This is what some of the major tech companies think about print – and why you should avoid it at your peril

Apple, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Airbnb, Uber, Net a Porter and many other tech brands have built their huge businesses using digital marketing. So why are they now turning to print to grow even bigger?

Apple used press ads to launch the ‘Apple Watch’, 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 surprised the world with poster ads across the US, Canada and the UK proclaiming the power of friendship.

These international tech giants created a digital revolution, they transformed the way we consume media and all of us became hooked on our screens. Yet all of them have turned to print to forge stronger connections with consumers, staff and other stakeholders. Their businesses were built on new technology but all have recently discovered that they need the technology of print to get their messages across.

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…There’s a role for print in direct mail and press to reach influencers”, he says. Google’s recent campaign to break into the Japanese market used direct mail and sent a padlocked box to high potential, prospect SME’s. No less than 95% of the target group sought the code to open the box via Google AdWords and 51% of them answered a questionnaire on the custom microsite. The return on investment was impressive: Google has recorded a ROI of 90:1.

Google box1

LinkedIn created a direct mail pack 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 and the campaign was a resounding success. “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.”

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, Facebook spent £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’ 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 heralding a new digital revolution?

Add a comment