Reality Check: The Perception of Printing

optical illusion illustration by noma bar of a shark

I record and produce a significant number of episodes for Podcasts from The Printerverse. Discussions about printing, print business, print sales, and print marketing are often playing through my computer, earbuds, car speakers, and voice assistants like Alexa. When I have some mindless admin work to focus on, I click on my pop culture podcast playlist and let reality-show gossip and celebrity interviews play in the background.

Yesterday I was listening to some infotainment when the conversation turned its focus on print and mail.

The topic of sending personal postcards came up. The host and her guest were contemplating whether people sent them anymore, whether a special stamp was needed, and if yes, WHERE does one get the special stamp. Then they spoke of the horror of writing with a PEN in the teeny tiny allotted space and the required trip to the mailbox or post office to send it. They concluded it would take a lot of work to write and mail a postcard, and wasn’t worth it.


They didn’t care about any of the warm and fuzzy talking points we extrapolate from industry ‘research’ regarding the value of print. They concluded the process of sending a postcard was complicated, antiquated, time-consuming, and didn’t provide enough ROI for the effort. It was about THEM, not about the recipient and their ‘feelings’ about receiving a handwritten postcard in their mailbox versus an email, text, or tag on social media.

This is one example of the growing disconnect between our industry and the world.

No amount of expensive research or market analysis is going to fill this void. Reality is perception, and the growing perception is that print and all the processes around it are OLD.

I said OLD, not over, not ineffective as a marketing, sales, education, and communication channel.

A few weeks ago, Donny Deutsch, host of the On Brand Podcast and my former boss, was a guest on a talk show. I worked at Deutsch NY for a few months on accounts for Bank of America, IKEA, Snapple, Tanqueray Gin, GNC, Biore, and more. The interview topic turned to branding and messaging. Donny contributed this gem regarding OWNING and controlling the narrative that creates perception.

He stated that the Eifel Tower was just a lamppost with great PR.

Let that sink in. He isn’t wrong even though it’s not the whole story of the Eifel Tower.

As for us, printing is an innovative, technology-driven, state-of-the-art communication device… with the WORST PR.

We allow others to tell our story, define the value of print in a ‘digital’ world, make false and misleading claims about ‘tree killing’, and debate whether printed materials fit into a sustainability strategy based solely on paper/substrate usage, ink coverage, and finishing.

This is the perception of many consumers. It is a human experience.

They may falsely equate ‘printing’ with their desktop printer, ink cartridges, and the ream of paper they get at the office supply store with ‘printing’ as we know it. They may look at their ‘junk mail’ and think about all the trees that had to die for a car wash coupon in a circular. They may wonder WHO ON EARTH is still sending postcards.

Those same people may be business owners, educators, and marketers. They may be students. They may even have professional print-buying roles. My question to you is this… WHAT is influencing their ultimate decision to use print? Is it a stat from an industry study?

The new PR campaign for print starts now, and it starts with you.

Print Across America October 25 2023

Print Across America is a new Print Media Centr initiative. The mission is to educate and share the coolness of print through open-house events at print and sign shops and in-plants from coast-to-coast on October 25, 2023 – which is also International Print Day. You can read the press release here.

While print businesses and in-plants host plant tours, events, educational sessions, career fairs and more, I will be hosting a FREE, 10-hour International Print Day Conference online to support the open house events. Programming will present interviews and panel discussions about the magic of print and all that can be created by combining ink with imagination. Pure Printspiration!

Print Across America is the first step towards Print Across the World … But please, don’t wait for me!

Opening your doors is one of the best ways to present the story of print and change perception.

Show your community, customers, prospects, and local businesses what you can make. Show them the printing technology and software that powers the presses and personalization. Educate them about effective direct mail strategies and the USPS annual promotions. Host monthly print design classes. Invite a cool speaker to inspire your customers. Hold a career fair and let attendees make something they can take home and show off. It matters!

True Crime Podcasts are also part of my infotainment playlist. When people are kidnapped or held by a serial killer the professional advice is to humanize yourself when you can. Share personal stories, say your name, and talk about family. It makes it harder to ‘dispose’ of a person if you make a human connection.

I often think of print this way.

Perception is our captor. Print is stuck in the well, putting lotion on its skin and putting the lotion in the basket. It can be easily disposed of, disregarded, and erased from marketing budgets and business plans when there is no connection to it. See what you can do to change that.



See Deborah’s featured post: How to Respond to Questions About Sexism in the Printing Industry

See all posts by Deborah


Deborah Corn is the Intergalactic Ambassador to the Printerverse at Print Media Centr, a Print Buyerologist, international industry speaker and blogger, and the cultivator of Print Production Professionals, the #1 print group on LinkedIn. She provides printspiration and resources to print and marketing professionals through education, events, Podcasts From The Printerverse, ProjectPeacock.TV, and an array of community-lifting initiatives including Girls Who Print, Elevate Print, #PrintChat, #PrintLife, International Print Day, and Print Across America.

Deborah also helps companies create more meaningful and profitable customer relationships by utilizing more than 25 years of experience as an agency, brand, and corporate print buyer who has assessed, hired and worked with a plethora of printers and service providers.

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One Response

  1. I could not agree more. I made similar observations on the use — or lack of — of print by marketing in enterprises in modern customer experiences. Seeing your arguments about people not using print because — for them — print is OLD (and I say Archaic, cumbersome, outdated) encouraged me. The print industry — vendors, users, analysts — is obsessed with repeatedly showing the value of print, yet ignoring the need to create a friendly experience of using print for marketing or communications professionals. I hope I am not misrepresenting the ideas in your article.


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