Changing the stigma of print to drive new business

The other night I saw a commercial for Head and Shoulders shampoo. Now, if you’re like me, you grew up knowing that if you had dandruff, Head and Shoulders was your shampoo. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t consider using it. In fact, if you didn’t have dandruff and DID use it, it could damage your hair (at least that’s the story I grew up with). And this was even worse than the stigma of having dandruff.
But this commercial was different. This commercial, targeting young professionals, focused on how GOOD the shampoo is for your hair, and all the different formulas available to help control dandruff. They are actually taking advantage of dandruff’s negative stigma by marketing and selling a preventative solution. Their stigma pivoted.
Then I started thinking about other stigmas that have been overcome. Rewind to the late 70s, when Saturday Night Fever hit the screens. Disco was at the height of its popularity and the Bee Gees were forever associated with that era. And then disco died … and after that, the stigma of disco music was particularly negative. As a result, it took decades, and numerous family tragedies, before the brothers Gibb regained the respect and admiration of the NA public they so richly deserved.
Today, the Bee Gees are admired, respected and fondly remembered for their entire library of music. The stigma pivoted.
What about the print industry? There is no question that we have been plagued with the “print is dead” stigma for far too long. Yet no matter how much we push through it, or the advances we make in eco-friendly solutions – or that print has evolved beyond “ink on paper” to a myriad of substrates and applications, from textiles to car wraps to displays – the “Print is not cool” stigma prevails.
Why is this the case? Is it because we are so busy getting jobs out the door that we no longer have time to develop customer partnerships? If that’s the case, then what are your plans to streamline your processes? How will you drive new business if you are in a constant, reactive state?
Is it because folks simply aren’t buying as much print as they used to? Or is it that they’re not buying the same kind of print as they used to? As a business, do you understand your customers’ evolving print needs? Is there an opportunity to expand your services offerings? Or perhaps better market those offerings that your prospects and customers may not know exist?
Are we teaching our next generation of designers, and consumers of print, not only our history, but our present…and future…capabilities?
I recently found out that my son, who attends one of the top design schools in Canada, has no exposure to any curriculum related to print. Why is that? Why isn’t print included in all university and college design school curricula? After spending three days assisting at Graphics Canada, his eyes opened to a whole world of design and creative potential, a world he would have forever associated with as “old school”.
Perhaps it’s the digital revolution finally taking over. As I see it, consumer demand for a true omni-channel experience continues to push the worlds of digital, mobile, and print into collision. When you layer on all the technologies that complement the print experience, we cannot help but see where the opportunities to pivot can occur.
Within the industry, the stigma of “Print is dead” has been hanging over us like an ominous cloud for years. As printers, don’t we owe it to ourselves to make print so relevant that it regains the foothold, and respect, for which it was once revered? Don’t we owe it to ourselves to pivot, learn, evolve, and thrive as an industry, and as unique businesses?
With the next generation of purchasers and influencers about to hit not just ours, but every industry, in 2020, we have an opportunity to change the stigma attached to print. Isn’t it time we made the perception of print cool again?

Joanne Gore
Joanne Gore is a B2B marketer who’s passionate about print and has spent the last three decades helping companies maximize their marketing and communications efforts. Founder of Joanne Gore Communications, she helps companies tell their story to a new generation of print and business buyers. Email: Follow her on Twitter: @joannegore121

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