I have recently enrolled in the government’s Cycle2Work scheme and am now the proud owner of a 7-gear hybrid bicycle named Mary-Lou (after the ‘heroine’ of Jack Kerouac’s aptly titled novel On The Road). Like thousands of other Londoners encouraged and inspired by both the introduction of the ‘Boris Bikes’ back in 2010 and by Bradley Wiggins’s haul of Olympic gold last summer, I have waved goodbye to the much-maligned public transport system and have taken to the road.
At nearly half the monthly cost and travel time of my former commute, it is an instantly more cost-effective and efficient alternative. Gone is the scramble to the bus stop or train station for a service that may or may not be on time; I merely polish off my cup of tea, put on my helmet, flick on the lights and pedal off into the morning. And I’m not alone out there, not by a long shot.
My fellow cyclists and I zoom past stationary cars stuck in traffic, smug and liberated by our clear and open cycle lane. We nod to each other as we pass in opposite directions, discuss our hogs when dormant at traffic lights and politely ding our bells if we notice a fellow rider veering towards an open manhole. We are a community; a collective of free souls, unburdened by the costs and time of motor vehicles and we are liberated! We are happy!
And there is something delightful decadent about the experience, about reverting back to basics and putting faith back in the tried and tested bicycle, which has been getting travellers from A to B for centuries. And I think we just may see a similar countertrend in the print industry too. No, not so much print service providers pedalling to their factories in the morning, but with marketers demanding more print in their campaigns. It is sentiment supported by Vanity Fair journalist Michael Wolff in his brilliant article ‘Time for an upswing in print advertising’, which looks at the limitations of marketers putting all their eggs in the digital media basket.
Of all the talk and promise of the brave new world of online media, the jury is still out as to whether it can become the one, sole communications channel. While there has been an excitable rush by businesses to online marketing in response to consumer behaviour to social media, eReaders, online publications and so forth, the return on investment is more opaque. And it’s here that print has its place – it is the sturdy string to the soaring, unpredictable yet exciting kite of online communications.
Print has time and time again demonstrated its effectiveness. Produced correctly, it has consistently given marketers a tangible ROI. And what’s more, it has the versatility to work alongside online applications – such as cross media and variable data printing – to become much more than just a valuable commodity. This has been demonstrated by successful printers who are now operating as innovative marketing companies.
While the pendulum may not be unequivocally ‘swinging back’ towards print, the signs are there to indicate that marketers are beginning to stay faithful to everyone’s favourite tried and tested medium. It has the capacity to thrive alongside online applications, and it is up to printers to be prepared to take advantage of this opportunity. And what better way to do it than to call up the aforementioned successful printer-come-marketer and say: “Hey you there! How are you doing that? I want to do that too!” I for one believe the community sprit will prevail.
In the meantime, I’ll see you on the road.