Fellow inkheads, I’ve noticed that the general public, especially folks who work in online marketing, cast a very narrow view of print.
They seem to view our dynamic industry through biased blinders that cause them to reach false conclusions about print’s future.
Surely some of these folks deliberately downplay print’s value, yet I believe we’re also dealing with a fundamental flaw in human reasoning.
Printing and cognitive psychology
The flaw I’m describing likely doesn’t fit the way you view yourself and your decision making process. You see we all tend to think of ourselves as rational beings partly due to the lingering effects of Enlightenment principles. Capitalism and the U.S. Constitution are byproducts of Enlightenment theories in that both systems are built on the premise that humans make carefully calculated decisions based on rational self-interest.
Anyone who works in marketing knows that’s not an accurate description of human behavior.
More often than not, irrational emotional triggers guide our actions while subconscious mental short cuts derail our thoughts.
Now I’m not here to pass judgment; I’m as guilty as the rest of you. In fact, there’s not a lot we can do to prevent our leaps of logic, although we have the ability to control our reaction to them. These short cuts known as heuristics serve an evolutionary purpose, so they’re not all bad. They help us process a large amount of stimuli quickly and break it down into simple parts we can understand.
We only run into trouble when our brains use heuristics to oversimplify a complex topic, such as the state of print media. For example, most of us naturally associate the word ‘print’ with paper products used for mass communications i.e. publishing (books, newspapers, and magazines). Trouble is that printed books and magazines represent a small fraction of total print production.
We encounter print in many forms on a daily basis, we just don’t connect our experiences with the term print media.
14 examples of print you encounter every day
Try a little experiment to test my theory: ask your friends or better yet a complete stranger about print’s role in their lives. They’ll probably respond with a negative observation about how print’s declining or even dying out. Part of this undoubtedly stems from people parroting so-called tech experts. But I’d wager the true culprit would be the availability heuristic.
In a nutshell, we look for consistency in our environments. The things we see as widely available to us, we assume there’s a high probability that they’ll be there tomorrow. The opposite also occurs wherein we presume that an observed instance of scarcity signifies that something is disappearing completely.
This effects the perception of print in 2 ways. First off, people already see print in a limited context. They hear the word print, and they immediately think of books and magazines. Then they assume that since there are less printed publications in front of their faces, the entire medium must be on its way out.
I bet when you pose the question, the average person will proceed to explain that print’s on its way out despite the fact that they’re literally surrounded by print pieces. I love hate to burst your bubble, but print’s got a lot more to offer than newspapers (no offense to newspapers or other forms of publishing mind you).
Don’t believe me? Here’s a list of 14 types of print media that you deal with on the daily:
#1) Outdoor signage (banners, yard signs, road signs, etc.)
#3) Car wraps and magnets
#5) Point of Purchase displays (retail)
#6) Product packaging
#7) Labels and price tags
#8) Hang tags for apparel/clothing
#10) All types of mail (postcards, letters, direct mail campaigns)
#13) Restaurant menus
#14) Promotional flyers
Now go forth, you ink freaks, and help me expand the colloquial definition of print media until it encompasses our robust capabilities. Use this list as a reference to cut through the cogitative biases of the CMYK ignorant, and be sure to tell me how your conversation goes in the comments below!