Sappi Futurist: Print Is Superior To Digital, But There Will Be Less Of It

Dejan at MCOM 18

The printing industry has been out-marketed by the tech industry, which claims “Print Is Dead”, says Sappi’s futurist Daniel Dejan. But the fact is, print has certain important advantages over digital that will ensure its survival in the future.

That was the message Dejan brought to MAILCOM ’18 in a keynote presentation April 10, 2018.

“The print industry has done a poor job marketing itself,” Dejan said. And new research by Sappi and others is the beginning of a turnaround in understanding why print is a superior communications vehicle to digital.

How is it superior? Print engages more human senses than digital. With digital, the user only utilizes sight and hearing. But print engages sight, touch, smell, and the sound of paper. Research proves that the more senses you engage, the more attention you gain from the reader.

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Dejan explained the “Endowment Effect”, which is the sense of ownership a person feels when they hold a tangible item. Such an effect is not present in the digital world. Catalog companies like Land’s End learned this when sales dropped after cutting back on their print catalog. According to Dejan, 75% of online purchases start with a paper catalog. By holding a catalog, the “Endowment Effect” is triggered.

So why have companies migrated away from print to online? Because of cost and a sense that the action is online. They forget that paper and print drives online activity.

Sharing some of the research from Sappi’s landmark study of the Neuro Science of Touch, Daniel Dejan said that in the last twenty years we have built separate brain connections to process the tsunami of online content. These new synaptic connections are designed to skim information, but not remember it.

Users remember things they see in print, a critical fact marketers must keep in mind.

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Monitor fatigue will create more reading opportunities for printed materials. According to Dejan, our job in the industry is to make print as impactful as possible. It will be the tactile, sensual delights of paper and print that will keep it engaging, valued and shared.

There is a downside of print: cost. Printing and mailing is expensive. That’s why users of print and mail must maximize digital in their campaigns.

“Print and digital possibilities are extraordinary,” Dejan explained.

Dejan see augmented reality as a key print trigger in the future, pointing to McDonald’s McTrax as an example of what can be done when print and digital come together (see video).

Dejan believes print isn’t dead or dying, but that it is evolving from a commodity to a higher quality and specialty experience. There will be less of it. What is left will be high quality in both the physical product and the editorial content.

He believes the really good news for the industry is that print is valued by all demographics. Each generation uses it to complement their lifestyles. These lasting documents are an important way to build credibility and trust. And this permanence complements the instantaneous, constantly updated nature of digital.

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