After Mercedes Benz discontinued the production of printed brochures last year, Volvo was the first to follow its example, and now Audi, as well.

According to a report by Automobilwoche, Audi will no longer be producing brochures in the future (it is said that up to now there have been three million printed copies).

Now nobody can be forced into producing printed materials, but Audi’s justification for abstinence sounds downright absurd. “It is a gigantic effort to produce, edit, print and deliver the brochures. And by the time they’re on the market, they’ re almost outdated,” Sven Schuwirth, head of Digital Business and Customer Experience, told the industry newspaper. “Where is the added value of these brochures on glossy paper if I see a red car in them but want a black one? I can do that better digitally. That’s why we’ve decided to discontinue printed automobile brochures worldwide by summer 2020.”

If this chain of reasoning is to be taken seriously, then Audi’s marketing staff has failed to realize that the processing of digital data is also a gigantic effort, and admit that they have neither recognized nor understood the possibilities of digital printing, commented Knud Wassermann in issue 4 of beyondprint unplugged.

The prospective customer can already put together his desired car individually via a configurator on the Audi homepage (what an effort!). The data generated for this could also be used to print a personalized brochure. This brochure, which is then personalized down to the last detail, achieves a “wow effect” for the recipient that does justice to a premium vehicle. The customer is then held in high esteem, which can never be achieved through a PDF.

Is this what the future holds for buying a car? VR glasses instead of genuine feelings? A flat PDF instead of a sophisticated and tangible brochure? It remains a fleeting digital experience that doesn’t resemble print by a long shot.

Print in a cross-media world

Printed car advertising has always been a flagship discipline for particularly creative campaigns. Print has always enabled Audi’s brand core – design, quality, passion – to communicate adequately. This is the added value that print offers. In addition, the issue of relevance can be solved on demand by digital printing. And in order to save time and bypass the route via car dealerships, the print service provider would take over the dispatch of the personalized brochure directly.

“The arguments Audi puts forward against print are pathetic. The only thing missing is if the car maker were to cite environmental protection as the reason for the paperless car dealership.” – Bernd Zipper

But in the marketing of the large German automobile manufacturers, it seems that the “digital” ones have taken over the helm and do not want to know or recognize what print can achieve in a cross-media world. This is because the effect of tangible media, which are equipped with special refinements, is not a fixed idea of print shops, but is psychologically explainable and factually proven by current studies. According to these studies, print plays an immensely important role, especially in customer communication and the purchasing process – if you know and understand the processes. Car manufacturers are now likely to miss out on this. It seems that they no longer understand print.

Pork belly instead of brand advertising

Does print once again have to pay for the fact that in reality the cost drivers are simply being tightened? And if so, printed media could get even worse. The cooling economic data are sending a clear signal: For some car manufacturers, the Nielsen figures, for the first half of 2019, show a minus of up to 30% in the advertising balance.

In an interview with the advertising industry magazine Horizont, automotive expert Prof. Ferdinand Dudenhöffer predicts a drastic decline in brand and image advertising. “We are heading for the worst car year in 20 years – in sales, turnover and earnings. It is naive to think that marketing and advertising will get off scot-free. Everyone is slimming down, saving money everywhere – especially in classic marketing. These funds can simply be cancelled in order to improve the droughty yields. But above all, I expect another discount battle to begin,” says Dudenhöffer. “The pork belly will come back. The cars have to leave the yard. We will see much less brand and image advertising. Everything but sales-promoting measures will be incredibly difficult.”

My take: It may be that not all customers want to take a brochure with them from the dealership, but do the car manufacturers really believe that their customers are so digitally inclined that they want to do completely without printed brochures? There has to be both: tangible and visually and content-wise appealing brochures for the customer groups who expect information of this quality and take it with them from the car dealerships – and digital experiences. But those who want to tell their customers how to order a new car could be in for a nasty surprise. Then I won’t buy a Mercedes, a Volvo or an Audi – then a BMW will do, won’t it? After all, they have understood the real value of print. For example, premium customers are “greeted” with a truly extraordinary welcome package and the in-house print products are quite impressive – and fulfil one purpose: brand loyalty through its content, appearance and genuine appreciation for the customer!

Summary
Market: Automobile manufacturers forgo print
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Market: Automobile manufacturers forgo print
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After Mercedes Benz discontinued the production of printed brochures last year, Volvo was the first to follow its example, and now Audi, as well.
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www.beyond-print.net