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How print combats a lack of trust

Patti Groh gets it. Print is something you can trust. You don’t have to believe her because she works in the industry—she is the Director of Marketing Communications for Sappi Fine Paper North America. You don’t have to side with her because “The Standard 5”—a virtual encyclopedia of special printing effects showcasing how designers can make printing on paper a multisensory experience—has been one of Sappi’s most requested print pieces. She’d simply like you to “go to the tape,” so to speak. For example, a recent YouGov report, “Global Study: Which Types of Ads Do People Trust,” listed print as one of the leading mediums, clearly outdistancing things like social media ads.

“We all think of online communications as ‘interactive,’ yet we often forget the interaction print techniques and paper create for and deliver to a recipient,” Groh says. “When you hand someone ‘The Standard,’ they immediately begin the exploration of print on paper. They look; they touch; they rub; they smell; and they react, mostly with a smile or an ‘ah.’ It engages all the haptic senses while interacting with print.”

“Products that only exist in the digital world—sight, sound—don’t feel as real as those that exist in the physical world of sight, sound, touch, smell and taste.”
— Patti Groh, Director of Marketing, Sappi North America

The power of print is the effect of creating impact and delivering something your recipient wants to keep—forever. And along with that, it makes them react. Take “The Standard,” a series of events held nationally. Recipients are invited via email and printed invitations. Universally, the RSVP rate has soared 300% the day the printed invites are received. The takeaways: A well-designed, well-printed piece cuts through digital clutter and people tend to trust the printed piece more.

“Your mailbox can be more effective than your inbox,” Groh says.

Trust comes from holding something real. When consumers order something online, if the product does not live up to expectations, they may lose trust in the brand. Point and case: The physical product and packaging must be congruent with the expectations the brand set up online. If the product arrives flimsy and cheap-looking, it most likely immediately loses some appeal. If the product is high-end and the packaging is not, that subconscious feeling sets in again, i.e., a lack of trust occurs.

“Trust is critical because people won’t buy from a brand they don’t trust,” Groh says. “It’s one thing to acquire a customer, and it’s something else entirely to maintain the customer’s trust so that they buy from you again. Sensory marketing is an integral part of building and maintaining that trust. The world we live in is so competitive. The things that tap into our sense of touch will create a competitive edge. Embellishments, special effects, raised tactile effects, embossing/debossing, metallic inks, they are all thoughtful and distinct additions that enhance print.”

You want more proof? During the pandemic and the whole social distancing exercise, people suddenly were unable to connect in person, specifically changing some of the ways marketers engaged with their communities. But for marketers like Jessica Eng, VP Business Development at Alliance Franchise Brands, the post landscape that the pandemic has created will continue to showcase the power of print.

“Print connected to digital is going to drive the best results. It’s not either or—it needs to be both.”
— Jessica Eng, VP Business Development, Alliance Franchise Brand

“People are deluged by email via their personal, professional and marketing communications,” Eng says. “Studies show that the physical, tactile nature of printed pieces connects in deeper and more memorable ways. But it’s not just the sense of touch. Compelling images and photography draw you in; personalized and relevant messaging motivates and inspires action. Scented paper and dimensional shapes engage and involve recipients further. Not to mention the ability to find a precise list of contacts based on selected criteria or buying behaviors—which means printed direct mail can be targeted to the right people at the right time, which is half the battle.”

Moving forward, Eng believes that capabilities like data-driven print will no longer be nice-to-haves. For example, even small businesses will learn to be more strategic with their mail campaigns. “They will find success with more robust customer data or by targeting their lead generation campaigns to those who share the characteristics of their best buyers. Print connected to digital is going to drive the best results. It’s not either or—it needs to be both.”

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Why the good old days are good

Brent Moncrief does not want to be that guy. At the risk of sounding like the “good old days guy,” he stands firmly behind the premise that print remains one of the strongest media options for today’s marketer. Whether it is an older “print native” or a younger demographic questioning the authenticity and agendas of digital channels, print—properly positioned—will remain a vital part of the communications landscape.

The events and experiences of the past year offer the best example. For many, 2020 was a search for precedent versus what we were forced to collectively navigate. “Comfort content” in the form of books, vinyl records, greeting cards and print catalogs saw huge resurgences across all age groups during the pandemic. As people transitioned to working and schooling from home, there were more opportunities to engage with print. Board games. Puzzles. Rereading a favorite old novel.

“It has been almost a decade since print was described as a ‘Lean In’ or ‘Lean Forward’ media, meaning that the consumer is actively consuming the information in front of them,” says Moncrief, VP, Sales & Marketing, Image Craft, a leading innovated visual graphics communications firm. “This academically validated concept has helped many marketers to recommit to traditional (print) messaging in alignment with their digital initiatives.”

“The engagement factor is driven primarily by the concept of leaning in and genuinely engaging with the content.”
— Brent Moncrief, VP/Sales & Marketing, Image Craft

That a printed piece more accurately engages with a consumer gives it more play with brands trying to build trust in a time when trust is needed. “Print is trustworthy because it is relatively easy to validate the content source, and easier to ensure the original content has not been amended in the customer journey,” Moncrief says. “The engagement factor is driven primarily by the concept of leaning in and genuinely engaging with the content.

Maneuvering through a new business landscape will continue to force brand owners to pursue new and different approaches for building dialogue with existing and prospective clients. As they do, print will continue to prove its effectiveness as a tool that creates ROI across myriad applications, including direct, catalog, mass and targeted publication advertising, and out-of-home advertising (OOH).

As the world pushes forward, print will remain at the ready in helping reestablish trust in personalized engagements.