media update’s Aisling McCarthy uncovers why luxury brands are still investing in print and how they are succeeding.

When it comes to the comparison of print and digital, there are things that each offer that the other cannot. Digital offers a quicker turn-around time and makes it easy to work remotely. However, print offers certain elements of luxury that digital simply cannot match up to.

Print offers a personal touch

Print is certainly not dead, but it has started to become a luxury good. London-based creative agency SO Creative echoes this sentiment on their blog, stating that for luxury and aspirational brands, print will always be one of the best mediums to deliver brand cues.

“Digital isn’t going anywhere, we all know that. From a branding point of view, it provides a necessary consumer touchpoint. But when it comes to conveying the subtle qualities of taste and authority, print is simply miles ahead.”

The director of OgilvyOne, Scott Manson, says in an article for the Publishing Research Council, that print offers a more personal feel, which is one of the main qualities that clients look for.

“When you print something, it looks like you have gone to a lot of trouble to make it. There’s a feeling when you pick up a really well-produced print product that love and craftsmanship have gone into, and you can see and feel the production values.”

This is one of the reasons why luxury brands are drawn to print. The rich, lush feel of high-quality paper and crisp images makes for a good, tactile, and visual experience.

“When you look at a title like Vogue, it’s primarily a print brand, so there’s clearly an audience out there for that content and brands want to buy into it,” says Manson.

Digital does not offer exclusivity or quality quite like print

SO Creative asserts that digital’s accessibility is what takes away from its luxury aspect. No matter how upmarket your website, anyone with an internet connection can see it.

“Real luxury brands have to carefully select a few privileged people and provide them with a view from Mount Everest [where] the view is a little more exclusive … The internet’s ubiquity harms luxury brands’ exclusivity.”

The exclusivity aspect of print comes from offering magazines at a premium price, as opposed to a free-to-view website. Printing on high-quality paper, and with high-resolution pictures, gives a feel of a quality product, which is worth spending money on.

Alexandros Kitsandonis, head of visual merchandising at the Suree Group (Burberry, Versace, Hugo Boss, Armani Jeans, and Levisons) tells media update that using the print medium shows that a brand really knows who their target market is.

“With digital, it’s easily accessible for anyone. To go onto a Marie Claire website, for example, is free – but this doesn’t mean you can afford to buy into the brands advertised. People need money to buy magazines – and magazines are expensive.”

When it comes to advertising in these luxury magazines, due to the high-resolution images, paper quality, and size (which is larger than a cell phone or tablet screen), Manson says that the products advertised are seen in far greater detail.

“With high-end magazines, they can offer the kind of detail you don’t often get in digital content. If you’re looking at a luxury watch, for instance, you’re not going to pick up all the detail of it on an iPhone screen.”

In Kitsandonis’s experience working with luxury brands, he says there has been a definite shift from print to digital, but that print still plays a huge role in luxury advertising.

“Brands are still invested in print because of the glossy look and feel of the publication. When dealing with print, brands know exactly who their target market and LSM groups are. It’s an easy investment, and still effective as customers enjoy physically looking at magazines.”

Mekhail says that using a medium that takes time and effort to produce can also say something about your brand.

“If you’re a company that, for example, devotes 18 hours to the construction of a single handbag, you are saying something about your brand: you’re unhurried and you value quality over all … When developing a branding tool, you will look for a medium that reflects those values. That’s where print comes in.”

Why print brands can’t go digital-only

Numerous brands have decided to fully embrace the digital takeover and give up print to become digital-only magazines. When taking this approach, several brands have become weak presences on the web, or disappeared altogether.

In an article for the Association of the Magazine Media, Samir Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi, poses an interesting question.

“When a print magazine is about to draw its last breath of ink, is digital really a life support for it, or just prolonging the inevitable … defining a vegetative state as new life?”

Husni says that when a magazine is in crisis, a simple change to the medium is not going to fix anything.

“A print magazine that can’t make it in print is not going to make it in the digital sphere. The problem is not with the medium – the problem is with the magazine.”

Unable to identify a single magazine brand that had succeeded by going digital only, electronic media analyst Thad McIlroy says in an article for that very few magazine publishers can survive the loss of ad revenue if they discontinue their print versions.

“While they are becoming increasingly adept at generating revenue from their websites, web-only publishing models cannot supplant a print and web model,” he warns.

Kitsandonis stresses that for luxury branding, there needs to be a 360-degree marketing experience, to ensure there is no disconnect from one medium to the next.

“[Brands like] Burberry will never flight an online campaign in a month without doing a print advertisement in the same month. It’s all about brand consistency. Another important aspect of print media is the billboard – big brands are aligning their billboards with their print.”

This means that the future for brands is not ‘print vs digital’, but rather, ‘print and digital’. Husni stresses that media nowadays is not either/or, but rather, all.

“There is absolutely no reason that [print and digital] can’t live side by side … At the end of the day, it is audience first, not digital or print first.”

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Numerous everyday brands are moving away from print mediums towards digital. Read more in our article, News24’s Angelique Serrao: From print to digital, with authorship in between.