What horses and print have in common

19 April, 2017

Lukas Kindler from Asendia Management explains why print is a communication channel you shouldn't neglect

“How can you be faster in New York?” “We need faster horses”, would have probably been the answer of people in Detroit at the beginning of the 20th century. Henry Ford did not breed faster horses but changed the transport industry completely by automated car manufacturing. The lower manufacturing costs changed the transport industry completely and made cars accessible to a large audience. Horse-drawn carriages became obsolete. Like the transport industry at the beginning of the 20th century, the communication industry is currently in a disruptive period.

Yesterday’s Fords are today’s Larry Page who drives technological advancement to a whole new level. With the rise of the internet 20 years ago, people changed their communication habits completely. This caused a sharp decline in traditional mail. Nowadays in industrialized countries, receiving a letter is much less common than receiving a snapchat on your phone that lasts 10 seconds.

Does that mean that the communication market is on the brink?

Not at all – even with “old-fashioned” products, digitalization carries huge potential for the communication industry. Contrary to the experience of your parents, it is not unusual today to receive emails from all over the world. Whether it’s a Nigerian prince who offers you millions in exchange for just a few dollars or a special offer for dubious medicine – the majority of international emails land directly in your spam folder.

Combining online and offline communication channels

To prevent this, international online retailers market their products on multiple channels. Zalando, a purely online fashion store in Germany, started printing a catalogue with around 100 pages. Selected fashion articles are nicely displayed in this glossy magazine and promoted with vouchers and discounts. First launched as a pilot to test customers reaction, the catalogue proved soon to be a valuable tool to reach customers for Zalando.

As the largest accommodation provider worldwide without any accommodation, Airbnb’s business is, like Zalando, solely online. And Airbnb decided to go into print as well. Thinking about an appealing magazine for a while, Airbnb decided to launch “Airbnb mag” in 2016 in partnership with Hearst, one of the largest publishing companies in the US. The magazine contains stories and real experiences from Airbnb hosts and should, according to Airbnb, lie as a source of inspiration on every hosts’ coffee table.

It is not as obvious for all companies, as it is for Airbnb and Zalando to combine online and offline communication channels. We, at Asendia, try to fulfill the needs of our customers and to know their business thoroughly to contribute to successful and valuable marketing campaigns. And sometimes that can be achieved by “old-fashioned” tools like magazines or catalogues. If used deftly, print has the potential to become an exclusive means of communication in the future. A tool which complements digital marketing strategies.

Old technology, new possibilities

A new technology does not necessarily replace an older one but can open up possibilities for the “old technology” to create a whole new market. This can happen with digital and mail as it happened with cars and horses already. Mr. Ford would probably be surprised that the substitution of horses by cars as a means of transportation did not lead to a price decay of horses in the long run. The breeding horse Fuchasi Pegasus was sold a century after the first Ford Model T for more than $60 million – almost double the amount of the most expensive car ever sold at auction.

Lukas Kindler

Project Manager Strategy

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