The tenth Power of Print Seminar went online this year, but lost none of its insight, direction and fascination for the hundreds of delegates from around the world.
As the 10th Power of Print Seminar, this year’s flagship Two Sides event broke from tradition in moving the entire day-long conference online. Like many industry events over the past ten months, the new restrictions meant that all speakers appeared virtually rather than in the refined surroundings of London’s Stationers’ Hall. But the Seminar lost none of its spark, relevance and fascination for the print and packaging industry.
With an intriguing mix of experts, academics and business leaders from all corners of the print, publishing, packaging, mail and advertising sectors, the day proved to be full of insight and fact, placing print and paper firmly into context in the current climate, and looking firmly towards a bright future.
A resilient sector
Of course, the spectre of Covid-19 was a recurring theme, and Charles Jarrold, the CEO of BPIF, began the day with an assessment of its impact on all corners of the print industry. With less optimism and a 17% drop in turnover since March, there’s little doubt the print industry has been severely affected by the pandemic.
But while Covid-19 certainly takes top spot in business worries, the looming Brexit transition period deadline isn’t far behind, with concerns including supply chain security and non-tariff barriers. However, despite BPIF members expecting a negative business effect from a no-trade deal, government support and offshoring are among the positive aspects.
“Our sector is extremely resilient,” concluded Charles. “It’s also highly diverse with a number of positive longer-term trends, including the impact and value of targeted print, and greater collaboration between trade associations and government. The future is bright but there will be significant bumps in the road.”
Brands return to mail
It’s clear that 2020 has been a year that’s forced many companies to accelerate their digital plans, whether it’s improving ecommerce and fulfilment systems, moving staff online, or using more digital marketing. But, as Mark Davies, the Managing Director of Whistl cautioned, the size and number of threats to digital marketing means that door drop and mail are becoming increasingly effective – something retail brands are keenly aware of.
“Overall trust in advertising is at an all-time low,” he explained. “Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, there’s been a 66% drop in trust in Facebook, and now 40% of people don’t trust Facebook with their personal information.”
What this means is that brands such as Land’s End, Deliveroo, AO, Harry’s, Uber Eats, and Waitrose are seeing impressive returns on investment in door drop and mail. In a partially addressed mail (PAM) study, Waitrose generated 1,140 new customers directly from the campaign.
A publishing renaissance
At a time when a full UK lockdown is just days away, publishing in all its forms is becoming increasingly important – as it was back in March during the first lockdown – and two mediums that have had a renewed focus are magazines and newspapers. Representing the consumer magazine industry, Sue Todd, the CEO of Magnetic, spoke at length about the increasing demand for magazine content that connects people with similar passions and hobbies. Whether in print or online, magazines such as Gardeners World, Golf Monthly, and The Week Junior have seen double-digit growth in reach, with subscriptions up by over 200% for many publishers – good for the magazines and good for advertisers.
“Publishers have understood how to remain relevant for consumers, which has sustained the magazines and helped the advertisers,” explained Sue. “Publishers and advertisers both need cultural relevance and commercial agility to thrive. Attention, relevance and trust are the super powers of magazine brands.”
Denise Turner, the Insight Director of Newsworks, gave a similarly fascinating view of the newspaper industry, with the results of their nine-month investigation into the UK’s consumption of news. Titled ‘World Without News’, the study tracked the news habits of a cross-section of people across the UK and asked their opinions about the role of news brands.
What they found was that journalism matters to audiences, with 70% thinking a world without journalism would harm democracy, and 66% valuing journalism more since the coronavirus pandemic. Going deeper, the study found that news helps us meet a number of key goals, which include ‘Orientate’ (planning), Calibrate (make sense of the world), and Thrive (achieve success).
“The unique value of news brands is that they occupy the sweet spot of fact and opinion,” explained Denise. “And there’s an opportunity for companies to advertise in news brands where people are making up their minds about something, looking for things to help them get ahead, and participating, debating and sharing things with others.”
The economic outlook
Andrea Boltho, Emeritus Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, and director of Oxford Economics perhaps had the toughest task of all: present the economic outlook for Europe and the world over the course of the next five years. Given that it’s not even clear when the world will come out from under the Covid cloud, there are easier topics, but the much-respected economist gave a clear indication of how the world will emerge.
“Will Covid change the world?” he asked. “It’s unlikely, but other pandemics have changed society. Possibilities include more public, corporate and private debt, leading to bankruptcies. However, past pandemics have seen interest rates lower and stay low for some time. There will also be less globalisation, more digitisation, and greater income inequality, but there is an opportunity for governments to become greener.”
This opportunity to reset environmental goals and actions is also being taken by a number of global brands, one of which is Nestlé, whose Packaging Platform Manager, Cédric Moulin, outlined the food retailer’s commitment to a number of sustainable targets. Focusing on Nestlé’s Purina brand, those commitments include ensuring that 100% of the packaging is recyclable or reusable by 2025, reducing virgin plastic usage by a third by the same year, and innovate with new materials and develop alternative delivery systems.
The evolution of sustainability
Continuing the theme of global corporates shifting environmental direction in the face of consumer and governmental influence, Aisling Ryan gave a compelling presentation on purpose and CSR. As the Managing Partner and Global Consulting Principal of The Corporate Practice, a division of WPP, Aisling advises some of the world’s biggest companies on accelerating their sustainability goals, in the process creating resilience and future-proofing their business.
Using a series of Time magazine covers to demonstrate the importance of tackling inequality in society, Aisling explained the concept of ESG (Environmental, Society, Governance) and why companies should be building it into their values. “We are currently at an inflection point,” she stated. “The definition of sustainability has evolved, and the emphasis is shifting to inequality – gender, racial, health and socio-economic. All corporates have to think about inequality and ask themselves, ‘What is our point of view on tackling inequality?’”
Bringing the day to an end, Jonathan Tame, the Managing Director of Two Sides, provided an overview of the organisation’s work that includes tackling the increasing problem of greenwashing, commissioning global research studies on consumer perceptions of print and packaging, and launching press and online campaigns that remind the marketing and publishing industries, plus millions of consumers, of the sustainability and effectiveness of paper.
“As the economy recovers, print, paper and packaging will remain an important part of the communication mix and how brands can connect physically with consumers,” concluded Jonathan. “Physical print is seen as being more trusted than digital and paper is a natural, renewable and sustainable material.”