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Busy Salespeople Let Print Do the Talking to Teens at Portland Auto Show

Posted Wednesday, April 29, 2015 by Ben Rutter.

High Quality Printed Booklet Helps to Convey the Automaker’s Brand Promise

by Ben Rutter, 17 & Keen on Print

alt textI recently attended the Portland Auto Show, an event that brings car manufacturers and dealers from across the Northwestern U.S. to advertise their goods.

alt textAs a teenager, I was of peripheral interest to the busy salespeople on the show floor. Nobody figures a 17-year-old kid is going to be able to afford a new Subaru. I was left to my own devices to wander around the cars and pick up sales material from racks and tables.

What struck me about the process was the importance put on print.

As always, human interaction is the first and foremost form of selling, but when the Portland Convention Center is mobbed with thousands of fervid car enthusiasts, printed brochures take prominence as the major form of salesmanship.

I wondered:

▪ How effective is print as a form of promotion for auto manufacturers?

▪ Which manufacturer are the most successful with their pieces?

▪ What kind of quality do they put into their printed communication?

▪ And how does that relate to their quality of the car?

For my experiment, I chose a variety of brochures and booklets, in the end filling my bag with more than 15. For the sake of keeping the reading experience to a reasonable length, I took a representative piece of print from three tiers of car maker: Scion, Honda, and Hyundai.

I will say going in that I don’t expect a perfect printed piece when each booth is going to be distributing thousands.

“With the amount of booklets handed out and the hands-off sales process employed at auto shows, it’s vital to have a well-printed product.”

On the surface, each level of car actually does seem to correlate with the quality of their booklet. In fact, my first impression was that a well-made booklet substantiates the promise made by a luxury brand.

Let’s see if that’s true.

alt textScion: This manufacturer’s entire sales system is based on a no-surprises system. Their market is the younger buyer, and their advertised prices are the prices you pay, without any optional add-ons. Their brochure reflects that. It is a piece of paper with car specs on it, folded four ways. Not extraordinary or expensive, but it is an unusual approach, and one that could stand out from a stack of traditional looking booklets.

In addition, Scion did give out free snapback hats, so good on them to appealing to their aforementioned demographic.

Honda: An invitation to open is what Honda offers with its brochure, and its photo quality is vivid on the cover of their booklet. When opened, however, the thin paper is 1-ply translucent, and a white line bisects the image of a Honda CR-V. The line does not bleed over the edge of the page. It’s not seen again in the booklet, so the reader wonders: Is it a mistake or just a poorly executed design element? Also, the thinness of the paper remains on the mind. If you are conveying a high-end solid brand with longevity and reliability, the choice of pseudo tissue paper does not suggest anything but cost cutting. I’ve seen this design element in luxury print – watches and jewelry – but it seems the wrong effect for a vehicle that is playful and sporty.

Scion’s strategy of using an eye-grabbing folding technique could pay off after all, until…

Hyundai! This manufacturer has, in the last couple of years, gone from luxurious to unquestionably solid styling. The major factor I find immeasurably satisfying in this booklet is the thickness of the substrate.

When you grab the piece and wave it, it makes that wak-kaow wak-kaow sound, like the noise a Pac-Man game makes. The choice of thick paper is unique among the printed pieces I chose.The booklet also has a spine that isn’t stapled (stitched), but creased and bound to look like a very skinny softcover book. Most people know from experience that such quality on small things is an impressive boost to one’s brand. It defies age or knowledge of print.Everyone likes a solid booklet. Hyundai did a good job, and it deserves top honors.In the end, with a few exceptions, quality of booklet – paper, technique, presentation, photos, binding choice – did indeed correlate with quality of brand.

It’s smart for these auto makers to let print convey their quality.

The role of print cannot be minimized in a situation such as a trade show or major expo.

When salespeople cannot have a deep, business card exchanging discussion with every individual who comes by, the quality of print speaks volumes.

ABOUT OUR BLOGGER: Benjamin Rutter is our local Print Teen on the street, giving the under-21 perspective on the world of print. He is a high school student who comes from a print and publishing family. Each year he volunteers to stage the print entries for the annual PrintROCKS! printing competition put on by us here at @ppiassociation. He also runs his own small business, shredding and archiving confidential print documents and giving them new life as either a digital document or a satisfying sack of recyclable material.

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