Does Print Still Matter?

Print’s importance among digital marketing.

Let’s face it, few smells in the world are as distinct as an overused stadium restroom or company breakroom when someone burns microwave popcorn. As your mother might say, “This is not good dinner conversation…” but the reality is, a savvy business owner understands that ensuring a pleasant environment makes good business sense.

Cintas is the nation’s leading provider of products and services that help businesses improve their cleanliness, image and safety. When the company created its Signature Series™ Air Fresheners to combat the disagreeable smells of American workplaces and public areas, it faced a real challenge. Quite simply: how could it get facility managers and business owners who might buy the dispensers to smell the difference in a digital marketing age? Where the internet does many things well, conveying the pleasant difference air fresheners can make is not one of them.

The answer for Cintas centered on creating a series of print mailers with an intriguing twist. Designed by Matter Creative Group, one print piece looks like a nondescript gray locker and mysteriously asks: “Is Something Lurking in Your Locker?” The recipient could then open a flap on the front revealing a beautiful scene of snow-capped mountains along with fresh flowers blowing in the breeze.

Then came the twist – at the top of the majestic peaks was a scratch-and-sniff spot that enabled the potential customer to experience the air freshening scent. The tag read: “Even locker room odors are no match for our Clean Breeze Air Freshener.” Flipping the card over revealed the air freshener's 9 stylish colors and sleek design. In just a couple of seconds, this print mailer gave Cintas something digital just cannot do – allowing the user to smell the product and then immediately see it in several colorful options.

This three-part scratch-and-sniff mailer featured Cintas’ Signature Series™ in a way that gave customers an immediate sensory experience by leveraging the power of smell. Although the strategy of showcasing scent has not been commonly used in B2B marketing, there is scientific backing that the use of scent evokes a strong emotional response. “Smell has a greater impact on purchasing than everything else combined,” says Alan Hirsch, neurological director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. “If something smells good, the product is perceived as good.” One theory, according to Hirsch, is that smells are linked with emotions. "The portion of the brain that controls smell is located in the limbic lobe, the center part of the brain that also controls emotions," he explains. "The quickest way to change emotions is with smell."

The unique approach of including scent in a B2B print piece appealed to Cintas’ Facility Services marketing team. John Engel, Senior Marketing Manager, shared the reason they moved forward on this approach: “Our Signature Series™ was already the most successful product launch in Cintas history and had been marketed based on dispenser colors. Working with Matter, we wanted to create a campaign that continued the strong momentum and broaden our market base. By going with an unconventional marketing campaign of integrating scent, we’re able to stand out from the clutter of mail a facility manager receives and get our sales reps excited to personally follow up with their top prospects.” Engel added, “When you have sales reps enthusiastically following up with prospects on a clever marketing mailer series, the results are impressive right off the bat. Our sales team witnessed increased call-back volume and a faster response rate in comparison to past marketing efforts.”

The Cintas campaign launch demonstrates a critical issue in our fast-paced marketplace that seems elementary, but still must be re-emphasized – print still matters deeply as organizations roll out marketing and branding campaigns to delight customers, consumers and other stakeholders.

It’s important to note that, while print can be a key catalyst for a successful marketing campaign, the quality of the piece created – from design through execution –makes all the difference. We’ve all spotted poorly executed print pieces when mail is left on our desks, which immediately land in the circular file. Partnering with knowledgeable printing experts ensures a positive brand experience and print pieces that shine through the sea of mail clutter.

Brad Thiery, a third generation printing expert at Multi-Craft and a Matter agency partner resource for the Cintas scent campaign, explains the shift in expectations necessary from printing partners. Thiery explains, “In today’s printing world, sales reps must think like marketers, not print reps. Taking the time to give more thought on the front end leads to better results, as opposed to just tactical execution. In the case of the Cintas scented mail pieces, we worked with Matter to make sure that the paper stock used would be flexible yet sturdy enough to go through the postal service, but also easy enough to open the “peel away” for a nice, clean tear to result in a high quality experience.” Thiery added that, while quality is always a concern, cost objectives should also be top of mind, “My role when working in collaboration with an agency is to help bridge the gap between the idea and dollars – taking the vision and helping to execute results that remain within budget.”

Even in the B2C world, the proof of print’s power still hustles by us daily, say, in the guise of the iconic navy blue Gap shopping bag that a person instantly recognizes, whether walking right next to someone, or from across the parking lot. “A classic shopping bag, for example the one we print for our client The Gap, becomes much more than a way for a customer to get their clothes home,” said Michelle de la Vega, National Account Manager at Ampac Packaging. “Those shopping bags are transformed into mini mobile billboards that put the brand in front of countless eyeballs every single day of the year.”

The idea that de la Vega singles out is part of a larger set of benefits that printed marketing materials can bring to an organization.

Print’s value in today’s competing marketplace.

The lasting value of ink to paper

The real power of print in these examples resides in how customers can actually get their hands on a printed piece in a way that often trumps the potential speed and efficiency of digital work. This phenomenon is quite similar to how people still want to handle and hold books, even though eBooks seem more convenient. In many respects, print seems to validate the product or service in a way the online world cannot duplicate.

“I’ve received feedback from customers reporting that a visually stunning marketing piece we’ve printed for them has remained prominently on their client’s desk for quite some time – you just don’t have that kind of staying power with an email,” explained Kevin Smith, Account Manager, RPI Graphic Data Solutions.

There can also be a practical benefit that Smith emphasizes, saying, “We’ve printed product sales sheets for associates at Tiffany’s, which is a less costly and cumbersome alternative than each salesperson having access to a tablet to view a digital version. Ensuring each sales sheet carries Tiffany’s iconic robin egg blue color stands as a physical reminder to the associate to maintain the brand’s highest standard of quality and attention.”

Print + digital mix = cross-pollination marketing

As you would expect, integrating print and digital creates a commanding platform for branding and marketing success. Smith & Nephew launched a promotional campaign to market PICO,* an innovative product that uses negative pressure wound therapy for wound management and healing. The marketing and informational campaign targeted clinicians.

Smith & Nephew’s work with Matter featured direct mail efforts and outreach via trade journal advertisements. Combining the power of print and digital, each of the marketing pieces contained a unique URL that enabled the company to monitor responses and offer a sample for clinicians, thereby capturing contact information from the visitor. The partnership between print and digital aided in the lead conversion process and then used the power of digital marketing to continue fostering engagement for client conversion.

This kind of cross-pollination is what marketing campaigns should focus on, rather than allowing print and digital to fight it out or placing each in its own marketing silo. Providing a strong call-to-action (CTA) is the thread that ties print and digital together. The more appealing the CTA, the higher likelihood the thread will not be broken.

Reaching beyond the digital audience

Rather than being left in the dust by the stampede to digital tools and techniques, print materials should serve two related functions. First, print materials should be an extension of online campaigns, getting consumers to engage with an idea across platforms. Second, because people are so familiar with printed materials – basically growing up with them their entire lives – things like flyers, postcards, coupons and other items provide a means of expanding consumer reach outside of the digital mainstay.

Smith from RPI Graphic Data Solutions shares an example of expanding a brand’s core audience with a print piece. Smith describes a shopping mall handout for Luxottica’s Sunglass Hut. “Let’s face it, people are busy and sometimes they just want to get in and out of the mall as quickly as possible, at least I know I do. The handout we printed included a promo code, encouraging the shopper to make one final stop over to Sunglass Hut or shop online later – either way, the client’s print piece was engaging an audience they may not have reached online.”

Sunglass Hut’s promotional campaign makes sense when we look at our own lives. We might now live in a digital world, but imagine all the times that a great brochure or imaginative flyer led you to a store. Just the other day, a Half-Price Books flyer/coupon drew me to a local store that I had driven by on almost a daily basis. More importantly for the brand, the connection reminded me how much fun it is to shop there – from the killer deals to the wall of DVDs and even vintage vinyl albums.

This kind of experience, which we know is happening countless times a day, demonstrates the continuing power of print. In the pursuit of consumer mindspace, we can’t afford to leave one of our most effective tools unused.

Not your grandfather’s junk mail

Although innovative print items have always been around, variable printing has more recently enabled unique customization at a much lower price, since technological advances have reduced costs significantly. The ability to customize is what consumers count on in a world filled with white noise from too many messages and too much information. Print still does what it has always done well – reach a mass audience. Based on variable printing, it can now also do so with a level of customization that extends the relationship with an organization’s target customers.

What we find with print, then, is twofold: The medium retains its traditional place in the marketing mix by both extending the brand’s reach and giving customers something to hold and touch. Yet today’s print pieces also go beyond the former role, offering new forms of customization and package design that have really overturned the stale old 6x9, two-sided mailer.

As a matter of fact, the so-called “debate” between traditional marketing and digital marketing should be overhauled if it leans on the latter just because it seems hipper or newer. Agencies are finding that the technological advances in print are actually enabling them to create amazing print materials.

At Matter, we will continue to help our client’s integrate both print and digital where appropriate. Just as we respect the brilliant minds of the partners we collaborate with for digital marketing initiatives, the same holds true for our reverence to print mediums.

Joel Warneke, executive creative director at Matter, explains print’s timeless benefit as he holds a few examples of past work, “Time and again, we’ve seen that a well-crafted print piece can evoke a reaction not often duplicated in digital. With fewer print pieces competing for attention, there’s a unique sensory connection – of say the piece’s design and texture – that stands out with the reader. Keeping the client’s goals in mind, we strive to increase the odds that a piece we have a hand in creating will be kept and hopefully shared, as opposed to a click and delete with a digital message.”

At Matter Creative Group, we have great appreciation for the innovative minds in both the print and digital marketing arena and pride ourselves in being well-versed in translating visual design and brand messaging across all communication channels. We welcome discussions about your next project and how we can help bring your brand’s vision and message to the hearts and minds your ideal customers.

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