Marketing is not going paperless anytime soon, and neither should you

Can we please dispense with the nonsense about going paperless, already? It is simply not going to happen.

There is no good reason why it should. In fact, one wonders how the going paperless nonsense ever got started.

going paperlessAccording to

“The concept of the “paperless office” first appeared way back in 1975, when an article in BusinessWeek predicted that offices would be entirely digital by the mid 1990s. Obviously, that didn’t happen. In fact, in those 20 years, paper use increased rather dramatically in North American offices.”

So rather than bemoan the failure of the paperless office, let us embrace all the great things that paper does for modern business. We really couldn’t do business without it, especially in the realm of marketing. We do not need fewer printed materials, but better printed materials. Technology is not in competition with paper. It does not replace paper, but enhances it.

Printing companies that tried to compete with technology are no longer still around. Other printing companies have kept up with the latest technology and incorporated them in ways that has made commercial printing even better.

When it comes to your marketing plan, printing has to be a big part of it.

Business cards

Are business cards still useful in the age of technology? The conclusion is that business cards were still useful. Some of their reasons included the following:

  • Exchanging business cards is still faster than digital methods
  • Not everyone has a digital device available
  • Business cards are always accessible with no downtime
  • The exchange of business cards have cultural significance

Though exchanging information can certainly be done with a smartphone, it is one of those situations where the technology gets in the way, making the process much worse than just doing it the old-fashioned way. Bumping phones for any reason is just silly. Even assuming that both people have the appropriate phone and app, the process of getting the apps opened and ready for bumping is awkward. Bumping the phones together is so childish, no one would take you seriously.

Beaming the information is also quite presumptuous. It assumes that the recipient has a phone like yours. Pulling out a cheap Android phone to beam information with a high-end iPhone user is more likely to lose you business rather than gain it.

An Android user is not going to appreciate you offering to AirDrop the contact to his phone without that capability. Electronic contact exchange tends to highlight differences that keep people apart rather than bringing them together. But everyone has the ability to exchange cards. Everyone is on the same printed page.

There is no downside to business cards. They are inexpensive. You can hand them out like candy. Even if a business card gets dropped on the floor or left on a seat, it is still doing its job the moment anyone picks it up and reads it. You just gained an impression for your business. You can’t have too many business cards. And you can’t give too many of them away.


Computers are great for designing an producing brochures. They are terrible for consuming them. No body wants to read a brochure on a laptop. Navigation is a nightmare. A smartphone is equally bad. When is the last time you saw a brochure the size of a smartphone? Even a big smartphone is much smaller than the smallest brochures. A tablet is probably the best digital form factor for such a use. But brochures were made to be physically handled, folded, and unfolded. The contents is meant to be discovered layer by layer, not merely consumed.

Like the business card, a brochure can be universally appreciated, not just by those with the right digital device. It is also working when digital devices are not. A brochure’s screen is never off, and its battery, never dead. When one person is done with it, the brochure declares your message to the next person who picks it up. A beautifully printed brochure will always be picked up by someone. That is simply not the case for a digital brochure.


Signage can be done digitally, and very well. But there are still plenty of situations where paper signage makes more sense. Paper can be displayed in places not suitable for electronic screens. Paper signage works extremely well in retail spaces where there is no outlet. Paper signage can also be produced in sizes and shapes to accommodate awkward spaces. Sandwich board signs can be easily worn. Lawn signs can go just about anywhere. Paper signs are ideal for political candidates. Because of its inexpensive flexibility, paper signs should be a part of every marketing plan.

There are many areas in business where wasteful printing can be reduced but going paperless is not the solution. But marketing is not wasteful, and if anything should be increased. After all, that is the part of the business that makes you money. That is paper we could all use a little more of.

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