I’ve been struck by the UK-based GDL Network’s launch of PrintCafé, a new take on the high street printer, and how such grass roots activity is a much more effective way of encouraging the use of print than any amount of industry-body-based proselytizing such as PrintPower.
Students queuing out of the door of a shop in the snow to buy print are a far more effective advert for the effectiveness of paper-based communication than a load of full-page ads in magazines.
It’s also a win-win for printers and punters; rather than, whatever way you cut it, a tax on the industry to support a top-down message.
PrintCafé is the DIY ethos of punk, digital and online writ large. PrintPower has a more fusty, old-school attitude, more about having a quiet word with a decent chap, who knows a man with the ear of the minister, than getting stuck in on the front line.
What is striking about the PrintCafé concept is that it acknowledges there is an unmet need – and desire – for print, in particular amongst students and recent graduates. They get the power of print, they want print for their coursework, they want to use print as part of their personal and professional promotion; because good quality print is a powerful communicator of competence and professionalism.
A well-printed business card is still a powerful thing, remember Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, I bet the kids do. Hats off to Brett Easton Ellis for that bit of powerful print promotion, it just about makes up for helping rehabilitate Huey Lewis and the News and Phil Collins.
Tony Barnett, managing director of John E Wright, who has opened the first five PrintCafés get the issue. Print still isn’t as easy to access and use as it could be. He’s made it approachable with a modern high-street location – itself a brave move in the current retail climate – and attempted to take away the mystique. If we want print to be used it has to be easy to use. There are friendly, helpful staff willing to show those without their knowledge how to prepare work for print and hand hold them through the process; with free guides to take away so they can do it by themselves next time. That strikes me as a more effective approach than a display ad attempting to mesmerise the audience. That is assuming the audience is even there. The flight from the printed page shows that the ad-supported print publishing model is broken, but newspapers and magazines are only a proportion of print. It is the other bits – stationery, flyers, business cards, presentations, pitches and posters that are required by small businesses and freelancers that PrintCafé is targeting – that is where the new demand lies.
Lastly, the high street approach rather than the moral high ground offers a great ROI. It’s a low investment for a powerful and direct uplift in sales, and more importantly profit – Barnett claims 25% higher sales and 100% more profit. The upfront cost: a few grand for a lick of paint, new carpets and printed branding; and a monthly fee in the hundreds, for sales uplift in the thousands.
So to answer the question: At first glance, yes.