The concept of demand generation for print is something I’ve been interested in lately, so I enjoyed reading Deborah Corn’s Print Media Centr article “3 Takeaways from HOW Design Live to Help You Connect with Print Customers.”

The first two points related to how printers interact with the creative community. But it was takeaway #3 that caught my eye—the lack of representation from printers or press manufacturers at the show.

HOW is one of the premier shows for creative professionals. This makes it a perfect opportunity for printers to help creatives see how print fits into today’s media mix. Yet, Corn pointed out, print representation was nominal. Few printers and no press vendors at all.

But it’s a creative conference, some might argue, not a print conference. It’s not about print. Why should printers be there? This is exactly the kind of the thinking that doesn’t generate demand. I’m not talking about demand for a printer’s products and services as compared to someone else’s. I’m talking about demand for print in the first place.

Thinking about this issue, I went onto the website of Graphic Design USA. There were plenty of ads from the printing industry: an ad for Print 18, for an online printing service, and ads for various kinds of paper. But those ads only work if the audience sees value in print in the first place. Otherwise, readers just glaze over them and focus on the ads they see as relevant. So how do we get creatives to see print as relevant?

I think about the white paper from Compu-Mail that I wrote about in a previous article. The white paper was distributed through Target Marketing and demonstrated the importance of direct mail in generating website traffic. I think about television ads from the Paper & Packaging Board with the little boy using paper airplanes tossed into his neighbor’s yard to communicate with his father deployed overseas (and responded to with a physical box, much to the boy’s delight). I think of what Two Sides is doing to promote paper as a renewable resource and combat greenwashing.

These are among the few companies and organizations actively trying to create demand for print. But is it enough?

Do printers play (or should they play) a role in participating in the effort to generate awareness and demand for print? Do they have a responsibility not only to differentiate themselves from the competition but to work with the competition to generate a demand for the product they all sell? If so, what is it?

I’d like to hear your thoughts.