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Industry Insight

Good Tidings from the “Gutenberg Galaxy”

In its usual methodical fashion,

By Patrick Henry
Published: August 26, 2009

In its usual methodical fashion, Heidelberg has taken a vigorous stand for print’s place in the media mix with an impressive publication called “The Strengths of Print for Brand and Corporate Communication.” Released last year, the 64-page document was produced by a team of 15 researchers from Heidelberg’s Print Media Academy in Heidelberg, Germany, and the advertising and marketing communication faculty of Stuttgart Media University. They examined 80 published studies of relevant media trends, analyzed 19 of these in depth, and also considered the findings of tests that measured consumer recall in three multimedia advertising campaigns. Among their principal conclusions: because it enables sustained reception of information, print gives advertising a longer-term, more profound impact. Print’s high credibility with high-spending consumers is another reason why the greatest advertising impact is achieved when print and electronic media are combined with one another. For all of its rigor and formality, the document at times has an in-your-face quality that’s missing from most other analyses of print’s merits compared with those of the electronic media. The authors maintain, for example, that print is better than any other medium for stimulating interest with pictures. They say that television’s use of stationary and moving images to evoke positive emotions is undercut—or at least not helped—by its audio component (“an alleged advantage”). The Internet gets an even shorter shrift. The authors say that in one of the tests they looked at, “The possibilities for interacting actually confused the test subjects and evoked more negative than positive emotional responses to the advertising.” Other provocative points: • Print is either informative, emotional, or interesting—only rarely does it possess more than one of these attributes at once. • Reduction to the essentials in print is a good thing, making it suitable for “simple emotional presentation” without detailed information. • Because print does not have features such as sound and interactivity to distract readers from the essentials, it’s good at generating brand recall—as good as television, and much better than the Internet. • Print can—and should—be used in any campaign. “The Strengths of Print for Brand and Corporate Communication” presents no data more recent than 2005, and because of what has happened to magazine circulations and ad page counts since then, print has lost some of the reach that it once had in the kinds of advertising campaigns that the authors placed under study. But, given the weight of evidence they present in print’s favor, it’s hard to dispute their general conclusion: “The Gutenberg Galaxy still has great potential.” “The Strengths of Print for Brand and Corporate Communication” can be requested from Print Media Academy here.

Patrick Henry, Executive Editor for WhatTheyThink.com is also the director of Liberty or Death Communications, a consultancy specializing in research, education, promotional, and editorial support services for the printing and publishing industries.

Patrick Henry is available for speaking engagements and consulting projects. To get more information contact us here.

Please offer your feedback to Patrick. He can be reached at patrick.henry@whattheythink.com.



By Olivija Fistrovic on Aug 27, 2009

...am interested from Corporate Communication point of view; Brand in our case covers HEALTHCARE. Hope to receive a copy of "The Strength of Print..." which I will share with our PR Department. Olivija Fistrovic, Manager Health Sciences Library Chicago, Illinois, USA


By Patrick Henry on Aug 27, 2009

Dear Ms. Fistrovic, Thanks for your comment. You can request a copy of “The Strengths of Print for Brand and Corporate Communication” from Heidelberg's Print Media Academy. Here's the link: http://www.print-media-academy.com/www/html/en/content/articles/in_the_know/print_power


By Chuck on Aug 28, 2009

I love print, and printing, and frankly, I am a huge Heidelberg fan. But it is incredible to me that a company with major structural problems would waste money paying researchers to do a study like this, that basically concludes "print is still good", but in practice does nothing to advance this view for anyone except those who already believe it. I think it's called "preaching to the choir", and they aren't the only ones in the industry with this affliction. Let's try a new angle. Can you just picture a middle-aged print salesman walking into the offices of Google in Silicon Valley and dropping off a copy of this report.


By Lisa Bickford on Sep 01, 2009

Chuck: I too am a lover of all things printed and agree that this is "preaching to the choir". However, some big player... equipment... paper... someone, needs to step up to the plate and create a sustained "got print" campaign, and I appreciate Heidelberg's efforts and will probably use snippets in my blog as evidence of the current usefulness of print. And while I can't remember all the details, I remember hearing that within the last 6 months or so google has, in fact, used direct mail to promote some of the features of its product. Interesting message there, isn't it? -Lisa Bickford owner, Highlight Printing, Minneapolis, MN www.highlightprinting.com


By Chuck on Sep 02, 2009

Hi Lisa! I think you and I are actually in agreement. In fact, I am looking at a Google printed piece sitting on my desk right now! It's adorable! But the idea that print is somehow better than other media, especially the internet, is a wrong approach. Print is highly complementary to other media-- that's what we need to focus on. It's a big leap to say print "should be used in any campaign", that shows a wrong view of the world, and that's where I think the folks at Google would get a big laugh. I think it's up to "us", the end customer facing participants in the industry, to help the world understand where print fits in-- if we sit around and wait for big iron suppliers, paper companies or even our excellent industry associations to drive demand, we're doomed.


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