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See, touch, feel, connect…
25 . 10 . 19

How print became the definition of luxury in the digital age

Words by: Print Power
For the lucrative luxury market, the idea that print is out of fashion has never felt more outdated. We investigate why print media remains a sought-after commodity in a sector that sets the standard for taste and style…

A spread from Models 1 50, a large format, unbound magazine created by content agency ILN to celebrate the model makers 50 years in fashion ‘The paper was supplied by top Italian suppliers Fedrigoni, only 30 were published, in terms of print it’s a real collector’s item.’ Lisa Barnard, CEO, ILN


  • 55% of luxury brands’ advertising spend will go to print magazines in 2019

  • Print gets brands noticed: ‘The mass consumption of digital content has elevated the printed magazine to a collectible premium product which cuts through the digital,’ Ryan Battles, Content & Brand Director, Dialogue

  • Print signals quality: ‘The printed magazine reflects similar brand values found within luxury companies – a high benchmark of quality, craft, care and professionalism. The magazine becomes a visible representation of the brand wherever it is distributed,’ Ryan Battles, Dialogue

  • When integrated into a multi-channel campaign, print brings success. ‘In terms of the substantial print projects we have worked on, even though there may have had a digital component, the execution in print was integral to its success,’ Lisa Barnard, CEO, ILN

Véronique Louise, Global Branding and Media Director, Moët Hennessy

‘Print is a natural place to belong for luxury brands – they share similar values,’ says Moët Hennessy’s Global Branding and Media Director Véronique Louise. ‘In a world of fake news and superficial images, where time is lacking, print publications stand for substance and meaning.’

Substance and meaning misinterpreted by mass marketers, ad execs and CMOs who, when faced with ROI and budget decisions side line print media in favour of digital, in the belief that online channels are the most effective way to reach and engage customers in the modern age.

Yet cold hard metrics – the bedrock on which many a digital strategy is built – prove otherwise. In their 2018 report ‘Re-evaluating Media’, Radiocentre and Ebiquity found that advertisers and agencies rank newspapers and magazines eighth and ninth for effectiveness among media formats. In fact, newspapers and magazines rank joint third in the league table of top 10 media formats for effectiveness – beating online media, paid social and online display.

One sector hasn’t had its head turned. The luxury market – significant for its influence and spending power – has taken a more circumspect approach to the ‘print is dead’ headlines.

‘What sets a luxury brand apart from an everyday brand lies in its essence, which is an act of creation. It’s about a vision brought to life via an uncompromising commitment to craftmanship. Sustainable quality and creativity are the reasons why consumers grant luxury brands their trust, why they are inspired by them,’ Véronique Louise explains. ‘In the same way it takes time to craft a lux product or experience, print offers a precious time of lean back to its readers; it develops trusted POVs and offers a great and safe environment for the brand. Print has an important role to play in the connecting strategy of lux brands.’

A view borne out by the sector’s predicted ad spend. Global media planning agency Zenith forecast 55% of luxury brands’ advertising spend will go to magazines in 2019. The figure rises to 66% when the sector’s overall spend on print advertising is factored in.

Here’s 7 reasons why luxury’s love of traditional media has lessons to teach the mass market…


‘A story on a website or in an app (while it can benefit from movement and audio), is never going to appeal to the touch and smell senses and is always going to be limited in terms of creativity.’ Zoë Francis-Cox, Agency Director, Dialogue

The Internet of Things may be turning everything around us into a hive of connected virtual activity, but the luxury sector has remained aware of the fact that sometimes we just want to see and touch beautiful things. Print affords us the chance to savour beautiful things in all their colour-rich, high-resolution glory.


Super luxe, collectible marketing material created by SO Creative for London’s Mayfair-based antiquities dealer Kallos Gallery

‘There is so much more authenticity with print design compared to digital,’ asserts Jo Stedman, Creative Director of SO Creative, a London-based boutique creative agency that creates work for a range of luxury clients, including royalty and ultra-high net worth individuals. 'With websites, no matter how good the design, how fabulous the photography or how slick the transitions, there’s always a glass screen between you and it. So the look and feel of everything you see has an element of sameness simply because every single thing is displayed behind glass. As a result, it's just not possible to achieve the same true uniqueness that you can with print. You can’t feel it, you can’t smell it, there’s just no tactility at all. Something which I believe is necessary for luxury brands.’

The need for all websites to be responsive, to work across a huge number of different devices and operating systems gives designers limited control over what the final product will actually look like. Your design is basically governed by the technology.
Jo Stedman
Creative Director, SO Creative


Print media allows you to deliver something to your reader that they weren’t deliberately searching for. For luxury brands, it’s about swimming against the tide.’ Kitty Finstad, Co-founder and Content Director, The Good Vikings

Between the covers of a magazine, a brand can curate an environment in its own image, weaving a tapestry of cues that tell the reader, “you belong here, this is your world”.


The Oct-Dec 2019 edition of Christie’s International Real Estate (CIRE), the artfully-curated magazine for the property arm of the noted auction house.

‘Print was critical to the marketing strategy of Christie’s International Real Estate (CIRE),’ explains Kitty Finstad, former Editor-in-Chief of Christie’s International Real Estate print magazine and its blog, Luxury Defined. ‘For the CIRE affiliates – an invitation-only network of global luxury real estate professionals – the print format was familiar and, at a time when consumers were deluged with app overload, the print distribution strategy allowed us to literally get in front of auction clients, and into first-class airport and private-aviation lounges, members’ clubs, five-star hotels…’

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Kitty Finstad, Content Director and Founding Partner of luxury content agency, The Good Vikings

Now an independent consultant and founding partner of luxury content agency The Good Vikings, Finstad is clear how print can stay effective in our fast-moving digital age. ‘Within print’s curated environment, the editorial skill is to find the stories, executed to a very high standard, that will instantly make your reader feel both delighted and understood.’


‘There is nothing better if you want to engage with fashion and you have no money than being able to get some printed matter from the brand. If nothing else, you can get a book. This is incredibly important. It’s a way of reaching a different demographic.’ Jonathan Anderson, Creative Director LOEWE talking to Emily King in System Magazine

One fashion house turning the idea of event publishing into an art form that excites followers, builds anticipation and turns printed publications into collectors’ items is LOEWE. Since Jonathan Anderson took the helm as Creative Director of the Madrid-born co-operative of leather artisans that’s been part of the LVMH stable since 1996, the fashion house has seen an upturn in fortunes. Anderson has rebranded the design house, creating an all-encompassing visual language that forms a red thread running through everything from the collections to the physical stores and the ad campaigns. And he has put print at the forefront. Working with a cast of exceptionally talented collaborators built around Mathias Augustyniak and Michaël Amzalag of M/M (Paris), who provide creative direction on all print projects, and photographer Steven Meisel, Anderson is producing a covetable stack of publications…

LOEWE Classics

A set of six literary classics originally published by LOEWE as part of its Fall Winter 18 advertising campaign, now re-issued as a collectible box set. Each hardback classic is printed in its original language and wrapped in a sleeve printed with an archive photograph by Steven Meisel that originally appeared in Vogue editorials.


Jonathan Anderson and M/M (Paris) creatively directed the LOEWE Classics books, originally created as part of the Fall Winter 18 advertising campaign, which featured photographs taken by Steven Meisel of models and the actor Josh O’Connor reading the books.

LOEWE Publications

Since 2014, LOEWE has produced special publications, creatively directed by M/M (Paris), to accompany every one of Anderson’s collections. Hard-backed, with a limited print run of just 1,200 copies and hand numbered, each edition is a collector’s item. For the Fall Winter 19 Women’s collection, LOEWE Publication No.26 landed, featuring model Fei Fei Sun photographed by artist Fumiko Imano and her imaginary twin.

Every season there is one book for the men and one for the women… the books have a narrative, which gives them a longer lifespan than just one season.
Mathias Augustyniak
M/M (Paris)


The latest issue of Eye/Loewe/You is its seventh. Published quarterly, the title has a gloriously oversized format so images are shown in ultra-vision. Copies can be picked up from LOEWE stores worldwide or received free with on-line purchases. Tagged as a fanzine, the title ‘chronicles our seasonal collections, craft projects and cultural activity… offering essays, interviews and insight in a tactile format.’

Paula’s Publication

When LOEWE acquired archive prints from Armin Heinemann’s popular 70s boutique Paula’s Ibiza, it launched a seasonal collection named after the Balearic boutique. And to mark each seasonal collection, the fashion house publishes Paula’s – a hard back photobook with a limited print run. In the latest edition, the collection is brought to life against the vibrant backdrop of the Dominican Republic by photographer and model Gray Sorrenti.


Paula’s is a hardback pictorial book, created to mark the launch of each collection of LOEWE’s seasonal label Paula’s Ibiza. The latest edition was shot by Gray Sorrenti in the Dominican Republic.

4. The Reassurance of Quality

‘It takes the smallest of seconds to touch something and perceive its value.’ Kitty Finstad, Content Director and Co-founder, The Good Vikings

If our sense of touch can impact our emotional, physical and intellectual responses, tactile media like print has a golden opportunity to build a physical connection with consumers. 

‘We have found that adding a small weight to everything… results in people rating the contents as being of higher quality,’ Professor Charles Spence revealed in his ‘gastrophysics’ work. This connection between weight and quality suggests luxury magazines’ more-is-more approach to pagination is worth its weight in ROI – literally!

The creative team behind Bentley’s luxury title, Bentley Magazine understand the link and are even more nuanced and expansive when adding quality cues to each issue. Ryan Battles, Dialogue’s Content & Brand Director, explains: ‘The printed magazine reflects similar brand values found within luxury companies – a high benchmark of quality, care and professionalism throughout the process, from the written word through to the final press passing. The magazine therefore becomes a quality mark of the brand wherever it is distributed. Our Bentley team focus on the mantra of always bettering the previous issue and pushing boundaries of design and editorial. Over the past two years we have commissioned bespoke illustrations, directed photoshoots with some of the world’s leading specialist photographers and creatively reinterpreted initial briefs for the Bentley brand. Within the magazine this is also expressed in the magnificent gatefolds we designed to tell the story of Bentley over 100 years.'


‘Bentley Magazine’s covers see images from photoshoots with the likes of international musician Tina Guo, DJ Paul Oakenfold and champion jockey Richard Johnson reimagined to interact with the Bentley B mark, creating more brand personality and ultimately making each one collectible.’ Ryan Battles, Content & Brand Director, Dialogue

5. Valuable returns

The mass availability and consumption of digital content in the past five years has elevated the printed magazine to become a collectible premium product which cuts through the digital noise – something customers look forward to receiving with a heightened sense of anticipation.’ Ryan Battles, Content & Brand Director, Dialogue

The agencies and brands using print to its best effect use it with digital. They are building beautifully effective marketing strategies that play to each media’s strength and ability to deliver something desired and pertinent to a brand’s customer base – existing and prospective!

‘Our strategy is to first understand our clients’ overall business objectives, before considering the role content can play,’ explains Dialogue’s Agency Director, Zoë Francis-Cox. ‘When considering content in its many guises, it’s important that we deliver the right content via the right channel. Our heritage is in print and there is still a demand for it. It’s more niche now and, like the luxury sector, it offers a unique experience for customers that they just can’t get elsewhere. It can also be complemented by a digital strategy so we work closely with marketing teams to ensure optimum alignment.’ Her Dialogue colleague Ryan Battles explains further: ‘Dialogue’s content team work closely with our luxury partners to determine ‘open’ and ‘closed’ content strategies, where ‘open’ content is made available across their public digital channels, helping to reinforce the brand and reach new audiences, while ‘closed’ content is only available to customers and provides added value or exclusive features, all helping with customer retention and brand affinity.’

The approach delivers results. Dialogue’s work for Bentley has led to four nominations at this year’s Content Marketing Association International Awards – where the effectiveness of work to deliver against a brief and KPIs tops the measures used to shortlist nominees.


A spread from Bentley magazine, relaunched by Dialogue in 2018 with a model that successfully marries print with digital, including video and social.

6. Different Class

‘Using print to engage a luxury audience is not just a question of high-end production values and sending your publication out in fancy packaging. It’s marrying the brand storytelling with the narrative and getting the tone of voice right for what is a sophisticated, intelligent audience,’ Lisa Barnard, CEO, ILN content marketing agency

‘Our work is all about connecting brands and audiences through the medium of really engaging content,’ says Lisa Barnard, CEO of ILN, a content marketing agency specialising in the luxury and premium sector. ‘There is an assumption that people don’t want to receive print and as an agency you have to be quite discerning about what you recommend for print and what you recommend for online or video or other things. I’m actually very pleasantly surprised that quite often, when we are approached about a new project print is often core to it. Print is not right for everything but for long-form content, for the right audience, print works and it has stand out.

Aston-Martin-Cover.jpg (1)

Aston Martin Magazine is published three times a year by content marketing agency ILN. The 116-page title is posted directly to the homes of Aston Martin owners.

‘We’ve produced Aston Martin Magazine for seven years now. We re-launched the title three years ago, updating the content and format and producing content across channels. We have the core print magazine that’s published three times a year and is posted to Aston Martin owners. We also produce the Aston Martin Yearbook – a showcase of all the amazing launches and events Aston Martin have had through the year – the Aston Martin digital magazine which sits on the dotcom site, and assets that are used on the social media channels,’ says Lisa.


As part of its re-launch strategy, ILN shifted the editorial focus of Aston Martin magazine. ‘We put the product at the centre. Rather than a magazine about the Aston Martin lifestyle, it’s became a magazine about the beauty of the product.’ ILN CEO Lisa Barnard 

‘If you buy an Aston Martin, you buy into the ethos and print has the ability to create a sense of community. For the Aston Martin constituency, it’s less about exclusivity – most tend to be humble but curious people. I think it’s actually about being able to interact with content that is presented in a more intelligent, peer-to-peer way, packaged to allow you to appreciate the sensuous side to print. When we re-launched, we introduced a spot UV motif down the spine that’s based on the heritage pattern of Aston Martin. The fact that this high-quality, tactile, carefully crafted publication is mailed to you at your address is the important thing. Certainly, if people don’t receive the magazine they complain!’

The year book is cloth bound. It’s a very simple cover with a very cool neutral colour. The only thing that changes is the date but then you look inside and there’s all this rich, amazing content.
Lisa Barnard

7. Celebrating in Style

‘The real magic starts happening when the content, creative and production values all work together and complement each other. Then print can really bring everything to the fore and accentuate the creativity.’ Lisa Barnard, CEO, ILN

‘Last year we produced a stunning large-format print publication for Models 1,’ says Lisa Barnard, CEO of content marketing agency ILN. The book, commissioned to mark the model agency’s 50 years in business, illustrates print’s ability to create a tailored, bespoke experience.

‘Print is very versatile – whether it’s the size, format, finish, or type of paper,’ says Lisa. ‘Instead of it being saddle stitched or perfect bound, the Models 1 magazine was actually unbound. The paper was provided by top Italian paper suppliers Fedrigoni and allowed us to be incredibly playful – we included tracing paper with signatures from models like Twiggy and Marie Helvin and almost every spread is a pull out. The design really makes use of the oversize format. Only 30 copies were produced. It went to people in the fashion industry. From a print point of view, it’s a real collector’s item.’

Final thought

So, is luxury’s love of print a sign of premium thinking that grasps the multi-layered nature of the modern consumer, or an outmoded obsession with long-standing tradition? In common with all the experts quoted in this piece, Lisa Barnard is clear that print has not had its day. ‘I think it needs to be targeted and it needs to be quite carefully used. But people still really appreciate its tactile element and having something they can spend time with in any environment rather than staring at a screen.

‘At ILN, we place engaging content at the heart of what we do. We work across channels but I would say if you’re producing really rich content and a lot of it, whether it’s for a magazine or a book, that is quite difficult to absorb on line. In terms of the substantial print projects that we have worked on, even though there may have had a digital component that leveraged content on line, the actual execution in print was integral to its success.’

Luxury is luxury and print is not an everyday experience so it feels like a luxury and lends itself very well to the market
Lisa Barnard