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Selling print in the time of digital

09 January 2018

Make printed products aspirational and create a narrative around it to give it respectability, suggests Arjun Dewan of Papers Worldwide

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The 27 July 2017 issue of The Economic Times carried a story on the future of digital technology, with Ashish Bhasin, CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network, South Asia, saying, “Digital is the future… it is growing much faster — over 35% — compared to the traditional media…”
 
The same page carried the results about PVR cinemas, in bold print announcing a 31% increase in advertisement revenue. The gist was that 20 years after opening the movie-going experience it is still giving the group an income of Rs 2,062 crore a year.
 
At the first glance, the stories sound contradictory. If digital advertisement market is growing, how did PVR manage to amass such massive advertising revenues. Look closer and you will notice an invisible thread linking both the phenomenon.
 
Simply, while digital is becoming an integral part of our lives, there are takers for immersive experiences like going to a theatre. In the long run, it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. Take the example of PVR. When money is made, the chain runs long. An increase in advertisement revenue for PVR cinemas also means an increase in revenue for the content creator, the print provider, the signboard manufacturer, the LCD display seller and so on.
 
Making print immersive
How can printers create an immersive experience? This question becomes especially relevant when one realises that tomorrow’s customers, the millennials, think very differently from what a typical customer today thinks. I believe focusing on a few basics can go a long way in the right direction. These include creating stories that induce trial and conversion; focusing on intrinsic properties of the medium; utilising technology and understanding the psyche of the ‘me’ generation.
 
Create stories to induce trial 
Here’s the thing about inducing trial — you need to give the use of the product respectability and an aspirational appeal. We buy chips, pens, cars, clothes and more because a cricketer or a actor endorses them. Fortunately for us, there are enough examples of actual superstars from the real world using traditional products that involve printing and paper. Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, Richard Branson of Virgin and Bill Gates of Microsoft, all carry a notebook. The notebook is used to record ideas and follow up on action plans and prioritise. 
 
Richard Branson once wrote in a blog post, “I can’t tell you where I’d be if I hadn’t a pen on hand to write down ideas as soon as they came to me…”  
 
Now, with this kind of a star cast endorsing the use of pen on paper, it is only appropriate that interesting and high-quality notebooks are promoted as aspirational products. Any designer looking to create a high quality notebook needs to just look at the swatch books of any quality paper supplier (including Papers Worldwide, which I represent) to gauge at the availability of paper options to create an aspirational appeal and a unique identity for their creations. 
 
For example, Classic Crest Avalanche White at 99% whiteness is the whitest paper available. World Wide Green with 30% post-consumer fiber is green with a luxurious feel. Eames Solar White in vellum finish is inspired by the painter Eames and fantastic if you want to paint, sketch and write. Other examples exist in the market. 
 
Focus on the medium
The big advantage ink and paper have over digital is a tactile appeal, perpetuity and convenience. A letter can be felt; the paper, the writing, all add to its appeal. If we ask ourselves, how many unopened mails we have in our inbox, the answer could run into thousands. Yet it is rare that a physical mail goes unopened or unread. Paper has this ability to attract, allure and motivate. By focusing on its intrinsic properties, we can increase the usage and improve its appeal.
 
Rajesh Bhargava, general manager, studio and production at Dentsu Marcom, shares an interesting experience involving paper. Shalimar Paints, a leading paint brand wanted an immersive campaign around the paint. The team at Dentsu designed a paint swatch book using which a customer could peel a shade and transfer it on the wall to visualise the colour. Print and paper played a role in making this campaign a success.
 
Utilise technology
Technology can be used to market, connect with customers, improve the efficiency of operations and analyse the performance. From the perspective of using technology to deliver an immersive experience, one can cite examples of products which print and deliver superior finished effects in one pass. 
 
Understanding the ‘me’ generation
The thing about millennials is that it is all about them. Maggi played to this psyche in the ‘Me and Meri Maggi’ campaign where customers shared personal experiences involving Maggi. These experiences were printed on the packets of Maggi noodles, giving an instant high to the customer 
 
Sanjeev Saharan, group production manager at Lowe Lintas India, feels that print campaigns are like babies, each one has its own characteristic and challenge, yet each brings great joy to its creator. Even in the age of digital, print continues to attract attention and advertising spend, he argues.
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