Clouds but With a Silver Lining

Clouds but With a Silver Lining

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By John Blyth, Marketing and Communications Manager, Ricoh Graphic Communications, Ricoh Europe

The Power of Print seminar is always a great chance to learn something new and valuable – about print, packaging, marketing, the business climate, and the environment.

This year, the first actual physical event since 2019, was – emphatically – no exception. The event is run by Two Sides, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes the sustainability and attractiveness of print.

It began with Charles Jarrold, CEO of the British Printing Industries Federation, who highlighted a series of challenges facing print-based businesses, including supply chain and cost inflation, skill shortages, and sustainability. However, the impending economic downturn will reach a print sector that is both resilient and diverse.

Amanda Griffiths of Britain’s Royal Mail then highlighted research showing how mail commanded consumers’ attention during lockdown. And how when people have money worries, like now, mail grabs their attention more than email. Amanda also told us that people who are struggling perceive mail as private and secure, and therefore more trustworthy than email.

Then Ben Briggs, managing partner of agency Join the Dots, stressed how direct mail’s physicality is its superpower. Because, in a digital world, people value authenticity and touch. For many, in fact, receiving it is like “receiving a gift”. Ben regards DM as a disrupter medium, and notes how increasing use of QR codes and Augmented Reality is making it even more relevant. Ultimately, Ben declared, the future is going to be “phygital”.

Yes, the digital universe is expanding and will not be put back in its box. But this means that we all will crave even more the tangible and the real. And so there will be a place for direct mail for many years to come.

Sajeeda Merali is CEO of the Professional Publishers Association and she focused on how printed magazines are increasingly relied upon by consumers and business readers. In this era of fake news and digital overload, carefully curated content that has been written by specialists and experts is valued more highly than ever. Physical magazines harvest intended attention. Advertising content borrows and benefits from this deep attention as readers tend to be more motivated to act on the ads.

After a steady start, the day really took off when Rowena Humby, CEO of Starcount, a data and insights agency, took to the stage. Rowena gave us a privileged insight into a new targeting system that examines Social Media activity (it is based on the interests people have as revealed by the sites they visit). The data is mapped to geographical locations to point to which postcodes are likely to be fertile ground for campaigns promoting products related to, say, veganism, pets, or fitness. Rowena talked about the “algorithm of emotion” and how 80% of decisions are emotional rather than logical. This new system taps into this fundamental truth about our motivations.

The afternoon began with Professor Mark Maslin, Professor of Climatology at University College London, who is a leading scientist with ten books and over 160 papers to his name. His presentation on the worsening environmental situation was sobering. Mark did though outline the steps that governments, citizens, and corporations can take to address the challenges. For companies, switching to 100% renewable energy and offsetting emissions through reforestation and rewilding are some of the measures that make a real difference.

The celebrated economist Andrea Boltho from Oxford University shone a bright light on European economies and concluded that he could not recall a more uncertain time. The European economy has received a triple shock from Covid, then inflation and now war. However, inflation will fall, as commodity and energy prices weaken, and supply chains improve. Especially as monetary tightening is taking place without the backdrop of a wage/price spiral. Further, Andrea does not see the forthcoming recession as being particularly severe although high public debt will probably result in sustained higher interest rates.

Steve Lister of HH Global provided a fascinating look into the complex world of achieving and delivering sustainable packaging for global brands. He showed us how some big FMCG brands have begun to use sustainable materials such as cocoa bean shells and silphie fibres in their Point of Purchase displays. Steve also gave us a view on the future of sustainable packaging. This, he forecasted, will involve increasing use of ocean plastics, reduced outer packaging, plus authenticity in design and materials built-in rather than being overtly obvious.

The last speaker was Jori Ringman, Director General of the Confederation of European Paper Industries, who shared some key facts about the state of Europe’s forests, and what the European paper industry is doing to help sustain them. Jori explained that the land covered by forests in Europe is expanding, citing the annual growth in European tree volumes as 612 million cubic metres, three quarters of which is harvested while one quarter is retained.

So, a rich and varied agenda, full of illuminating insights from a heavyweight lineup of speakers. While environmental and economic issues loomed large, quite rightly in these testing times, there was a powerful undercurrent. About print; and how it’s becoming a safe harbour in the sea of troubles.

It engenders trust, is tangible and engaging – properties that are increasingly scarce. And there is growing confidence that it has a vital role to play in the future. The “phygital” future that Ben Briggs predicts.

The presentations will be released by Two Sides over the coming weeks. To get notification of these you can sign up to receive their newsletters at



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