VOL. MMXIII..No. 209

Retail By Design | The Brand Experience

The Power of Print: Why Collaterals Still Matter in the Digital Age




Today’s world of communications is one where zeroes and ones rule. For the most part, Digital has replaced what once happened only in print, and that fact is increasingly evident in how brands are choosing to connect with customers.


Few firms of any kind bother designing and developing great print collaterals and in my view, that’s a huge missed opportunity – especially now, when electronic communications are so ubiquitous.


Even business cards are dispensed as more of an afterthought than an obligation.


Holding a big event? Mailing an invitation via conventional post seems almost quaint. Why bother when digital communications accomplishes the same thing, right?






At top, Net-a-Porter created the Mr. Porter Post, a faux newspaper developed as a co-marketing venture with USA Network’s show, Suits. Below, a selection of brand look books.

Quite simply, digital – no matter how “responsive” and clever – is cold and flat. In contrast, print offer an even richer brand experience because it not only showcases a company’s aesthetic in three-dimension, it more insistently invites the customer to pause and engage with the brand, thanks to the hand-crafted quality of textured papers, bold layout, and unique type design.


Nevertheless, when marketing budgets are downsized, print tends to be the first on the chopping block. Even luxury fashion brands have resorted to emailing look books and invitations rather than printed ones.


It’s not the Internet’s fault. It was in the early part of the 21st century that concerns over the environment quite justifiably created a revolution in communications. Customers demanded that brands stop wasting paper with so many catalogues, brochures, and receipts.





At top, a selection of fashion invitations. Below, Maison Martin Margiela’s event invitation was made to look like a credit card.

For marketers, the tidal effect became: why only “cut back”? Let’s get rid of all of it. Do you want me to email you your receipt?


We were even forced to say goodbye to the shopping bag.


Like many luxury brands, Louis Vuitton started cutting back on print collaterals about ten years ago, but I still leaf through a book they produced in 2002 that stands out for its use of gorgeous saturated imagery. It’s the story of a tortured and clandestine relationship, one where an array of products play an important supporting role.





A series of images from a 2002 Louis Vuitton campaign book. The use of imagery and storytelling is cinematic. It would be one of the last printed books the brand would produce. 

I am not arguing to replace digital with print, but that print still offers a unique format for sophisticated and creative communications and and that depending on the specific marketing program, can connect far better than digital.


By virtue of its rarity, print collateral can command attention more deftly than an email attachment. It tends to linger longer, be it on a coffee table or desk.



IMG_0064At top, Hermès has consistently invested in producing an assortment of print collaterals. Below, A hardbound book from Bally is a candy-coloured journey through the brand’s accessories collection.

Case in point, some pieces I keep simply because they continue to impress:  an invitation to a long-ago Maison Margiela fashion show disguised as a credit card. A Givenchy invitation printed on aluminum. Or virtually anything from Hermès, who year after year prints a beautiful magazine and a host of other collaterals.


A recent hardbound book from Bally is bursting with colorful images printed on heavy stock, a candy-colored journey through the brand’s accessories collection. A cold piece of black Plexiglas announces an Yves Saint Laurent store opening, perfectly capturing the essence of then-designer Tom Ford’s aesthetic decadence.


Beautiful collaterals allow one page or several to bring context to a brand’s raison d’être and reinforce other kinds of messaging happening online or in-store.


>> Request one our own print brochures. Email us at info@bonbrand.com.

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