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Sticky Branding: Andrew Witkin

It’s Time for Print Shops to Get Back to Branding Basics

The industry is rebounding, which will create new opportunities for a paper revolution.




IN CASE YOU missed the news, we’re all living in the metaverse. All retail is online, our meetings are through Zoom, and we do happy hour with our friends using Microsoft Teams. The digital future that “The Jetsons” foretold is here, and absolutely everything we do is simply a matter of moving bits and bytes around. And in this Brave New World governed by ones and zeros, the physical world is a sad and imperfect relic of bygone days. If you want people to notice you, just post a video on TikTok and you can be even more famous than all the Kardashians combined.

Okay, maybe it’s not quite like that. In fact, reports of the demise of the brick-and-mortar world are highly exaggerated. Despite the convenience and advantage of digital interactions, there really is no substitute for interacting in the physical world. We have five senses, and living virtually only engages one or two of them at a time. That’s why there’s been a bit of a backlash against the push to a pixelated world – and it far predates the pandemic, which has forced so many of us to restrict our in-person lives. The spectacular failure of Google Glass nearly a decade ago proved that people weren’t just going to blindly flock to virtual reality, and popular films like “Ready Player One” have highlighted the potential for digital dystopia. Two years of COVID-induced online meetings haven’t made people love digital technologies anymore.

The reality is human beings are social creatures, and we need to interact with each other in person. No tablet or smartphone is going to change that basic need for connection. If you look at all the research on information retention, physical objects score far higher than artificial digital ones. It’s no surprise that marketing and branding also fare better in the real world.

Online advertising and brand building will never go away, but companies are doubling down on physical marketing efforts that have taken a backseat to digital initiatives over the last decade. The result is that everything from billboards to tradeshow booths to stickers to physical coupons are all regaining popularity. This is a time where savvy companies can leverage non-digital approaches to augment their brand recognition and visibility to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Let’s look at tradeshows. When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit North America in early 2020, many conferences went virtual. The thinking at the time was that people would be able to interact and participate on their computers just as easily as they could walking a show floor. In theory, this was great, but the reality was far more disappointing. Not surprisingly, attendance was low, but even people who did manage to login only engaged for a few minutes at a time. That’s because people don’t just go to conferences to see the presentations. They want to see the amazing array of booths. They want to run into people in the hallway and strike up a conversation. They want to go to a sponsored concert in the evening, have a drink, and listen to some music. None of that can happen when you’re sitting at home.

The good news is the industry is bouncing back, and indications are strong that tradeshows and conferences will rebound once the pandemic is past its critical point. That’s going to create a lot of opportunities for companies to brand themselves in ways they haven’t been able to do over the last couple of years. Everything from colorful signage to event swag to physical press kits will once more reclaim their place at the marketing table. Now is the time for forward-thinking organizations to start getting ready for the paper revolution.




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