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Print with Purpose

By Sam Upton for Two Sides UK

With consumers becoming more and more aware of their role in society, as well as the power of their spending, the term “social purpose” has become vital to publishers and brands. By making clear political statements and investing time and money into improving the lives of people in need and the environment, they show that business is not just about the bottom line.

Whether you’re trying to sell more copies or push more products, print is one of the best ways to highlight that social purpose, combining strong presence, direct messaging and permanence to deliver a message straight into the hands of the consumer. Here are four of the best print social purpose campaigns:

Protecting the democratic process

The Lebanese daily newspaper AnNahar has made a curious decision ahead of the country’s national election on May 15 – they have chosen not to print for a day. With government officials releasing warnings about a lack of supplies due to economic pressure, there’s a threat that fair and proper elections won’t take place. So, for the first time in its 88-year history, AnNahar didn’t run a print edition on February 2. Instead, the ink and paper was donated to the election to print ballots. On the day, empty newsstands carried messages for the readers to go online, where they found details of why the newspaper was absent.

‘We’ve been hearing that there is not enough ink and paper to proceed with the elections for a while now,’ said Nayla Tueni, Editor in Chief of AnNahar. ‘Well, that is no longer an issue. The resources we saved by not printing for one day provided a truckload of paper and ink to support the upcoming elections. There are no more excuses. The elections are happening, no matter what.’

Shopping for the environment

A great example of how print can influence behaviour comes from the Norwegian supermarket Oda, which began adding a ‘climate footprint’ report to customer receipts. The grocer groups its products into high, medium or low emissions, highlighting the purchases in red, amber or green.

‘Our customers told us that they find it close to impossible to know what is climate-friendly.’ said Louise Fuchs, Sustainability Director at Oda. ‘We thought it was an important challenge to solve so we started looking for easy ways to communicate emissions.’

Since adding the emissions report, Oda has found that its customers are buying much less red meat, while sales of plant-based products have grown twice as fast as meat. ‘Lentil soup was one of our top ten sold recipes last year,’ adds Louise Fuchs. ‘The previous years it was nowhere near the top ten.’

Cover model

Women’s magazines are among the strongest when it comes to social purpose campaigns, but it’s rare that a best-selling magazine will dedicate its entire front cover to a single, image-free statement. Popular Israeli magazine Laisha broke away from its usual cover template for the first time in 75 years to just feature the numbers 6724 – a 24/7 helpline for women suffering from domestic violence.

Supporters of the helpline approached local advertising agency Havas Tel Aviv with the brief to increase awareness of the helpline. ‘The advertising industry is great at getting phone numbers of commercial companies stuck in our heads forever,’ said Daniel Bnaya, Creative Director at Havas Tel Aviv. ‘But what about really important numbers? The kind that can save lives, like the 24/7 helpline for women suffering from domestic violence?’

Thanks to its simplicity and strong presence of print all over the country, the campaign worked: Within a week, the cover had boosted calls to the hotline by 500%!

A newspaper for all

The print publishing world hasn’t done a great deal to engage directly with blind consumers, but the free newspaper Metro has aimed to redress that balance by producing the UK’s first braille front cover. Partnering with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), the newspaper ran 15 000 special editions distributed around London to coincide with the International Day of Disabled People on December 3.

While the cover is simple white with braille writing, a QR code on the inside cover invites fully sighted readers to translate the cover letter and understand more about what it’s like to have limited sight. ‘For many blind and partially-sighted people, braille is a vital tool opening the door to independence, learning literacy and, most of all, the enjoyment of reading,’ said David Clarke, Director of Services at RNIB.

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