The Role of Print in a Digital World

Netflix recently announced that it is planning to produce a print journal to showcase its original programming ahead of the Emmys. While the printed publication would be distributed to industry players as a promotional piece and not available to the general public, it is an interesting strategy for a company that thrives in a digital space.

This is just another example of how leveraging print can boost a brand and create a memorable experience for the audience. Modern direct marketers know that a strategic mix of digital and print marketing can be critical to the success of your campaign. The question is not should this be a print marketing campaign or a digital campaign. The answer lies in the use of both to get the best marketing ROI. Feeling inspired by how Netflix plans to use print to add prestige to its product, let’s look at some other seemingly “digital” brands that create memorable experiences with print.

Airbnb provides an online marketplace where homeowners can offer their property as vacation rentals to travelers around the world. Like most of the peer-to-peer services that have emerged in recent years, Airbnb relies heavily on its technology and software development and design to offer a convenient and user-friendly experience. But did you know about Airbnb Magazine? Launched in May 2017, Airbnbmag was printed and distributed to airport and bookstore newsstands, supermarkets and retail stores. Additionally, Airbnb hosts are given complimentary copies (to hopefully display at their properties), and subscriptions are available to the public. According to the publisher, “Airbnb Magazine celebrates humanity wherever it exists: across borders, time zones, languages and skin tones. We believe that travel is transformative, and key to building bridges in increasingly strained societies.”

Armed with the brevity of data it acquires from its website visitors, Airbnbmag can profile trending states, countries or regions it knows its users are actively searching and visiting and can help increase the engagement with their customers by offering the additional motivation to book that next trip to Canada, Finland or San Francisco. This is a great example of a company thought to be digital first utilizing print marketing to increase web traffic and conversions.

As I draft this blog on my MacBook, I am listening to my AirPods trying to ignore the notifications on my iPhone and Apple Watch. It’s now even more clear to me that Apple has taken over my life. At this point, Apple has become a luxury brand of consumer electronics. With a design-first mantra and simple user interfaces, Apple has become synonymous with the digital takeover. If you are like me, you cannot live without your Apple products and you also hang on to the packaging far longer than any other consumer electronic.

Apple does an excellent job at creating a unique product experience for consumers by designing products that look and feel great. Perhaps overlooked is how the print portion of their business impacts the experience. From the moment you have that smooth, white, heavy cardboard stock that you associate with their products in your hands, the excitement and anticipation builds until your new device powers on and you have yet another Apple product (and box) in your mix.

When you consider brands like Netflix, Airbnb and Apple, print marketing is likely the last thing you think about. But these brands excel at providing great experiences and recognize that there is prestige in print. Print is tactile. It can invoke emotion or memories and has a powerful impact on the brain. Even if you consider your product as digitally exclusive, a strategic mix of digital and print marketing can elevate your brand’s reputation and improve your marketing results.

Trent Weber • April 18, 2019

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