The most basic – and widely understood – advantage of print is its ability to share information. As compared to transient and low-attention mass media like television, outdoor and radio, print is able to express a brand’s selling argument in far more detail and with far more persuasion. It hence tends to be a preferred medium for expressing relevant information about, say, a newly launched car, a time-bound sale or tariff plans for a mobile service provider.
The second big advantage of print is its ability to add weight and impact to a brand’s communication. The medium, as Marshall McLuhan so brilliantly postulated, is the message.
When juxtaposed beside important news on the front page of a newspaper, a brand’s message absorbs significance from the ‘newsiness’ of the surrounding medium, which is why print is great for announcing new launches. It helps in heralding the arrival of a new brand more quickly and with more ‘impact’ than other media.
There is, however, another important (and unique) role that print can play, that has perhaps not been adequately explored by marketers: brand engagement. TV is good at expressing a brand’s values; however, print is probably much better at bringing them alive for the consumer. Let’s say, Tata Tea stands for the idea of moral awakening (‘Jaago Re’). TV can state this value through a set of commercials, but it can’t really demonstrate the value, or allow a consumer to personally experience it.
Print – along with the Internet – can bring the value alive through, say, an interactive campaign asking people not to pay bribes, to share their experiences of bribe-giving, etc. Garnier can stand for environmental concern; but print can help them demonstrate this value through an interactive special edition of a newspaper (made only with recycled paper) on World Earth Day. And so on.
In other words, print can be a useful means of brand building at diametrically different stages of brand or a product category’s life cycle. It can of course help launch a new brand and explain its benefits in relatively rational terms (when the brand needs to explain its basic benefits). When the category matures and overt brand differences erode, marketers tend to prefer the non-rational story, telling abilities of TV to create differentiation at a non-rational level.
However there is a case for coming right back to print when the category threatens to become progressively commoditised – by allowing consumers more centrally into a brand’s life. And by engaging the consumer through two-way interaction and active demonstration.
(Rahul Kansal, Chief Marketing Officer, Bennett Coleman and Co Ltd.)