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The Proof is In The Printing

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Who uses print marketing to grow and boost their brand?

Why is print marketing important?

Is print marketing growing?

Questions to ponder during sleepless nights (well, if you’re in the marketing department of a digital printing company!)

In all seriousness, I started thinking about these questions (and potential answers), after reading a report in What They Think, a leading resource on printing industry market intelligence. A ‘Print Tank’ if you will (OK, I can hear your groans).

Their October report showed commercial printing shipments are up over the last 15 consecutive months.

Some of the largest numbers since 1996!

Curious about the types of businesses driving growth, we reached out to two Cushing clients (and companies we don’t currently work with) to understand how print is playing a role in branding and sales efforts. What followed was amazing conversations, with unique organizations, changing the way people think about print and the industry landscape.

Spothero Cards before cutting

Hit the Spot

SpotHero is changing the way people park – and their brand is a big part of it (and of course, a very effective mobile app).  Marketing Strategist, Becca Rabinowitz, is a member of the SpotHero team, responsible for online and offline marketing efforts. We discussed how marketing drives awareness and new customers.

What type of impact does print make in obtaining new customers?
We use Cushing to provide a lot of our offline collateral – signs for garages, short runs of stickers – and that material has to have a high level of professionalism. People are parking their cars with SpotHero. And we need to bring a level of trust and legitimacy. Print material communicates this and plays a large role.

How does print collateral assist in retaining customers and keeping SpotHero top of mind?
Thank you notes to parking operators, direct mail to existing and potential new customers and of course sales material for garage operators. We use online channels but offline marketing – mainly print collateral very important.  We send customers thank you notes – offering our support – and whether it is Cushing or another printer, they need to be high quality – it is definitely different than an email.

How do you see print playing a role in SpotHero’s marketing in the future?
There are so many online channels that are efficient – but printing signs, flyering or just shaking a hand and handing a client a business card will never go away – different ways to use print might change and the purpose might be different, but it’s not going anywhere.

Becca SpotHero Blog Block


Zipping in and Out

zipcar is a smarter way to get around the city. They are a web-savvy company changing how people drive. I was lucky enough to discuss their collateral and marketing efforts with their Regional Field Marketing Manager, Tony Plaske.

What type of impact does print make in obtaining new customers?
Our target customers are urbanites, and there is a unique marketing challenge in reaching this segment. We use a variety of strategies. Print is one of our primary offline tactics to drive traffic to our online platforms, including social media.

How does print collateral assist in retaining customers and keeping zipcar top of mind?
Print is primarily for customer acquisition and brand awareness.

Collection of Zipcar Printed Collateral

How often does your online marketing work in tandem with print?
We use vanity url’s (a trackable url which helps zipcar understand if the print piece is driving traffic online). In our offline pieces, we’ll link to our homepage or potentially even a unique landing page – so we have multiple ways to track the impact of the collateral.

And this allows us to understand behavior once the visitor is on the website. In our eyes as field marketers, that is significant when it comes to new customer acquisition. New customers have to be on the website (and our mobile app) to learn about what we offer.

How do you see print collateral/offline marketing playing a role in marketing zipcar in the future?
As new technologies come out, we’ll always be looking for new and effective ways to reach out to folks. The evolution of print will play a role – and we’ll always be researching technologies that are sustainable. I do imagine print will continue to play a significant role in customer acquisition – the collateral might look different, but we’ll be using different print mediums.

Which collateral makes the biggest impact?
Promo cards are the most relevant, not new or cutting edge, but a very popular tool for tech companies whose products are intuitive and easy to understand. I can’t put a can of zip car in your hands – the promo cards are very representative of the product and the best way for me to put the product in your hand.

Tony Plaske zipcar Without logoPrinting to the Choir

Mobile-savvy start ups leveraging print marketing to grow? This comes as no surprise to Patrick Whelan, a print marketing consultant and owner of Great Reach Communications, a Print Consultancy in Boston, Massachusetts.

“Relying on 100% digital efforts means you could be missing 70% of your targeted audience,” he says. “The customer has taken control of the sales process. 80-90% is complete before they even make contact with a vendor.”

When thinking about your marketing outreach, you need to consider multiple channels.

“It’s critical to make sure your company is in the right channel, with the right message, at the right time. Therefore, there is need for a multi-channel approach. Print is critical in that role because it reaches its audience.”

Both digital and print have benefits – on their own, they simply are not as effective.

Email, inbound and other web based marketing efforts, without print, can be expected to reach a much smaller percent of the targeted audience.

Patrick Whelan Head shot and Quote

Optimal Marketing

Any opportunity to discuss how clients leverage print, we want to hear more.

What about organizations we don’t currently work with?

According to their website, Optimist Inc. is a creative agency that thrives on innovation and true firsts. Clients include Acura, Google and Red Bull. With locations from Los Angeles to Chicago, print collateral is a large part of client strategy.

“We offer a range of postcards, product description cards, and invitations as it relates to merchandized product and seeding kits for influencers.” says Joe Bruns, responsible for Scenic Production Manager and Customization at Optimist Inc. “Providing these assets for clients and their influencer’s is an important facet to make a powerful statement.”

Making connections with collateral makes sense.

“Customized deliverables,” Bruns adds, “make them feel special.”

Switching gears from marketing agency to famous local theatre, we hope you’ll keep reading.

Exit Stage Left 

Goodman Theatre is Chicago’s oldest and largest not-for-profit theater. (By the way, A Christmas Carol is now playing and in its 38th year at the theatre!) We caught up with Jay Corsi, Director of Advertising & Sales. 

What type of impact does print make in obtaining new customers?
Print is important and direct mail in particular remains a strong part of our marketing mix. It’s easy to be bombarded with so many things in the digital space and print can help us personally reach a potential customer.  For season ticket holders, it’s one of the best tools we have – you can talk about the season as a whole (opposed to a print advertisement or digital ad).

How does print collateral assist in retaining customers and keeping Goodman Theatre top of mind?
We send direct mail to a mix of past attendees and prospects not within our database – we’re always mining our database to encourage customers to come back for another experience. We often send to patrons of recent productions with similar themes and artists as the upcoming play on our stages.

Do you see print playing a role in marketing Goodman Theatre, in the future?
While the landscape could be quite different, I definitely think so. In terms of getting a physical piece in front of somebody, absolutely. The biggest shift could be if something happens with the postal service, but for now it is still a very cost-effective way to get information in front of a customer.

Jay Corsi Headshot and Quote

It’s hard to forecast but there will always be print in some form. For instance, handing flyers to a hotel concierge.  If it’s a show that will attract people by its title – for example A Christmas Carol – it makes sense to invest, get the word out and make connections with collateral.

Interesting insight from a Chicago institution – next, we visit the Ghost of Printmas Future with insight from a media outlet driving content marketing trends.

Pondering the Future of Print 

The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) provides marketers “practical, how-to guidance” and strategies to enhance storytelling and marketing results. From search engine optimization and content creation to measurement and ROI, it is a vast resource for online and offline marketing efforts. (I visit the site at least once a day).

Their team also publishes a bi-monthly print magazine, Chief Content Officer.

Joe Pulizzi, founder and Content Marketing Expert, was kind enough to answer a couple of questions over email.

How does the print magazine work in tandem with your online efforts?
With our daily online content, we answer our audience’s questions around content marketing, findability, strategy, etc.  Chief Content Officer magazine is where we get our audience asking their own questions. Chief Content Officer content is thought-provoking, highly strategic, and focused on executives or future-executives in content marketing.  Different strategy and a bit of a different audience.

Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Institute

How do you see offline, print collateral – magazines, postcards, brochures etc. impacting online marketing efforts in the next 5 – 10 years?
Smart companies will always look at print as an option.  I believe if you want to be the leading informational expert in your industry, you need to have the leading destination online, in-print and in-person.  I don’t see this changing.  Actually, as more people move away from print, it becomes an amazing opportunity to cut through the clutter to a specific audience.

Will print/online marketing continue to intersect and complement each other?
Absolutely.  All your channels should complement each other.  Most companies silo their channels, which makes no sense.  Our job is to create amazing customer experiences with content in whatever channels make sense.


Of course, as part of any larger strategy, you need to figure out where your audience is and optimal ways to reach them.  Digital efforts and print marketing seem to be a great way to work together.

How are you using print collateral to reach customers? We’d love to hear more in the comments below!

Jon Davis

Jon Davis is Cushing’s Marketing Manager. From blogging to online communications, Jon writes about client developments, environmental branding, and much more. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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