Print is the new vinyl: Authentic emotive connections

Ed Garrett   |   November 9th 2021   |   @10:06

Print is the new vinyl

In Bristol during lockdown we saw a huge boom in print work all around the city. From poster campaigns thanking frontline workers, to billboards promoting activism and social change, print has been helping brands and causes to stop people in the street and engage in huge numbers.

Digital marketing has been the way to go for a long time now, but print is still thriving even in an increasingly virtual world. And maybe it’s because we’re all music nuts, but the resurgence of print reminds us of one thing in particular: vinyl.

Similar to the transition from traditional print to digital marketing, we moved away from vinyl to CDs, to downloads and streaming as technology changed the way that people consumed music. But, as many benefits as streaming brings in regard to accessibility and sustainability, it’s still not fully taken the place of physical media. The tactile, emotive connection of a vinyl record has given back catalogues of music a second wind with a whole new generation who seeks out authenticity and values real craft.

The limits of digital

There’s a reason we all love music streaming. It puts pretty much anything you want to listen to right there at your fingertips, whenever you want it. But the flip side is that there’s so much choice it becomes disposable. Just think about how many songs you add to your Spotify playlists only to forget they’re there. Or how many you skip in favour of your old favourites.

It’s the same story for digital marketing. It’s perfect for reaching huge numbers of people, but the virtual world is completely saturated with advertising. We’re used to zombie-scrolling past it without a second thought. Digital ads have to stand out or they’ll be forgotten in an instant.

There’s a real opportunity right now for businesses, musicians and charities to be different, and to make their mark with print while everyone else is focused on the digital world. That’s especially true as the UK moves back into physical environments; after the virtual fatigue of lockdown there appears to be a renewed appreciation for the physical world.

The power of print

Print work offers something tangible, something that engages the senses. Whether it’s the texture and smell of a book, or the placement of a head-turning billboard, print strikes up an emotional response to help you communicate your brand.

There’s a psychological side to it too. Having that physical brochure sitting on the table or seeing that billboard in its surroundings helps it take root in the mind. Digital ads don’t have that same context to prompt people’s memories. You can make your content more relevant here too; for example, raise awareness about your electric vehicle business by putting up posters in car parks, or promote your lifestyle products at a university campus. Print can allow you to physically get in front of the right people at the right time.

We worked with The Bunch on a range of print work to get the attention of a young audience that’s over-saturated with digital advertising. We combined bespoke illustrations with engaging photography to create a series of designs that students, who often want to fill their own space away from home, could easily put up on their bedroom walls.

But it’s not just about being more memorable, print can also help marketing be more accessible too. One of the lessons from the pandemic’s shift to virtual life is that we can’t assume everyone has the same access to digital platforms, whether that’s because of financial or technological reasons or their own individual circumstances.

Print can bring the information straight to these people where they need it – like with WECIL, one of the UK’s largest Centres for Independent Living, who came to us to design activities brochures for their Out and About events for disabled children. Using the print medium combined with a vibrant visual style, we were able to communicate their activities in a way that’s accessible, portable and engaging.

Out and about inside brochure mockup

But what about sustainability?

Of course we can’t hype up print without also talking about the elephant in the room. Any print campaign has to be environmentally conscious because no amount of marketing benefits are worth litter and landfill problems.

First of all, it’s worth pointing out that while print has environmental concerns, digital is not 100% green by default. With the massive amounts of energy that power giant data centres across the world, digital media has plenty of hidden costs of its own.

So how do you make sure your print campaign is sustainable? The obvious place to start is with the materials you’re using. 

Look for printers dedicated to using recycled or sustainable paper stock and eco-friendly inks. FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification can tell you whether paper is recycled, from responsible sources, or from well managed forests. In general, keep in mind that uncoated paper is easier to recycle afterwards and produces less waste. 

There are some innovative approaches here too, like compostable paper that breaks down naturally, or seeded paper you can plant in the ground instead of throwing away. You can even find paper made of hemp, cotton or linen.

Not all environmentally-conscious paper is made equal. Some paper recycling processes still produce their fair share of waste and emissions. And paper fibres can only be recycled around 5-7 times before they give up the ghost. On the other hand, paper made from sustainably-managed forests does involve cutting down trees but leads to more being planted in their place – and even the trees that are cut down capture carbon as they grow. 

To validate all this we spoke to one of the printers in our network, Chris Perry from Corsham Print, who made an interesting point of saying that ‘the print industry on the whole has actually been ahead of the sustainability curve for many years, with the use of vegetable oil based inks, low energy production and carbon capture through schemes such as the Woodland Trust and World Land Trust. FSC or PEFC managed forests are planting more trees than they harvest, for example, between 2005 and 2015, European forests grew by the equivalent size of over 1,500 football pitches (on average) every day. Furthermore 60% of the energy paper mills used in Europe are biomass-based ’.

And it’s not just about the paper you use, it’s also how you use it. The right strategic choices can go a long way to ensuring sustainability. Don’t just produce print media for the sake of it – focus on a specific campaign where it will make a real impact, and be clear on how much you actually need.

Getting the most out of your print campaign

Print has a lot of potential, but it has to be deployed right for it to have the maximum impact. Taking a scattergun approach to your flyers might get them into more people’s hands, but more will end up in recycling bins too.

It’s all about quality over quantity; just like a limited press of vinyl records, getting fewer, well designed and good quality brochures to the right people is likely to be more effective, adds value to your print material and is better for the environment.

Paper quality is so important here. Print is tactile, so look for paper stock that feels sophisticated and matches the quality of your designs – the last thing you want is for your materials to look great but feel like a cheap takeaway menu.

Print media can be a powerful way of speaking directly to your audience, and with the right strategy and considerations it doesn’t have to be bad news for the environment either.

System feedback poster

If you’re looking for print marketing with compelling design and illustration, we’d love to know how we can help. Get in contact using the form below or by emailing: [email protected]

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