The Noodle

The intimacy of print

Something old, something new

Social media has transformed birthdays into big deals. It’s not unusual for friends and family you actually haven’t spoken with in years to join the birthday frenzy, posting wishes, songs and photos on your Facebook or Instagram pages. But most people still find birthday cards that arrive in the mail far more engaging than a hasty social media message or e-card. In fact, despite all of the recent changes in the way we communicate, most of life’s more cherished messages are conveyed in print, and perhaps tucked away to be held and admired over and over again.

Wedding invitations are no exception. Despite the popularity of Evite and other online invitation sites, when it comes to the big day, nothing says “big” like a beautifully engraved invitation. Casual weddings and wedding websites are on the rise, but formal wedding invitations – with their cottons, foils and multiple envelopes – are more popular than ever.

The much-loved wedding website “The Knot” reports that the average cost for wedding invitations in 2013 was $450. Prices range from about $2 each for digitally printed invitations available through online websites, to $10 or more for beautifully engraved invitations from a storied stationery retailer like Crane & Co.

Why does this pricey tradition persist?

“When the recipient holds it, he or she can feel the richness of the paper and the detail that went into the printing,” says Katie Lacey, president of Crane Stationery. “We live in an instantaneous, electronic age, and so knowing someone took the time to put a personalized piece of paper in the mail leaves a lasting impression no email or text message can compete with.”

The fact remains that, while digital messages often are fast and fleeting, print done right lingers to engage again and again. Marketing experts say the key to using print effectively is to use it creatively.

“While print is in a rapid state of evolution, it remains an essential part of most integrated marketing plans,” says Crystal McKinsey, founder and CEO of the integrated marketing communications firm McKinsey Development. “You can touch it, feel it, distribute it and share it in a way that is more tangible than digital outreach. The key to successful print inclusion in marketing plans today is creativity. Print pieces that are unique, interesting and on brand with the rest of your integrated plan are more likely to gain response. Instead of sending out a direct mail piece with push messaging, consider mailing an invitation to visit a personalized URL that hosts content enticing enough to inspire the next user action, for example.”

Understanding your objective and your message and taking the appropriate marketing approaches are key. “Our main goal is not to sell more presentation folders,” says Vladimir Gendelman, founder and CEO of Company Folders, an online presentation folder boutique that has thrived since inception more than a decade ago. “Our goal is to educate our customers and help them effectively meet their marketing objectives. Print offers engagement opportunities that other marketing tools cannot.”

Gendelman says that all messages feel the same when you touch them on your iPad screen. Print has the capability of engaging on another level through touch. “You can effectively use print to convey your style and distinguish your brand through the sense of touch by varying elements of the paper and the ink. Holding something in your hand is an experience that cannot be replicated digitally. Many of the high-quality folders we make are repurposed or held on to, keeping the message alive on a subconscious level.”

Business-to-business marketers are finding that good, old-fashioned “snail” mail is becoming one of the most effective ways to get their printed message in front of the right people. Studies indicate that, while the average businessperson receives in excess of 100 emails a day, he receives a personal mail piece once every seven weeks. This underutilized medium can serve as an invaluable way to garner the attention of prospective clients. And advances in print technology offer new ways to get your message across.

“Print today is more versatile than ever,” McKinsey says. “In fact, with the advent of 3D printing technology, a brand can print on almost anything. Print pieces can also be more personalized than ever before. Variable data printing, for example, allows a marketer to customize and personalize brand messaging by criteria ranging from industry to gender, brand purchase history, and more.”

QR codes continue to be an effective bridge from print to digital marketing, and many people are using QR codes as part of an integrated messaging campaign – even brides. A classic engraved wedding invitation (a mingling of gold and copper inks on pearl white, 100 percent cotton paper) that displays a QR code (that links to a website with gift registries, videos of the bride and groom, and directions to the wedding venue) is the perfect melding of something old and something new.

Crane & Co., which has been evolving and thriving for more than two centuries years, prides itself on impeccable hand craftsmanship and celebrating the tradition of classic correspondence. They are one of the first major invitation retailers to offer wedding invitations with QR codes that link to a wedding website.

Says Lacy, “I think the most successful communicators find a way to combine the two, whether it is by including a letterpress printed QR code on an invitation or an engraved Twitter handle on a business card.”

By Lorrie Bryan