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Old tool, new tricks: why the coolest brands are turning to newspapers in 2021

Leading brands like Fred Perry and The Modern House are giving a traditional tool a very modern makeover

With groaning inboxes and overflowing social media feeds, the battle for attention in the online world today is fiercer than ever.

There are now 1,750,000 podcasts in existence, a massive 233% increase since 2018. New platforms like Clubhouse are springing up to steal away eyes and ears from the old guard. Marketers report it’s harder than ever to cut through the digital noise and get their brand noticed.

But a fightback has begun. Leading brands like Fred Perry and The Modern House are giving a traditional tool a very modern makeover. They are reimagining the humble newspaper to give their customers a tangible experience and to get their message heard.

Here’s how modern brands are using newsprint right now.

Lo-fi, fast-moving: mass print on a budget

As this Harvard Business Review article notes, catalogues are making a comeback: “As physical products, they can linger in consumers’ houses long after emails are deleted, which increases top-of-mind awareness among consumers…”

Fashion brand Fred Perry understands this well, printing a quarterly fashion update for their customers. Their design agency, Studio Small, was inspired by the gritty feel of self-published zines and the “golden era“ of magazines like NME. With the brand’s “roots in subculture“, the lo-fi style of a newspaper was a good fit for Fred Perry.

Studio Small says: “A newspaper allows us to keep things current and get in front of a fast-moving, fashion-focused audience. And it’s a super cost-effective way to do mass print in an age of digital.“

A tactile experience in a virtual world

Some businesses are turning to newspapers to deliver a physical intimacy with their customers that screens can’t deliver. Luxury pyjama retailer Desmond & Dempsey publishes The Sunday Paper every quarter. They say it’s designed to bring ‘that slow Sunday feeling in a broadsheet…[it] celebrates all that’s good about our favourite day of the week.’ With recommendations, interviews and feature articles, it’s a regular sell out.

Non-alcoholic drinks retailer Seedlip is another brand using newsprint to bring a closer, more physical relationship with its customers. With its quarterly journal, Seedlip had no interest in making a ”a precious item that lounged around on coffee tables,” says designer Ed Collins. ”We wanted creases and folds, ink marks, grubby fingerprints. Customers love the design and content and genuinely look forward to setting aside time to read it.”

Trust me, I’m a newspaper

A recent Edelman Trust Barometer report found more than 60% of people trust traditional magazines and newspapers, compared with just 30-40% for digital media. The demand for high-quality, trustworthy content has never been higher.

Healthcare provider Thriva uses a tabloid-size newspaper to share health and wellness information in an accessible offline format. “Our newspaper is a way for us to bridge the gap between scientific literature and easy-to-digest content,” says Thriva. ”There’s a huge amount of misinformation online and a newspaper with evidence-based content cuts through that.”

Build brand loyalty with offline eye breaks

Alison Matheny, founder of BEST Studio, produces a bi-annual newspaper for Scribner’s Catskill Lodge, a mountain lodge in upstate New York.

She says: “In a time when scrolling is the default mode of consuming information, we've found people are looking for an eye break and an opportunity to connect. Having the paper in the rooms and around the Lodge becomes much more than a branding play, it’s an offline conversation between the content and the reader.

Spectacle retailer Cubitts shares the analogue love. It uses a tabloid-size newspaper to ’share beautiful, interesting content that [customers] will enjoy, allowing us to build brand loyalty organically,’ says Liz Moffatt, Marketing and Communications Manager at Cubitts.

They love being able to use their newspaper to tell their story ’away from the tyranny of likes and follows’ on social media.

Superb staying power

Alternative estate agent, The Modern House, sees their editorial offering as the core part of their marketing strategy. They explain how their newspaper keeps them top of mind with clients for longer.

Emma Mansell, senior director of The Modern House and Inigo says: “Our rule when it comes to print is not to produce anything immediately disposable, so everything is designed with longevity in mind – it needs to be something people will keep in their homes for at least a few weeks.

“This is a consideration in terms of sustainability, but it’s also something we’ve proven works in terms of extending the conversion period of our marketing materials and maximising their returns.“

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