3 percent annual growth over the next three years, reaching an estimated $87 billion by 2016. Plus, printed materials—brochures, print ads, direct mail pieces—account for more than 85% of total print industry revenue, as opposed to about 13% for non-print revenue—PURLs, QR codes, email, SMS campaigns, etcetera.

It's really just a perception issue, says PostNet CEO Steve Greenbaum.

“Remember when paper was supposed to be going away and we were going to have a paperless office system? People are enamored by cool things,” Greenbaum says. “It's really cool to push someone to a website through their mobile device or you can send someone a link through email, but it's not the same thing as the relationship between a person and a piece of quality print—there's a power in that kind of visual representation and storytelling that digital doesn't support.”

Not that anything, even print, can exist in a channel vacuum anymore. The point is smart integration, using the new tools in the toolbox without forgetting the existing—and still highly useful—ones.

“The good news is digital creates more value and more awareness for print, and print in turn supports digital,” Greenbaum says. “One can't exist without the other today.”

Even print itself has gone digital, and to the benefit of both. Gone are the days of huge, lumbering presses and separate devices for color and black and white. Prices are way down and speed and style are on the ascendant. “Look at print now—the specialty inks, the foil and embossing processes, and unique new print treatments that create an even cooler experience,” Greenbaum says. “The output capabilities are just getting better and better.”

Print and digital, when used together, create a potent mix; a sort of delicious symbiotic cocktail that spreads awareness while giving customers the chance to state their preferences. Smart marketers give their customers an opportunity to learn about their brand or business through whatever channel the latter's most comfortable with.

“Most people opt for a combination of digital and print, and as a result, print is a much cleaner channel,” Greenbaum says. “The print industry is a powerful tool, but it's even more powerful if you use digital as an opt-in for print.”

For example, take Greenbaum himself. A triathlete, he recently requested information from a company that installs indoor training pools. Shortly thereafter he received a high-quality brochure in the mail, along with a DVD. He watched the DVD and researched the company online—of course—but there was something that kept pulling him back to the brochure. And it was the brochure rather than the DVD or the company's website he ended up sharing with family and friends.

Greenbaum sums it up: “There's just something to be said for the ink on paper thing.”

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