When it comes to producing travel information, the current trend seems to be to try and drive customers online, away from the traditional brochure and heading towards a completely paperless future.
The internet is seen as the holy grail for travel brands; a tool which could one day eliminate the need to produce printed brochures with all their associated costs and potential problems. However, this vision is a long way off and may in fact never be realised. And the reason is simple: customers like to have printed brochures. We may be living in the computer age but in reality, brochures are the travel equivalent of the Sunday papers; something we can flick through at our leisure. It will be a brave brand manager who adopts the ‘No brochures for us this year’ approach, especially considering that travel agents and their use of brochures still performs such an important role in the consumer’s purchasing process.
Rather than ditching brochures, surely it makes more sense to improve their quality and take every step to ensure they are working hard for your business. The question our clients always ask is ‘Can we have better, faster and cheaper brochures?’ And that is the challenge agencies have to face when it comes to design, print and production. We need to produce material which looks as good, if not better than traditional brochures, but which is also a cost-effective option for brands and one which will deliver results within a tight timeframe.
However it is dangerous to rush after these criteria blindly. It is all too easy to focus on minimising expense and maximising speed but this often comes at the cost of quality. Brands often forget about actually trying to make their brochures better. By compromising on design, brands may reduce their costs and increase their production rate but they risk losing brand equity. If you look at a rack of brochures in any travel agency you can clearly see which brands have sacrificed design quality for cost and you would probably try to avoid those brochures when it comes to reaching for the shelf.
It’s the companies who can balance print and digital, and develop innovative communication strategies in order to deliver the right messages using new print technologies who make a real difference in today’s competitive climate. Understanding what needs to be printed and what can be delivered online is fundamental to rationalising brochure size, and will also help to stabilise volume and cost levels.
The whole print-on-demand arena is also opening up and those agencies with digital and offline experience who can manage this integration will come out winners. That said, innovation in the printing process has to be matched by innovation in communications. As we all know putting together a brochure is a stressful process with pricing and itinerary alterations coming through right up to the deadline. This is made all the more complicated with international projects, as changes have to be delivered across multiple territories. This is where an innovative comms strategy comes into its own.
Brands have to be able to communicate alterations and cross check quickly and accurately in order to produce a precise brochure on time. Online same-time editing and proofing is the solution to this problem, and most importantly it must be done without compromising the design quality. It’s also important to remember that digital marketing does have a vital role to play in helping the consumer to make a purchase.
Online campaigns may help the holiday browser initially, pointing them in the right direction for what they’re looking for and feeding them personalised, relevant information. Combine this with well designed, thoroughly researched, well thought out printed brochures and you’ll ensure prioritised rack positioning in store, a great showcase for your brand, and the promise of a positive holiday experience placed directly into the hands of potential customers.