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Understanding the Need for Print in a Digital Age

Posted by Joe Wagar on August 8, 2013

In Brief: History of Pulp & Pigment

Today, "collateral" refers to a suite of printed materials created to brand an organization, but we can view the importance of collateral in a much larger context as we look back through history to the 16th Century and the advent of the letterpress. Rudimentary branding techniques incorporated letterheads, royal seals, family crests and secret icons, helping convey value and meaning to common materials like paper. As print evolved, elements like typography, illustration and choices in stock or finishing allowed the market to differentiate existing brands and explore new ones with confidence.

Our culture has been conditioned to enjoy certain elements of printed collateral whether we realize it or not. It evokes senses that no digital experience can – the subtle resistance of opening a sealed letter with your index finger, the excitement of unwrapping birthday gifts, the aroma of a freshly published book, the palpable energy of networking and exchanging business cards – all invoke a crafted, decisive and personal call to action. These are cultural cues that, almost unconsciously, help us assign value to printed collateral. Essentially, print collateral utilizes more than just your sense of sight to create a literal translation of an ambiguous ideal or concept.

Where Did Letterhead Go?

New innovations in mobile and tablet technology are creating entirely new platforms for users to interact with products and services. These interactions are often broadly applied with emphasis on social sharing and producing viral content. These are powerful global forces that continue to propel marketing direction and consumption further along the digital frontier of the 21st century.

As these trends continue to accelerate, print collateral in its traditional form finds itself under magnified scrutiny. In the context of more brands or campaigns opting for the "digital only" route, print emanates the illusion of becoming ever-more expendable.

Given the current advertising climate, we must concede that print as the sole, primary medium for supporting sales of a product or service is indeed an archaic ideology.

But does that mean print is dead?

Collateral 2.0

With the advent of this digital marketing maelstrom, print can explore, experiment and thrive. Tangible elements are intrinsically tied to how we assign value. The literal "look & feel" of a brand can convey inherent and direct worth to the user when experienced first-hand. These authentic experiences provide unique avenues of communication between a brand and its target audience, presenting a more personalized message.

This element can be combined with the ever-growing digital media landscape to create a brand composition that is balanced, consistent and effective. We can also implement relatively new processes such as augmented reality or the use of eco-friendly and sustainable paper stock. The co-habitation of a digital presence and physical ephemera strike at the core of what modern day branding is, or should aspire to be.

Conclusion

Since its inception, the use of print collateral has evoked personal meaning and importance. Using digital as the medium for the masses, print today can be utilized as a more personable asset, positioning itself for a deeper conversation.

It's the classic argument of quality over quantity, and now more than ever digital prevalence in marketing trends is helping to breed ample opportunity for a more immersive, expressly human collateral-based user experience.


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