Submitted by: Shareena Patel 20/12/2015
Apple, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Airbnb, Uber, Net a Porter plus a host of other tech brands have built their huge businesses using digital marketing. So why are they now turining to print to grow even bigger?
Apple launched the 'Apple Watch' using press ads, LinkedIn has used direct mail to build a new customer base, Google has spent heavily on print advertising in some of its markets, while Facebook stunned the world earlier this year with poster ads across the US, Canada and the UK proclaiming the power of friendship.
International tech giants may have created a digital revolution, transforming the way we consume media and getting us hooked on screens. Yet Apple, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Airbnb and Uber have all turned to print to forge stronger connections with consumers, staff and other stakeholders. The originally built their businesses on new technology but have recently discovered that they need the technology of print to get their messages across.
A Stand-Out Channel
The likes of Google and Facebook have been busy telling brands that the most effective way to reach consumers is through digital communications. But whether they are sending out direct mail packs to stakeholders or running imaginative poster campaigns, the tech giants have learned that they cannot do without print advertising to connect with their audiences.
"Like any marketer, you use all the tools in the box", says Patrick Collister, Google's Head of Design and Creative Director of Google Zoo, a department that helps agencies create ad campaigns. "Print is a brilliant B2B medium. Google has used a lot of print in the past, not just direct mail but also outdoor." In one memorable outdoor campaign for Google voice search, each poster featured a site-specific phrase spelled out as it sounded. So a poster at Chelsea Football Club carried the line "ley-tist skorhz" (latest scores) and at Canary Wharf, in the financial centre of London, the poster read "foot-see-wun-hun-dred" (FTSE 100).
Google has hiked its print advertising budget in the UK, spending £5m on outdoor advertising and £3.5m on press ads in 2013. It also used press and posters for a campaign promoting its YouTube stars such as Zoella and has used traditional media to promote products such as Google Maps and the Nexus 7 tablet. Collister says that google has used direct mail to target small businesses, as these can stand out against the deluge of emails that decision makers often receive. "There's a role for print in direct mail and press to reach influencers", he says. And he points to the warning by Google vice president Vint Cerfearlier this year about the threat of permanently losing digital data such as blogs, tweets, photos and emails as the old software needed to view them is gradually replaced by new technology. This threatens to wipe out our collective memories. "Vince was saying that we need to monitor the digital revolution carefully so we don't lose so much money", Collister says. Cerf argued that keeping important content in print will help future generations understand what happened in the past. "If there are photos you really care about, print them out," he told The Guardian.
The Latest Trend
One of the most successful players in e-commerce, Net A Porter, has also recognised the importance of print in reaching its upmarket consumers. The luxury fashion site launched in 2000 and demonstrated that the internet could be a marketplace for selling high-end clothing. The, in 2014 its print publishing division created a glossy magazine called Porter that competes on newsstands with the likes of Vogue and Elle. Every page of Porter is shoppable. By pointing your smartphone camera at a picture and using Porter app, the details of the garment come up and readers can either buy the item directly or find out where to get hold of it. This is evidence of the prime role that print plays in reaching upmarket consumers. As Natalie Massenet, Founder & Executive Chairman of Net A Porter, said at the launch: "With the launch of Porter I feel we have come full circle at The Net-A-Porter Group. The founding idea for this business was about launching a shoppable magazine online, inspired by the incredible glossy magazines we have grown up with. Porter is the fulfilment of many years of thinking and dreaming".
Creating New Connections
Other tech giants have used print for specific tasks. LinkedIn created a direct mail pack last year to announce that it had reached 15 million UK subscribers and to promote the launch of a student hub, after it emerged that students were one of its fastest growing groups. The pack included a mock newspaper called The LinkedIn Times, which featured a personalised message to the recipient and included their picture taken from their LinkedIn profile. There was also a printed press release and a hoodie. LinkedIn UK spokesman Darain Faraz says people were intrigued that a tech company would do something in print. "For the world's biggest networking site to go old school and go back to print", he says, "that really got people's attention and showed the huge power of print."
The personalised packs were sent out to 50 print journalists and bloggers, and Faraz says the campaign was resounding success. "We wouldn't rule out using print again," he says. "There's a hige amount of value people still associate with print. I've been working in communications for 14 years and still remember the buzz when I got into print. That still gives me a buzz even in these days of digital."
Best Friends Forever?
Earlier this year, Facebook launched a branding campaign promoting the power of friendship, using TV ads, press and outdoor. Title "The Friends", the campaign shows people having fun together. According to Nielsen, between February and April, Facebook spend £600,000 on press ads and £1.5m on outdoor media in the UK to promote the campaign, which appeared on roadside posters and across the London Underground. Some thought this switch to using traditional media was ironic, given that Facebook had put a lot of effort into trying to persuade advertisers to switch their advertising budgets into digital social media.
Facebook ran TV, press and poster ads in the US, Canada and UK for both the 'Friends' campaign, as well as the 'internet or' campaign, which seeks support to boost access to the internet around the world. "Facebook is a place where friends go to make meaningful connections", says a Facebook spokesperson. "This regional campaign celebrates those connections and the different kinds of friendship that enrich our lives both on and off Facebook."
The tech giants' recent use of print communications may be evidence that the limits of digital marketing are being reached. To build their businesses further, these huge technology companies are now looking to traditional media. Could print be the key to a new digital revolution?