Print from a Gen Z Perspective

Print is dead.

I have heard that phrase so often in my life that it makes my ears ring. I most often hear it from businessmen, older relatives, or neighbors. Never before have I heard one of my peers actually utter that phrase. If we had never heard it before, my generation probably would never even think it to be true; however, that’s what we’re being told by older generations.

In a world where technology dominates virtually everything, it is easy for people to accuse Gen Zs of living and breathing through their smartphones. Whenever I pull out a book, there are practically audible gasps as bystanders gawk at a 19-year-old flipping through a hardcover book rather than scrolling through her Instagram feed. While they believe that we are completely detached from the print world, they’re wrong.

I can attest to the fact that anything Gen Zs do on their laptop is accompanied by at least five other open tabs and, more often than not, a split screen between two assignments (or maybe, admittedly, one assignment and a show on Netflix). Online, we can get easily distracted by our tendency to multitask and explore all of the information out there. However, print remains uninterrupted. It commands your entire attention and is easier to absorb. We are less likely to skim over it, as we do blocks of text posted digitally. For those reasons, many college students actually opt for print textbooks rather than digital copies.

I’m one myself, so I’m allowed to say this, but Gen Z is lazy. Really lazy. However, amidst the buses, bikes, mopeds, scooters, hoverboards, and motorized longboards that students use to make their trek to class a little less strenuous, people are willing to carry around thick, heavy textbooks all around campus. Technology allows us to get most of our textbooks online, usually for a cheaper price. Admittedly, it also allows us to make PDFs of the books and distribute them to others for free—or for a small profit.

Despite these “hacks,” which most broke college students would jump at, many opt to pay more to get a tangible version of their textbooks.

The irony of this proves how valuable our generation finds print. Many of us have come to recognize that eBooks, online invites, and electronic cards just aren’t the same. They are less effective to learn from, difficult to navigate, and not as special.

Within Gen Z, promotional materials have a longer shelf life if they are in print. When I get an email offering a coupon that I’m mildly interested in, I make a mental note of it and let it get lost in the depths of my inbox, where it is almost guaranteed to be forgotten. However, when I get coupons in the mail, they sit on my desk for weeks, increasing my exposure to the brand and reminding me every day, “Oh, I need to go there!”

Additionally, Gen Z actually thinks of print marketing as non-traditional and personal. We know how easy it is to send an email – we do it ourselves hundreds of times a day. However, this means we also recognize the hassle of printing or creating tangible assets. Classes that require printed papers rather than online submissions take more time out of your day – you have to plan extra time in the morning to hike to the library, connect to the printing network, and track down your paper… and that’s only with the hopes that the printer decides to work that day. Printed assets indicate that someone invested both time and money to develop, print, and send them to the recipient, rather than simply clicking a button, closing their laptop, and calling it a day.

Receiving a letter in the mail is now more exciting than an email because it is rare. I can’t remember the last time I got anything in the mail (besides some packages fueling my online shopping addiction, of course). A sense of excitement comes with seeing your name on a letter instead of just another bill or store offer.

So next time you consider capturing the attention of a younger audience, consider going ”non-traditional.” Print is dead? Well, this generation may just spark print’s “second coming.”

Article written by:

Alex Schweitzer

Marketing Intern