Print Equals Human

Kevin Kernan is Partner and Managing Director of GDLOFT. He is shown here (r) with the firm’s Founder and Creative Director Allan Espiritu. Photo credit by Andrew Zaeh. More on Kevin below. 

With the onslaught of ads and online messages we are receiving every day these days, our brains have learned to tune out digital communication without even noticing. Now more than ever, do not let your fundraising or outreach campaign rely on digital efforts alone! At GDLOFT, we know there’s been a move towards digital in recent years. While digital can be less expensive, it can also have low click rates and become disposable as saturation increases. There is certainly a place for digital in your organization’s efforts, but, we believe that print must play a role, now more than ever.

Here’s why . . .


When it comes to email or digital, we’ve trained ourselves not to look at it anymore. We don’t even have to make a decision. With print, you have to at least pick it up, recognize it’s there, and make a decision about what to do with it.


If what you’re sending is irrelevant, then that moment in time is wasted. But if you’re sending something relevant, valuable or shareable, then you’ve made a valuable connection. 42.2% of direct mail recipients either read or scan the mail they get. Only 22.8% say they don’t read it at all. (Data & Marketing Association)


In a world of fleeting digital, print has a bit of luxury to it. It’s afternoon tea instead of a Wawa takeaway cup. At GDLOFT, we believe that if you’re asking for money or attendance, print can be superior. It shows you’re invested. And in our experience, the responses and donations reflect that effort.


With the tactility of print, you’re activating more senses. You can see it, feel it, hear the paper crinkle, smell the ink.“People understand and remember what they read on paper better than what they read on screen. Researchers think the physicality of paper explains this discrepancy.”— Ferris Jabr, “The Brain Prefers Paper”, Scientific America• People like getting mail — and it converts! Mailboxes used to be filled with junk mail. Now, an intentional print piece truly stands out. 41% of Americans of all ages look forward to checking their mail each day. (Gallup) The response rate for direct-mail marketing is 37% higher than the email rate. (MarketingProfs)


As we said in our 2016 presentation for the Federal Reserve (which may be even more relevant today): In psychology and behavioral economics, the endowment effect is the hypothesis that people ascribe more value to things merely because they own them. Touching and the physical nature of things enhances this effect. To touch a thing is to trigger a reaction: as soon as we do, we develop a sense of ownership and value towards it.


For all the above reasons, as a studio, we are long and strident advocates of print and its material nature. But we also believe the pandemic has changed the role/power of print. Prior to the pandemic, print had already gained traction with audiences, with its ability to cut through the digital clutter, by appealing to our human senses. Now, we believe print has reached a tipping point because people are craving interaction, people want their humanity back. Print can satisfy this need — offering an experience for the senses that digital can’t provide. It is simple to ignore or turn off a digital experience. Print’s physicality is unavoidable. Print “takes up” physical space and must be “confronted” no matter what you decide to do with it. In addition, the over saturation of digital messaging is giving way to complementary strategic uses of  that the digital medium may not be able to satisfy.

Kevin Kernan has an extensive background in print production, social media, and web design, having worked with Current Medicine/ Current Science, Philadelphia City Paper, and Drexel University. He received his BA in graphic design from Rutgers University-Camden and holds a master’s degree in Arts Administration from Drexel University, where he specialized in working with nonprofit organizations and universities. Kevin’s work has been published and acknowledged by AIGA, GDUSA, UCDA, Telly Awards, Creative Quarterly, Print and TED.