Why print is not dead: the case for the defence

With all the talk of the Royal Mail privatisation it reminded me of the amount of times I have been told that direct mail and print marketing are dead. Whilst they may be seeing a decline they are far from dead, and I firmly believe that print has a crucial role to play in many marketing plans. Here’s my case for the defence of print marketing.

Digital is easy to ignore and forget

Yes, digital marketing is relatively quick and cost effective, but how many times have you forgotten the date of an event or a URL you intended to remember? We skim-read online more than we do for print, and consequently our ability to retain and recall online information is less effective.  Print materials take slightly longer to read and therefore your message reaches your customer in a different way.

Print hangs around

It’s easy to hit the delete button on an email, and yes, print too can be binned, but if the message is one of interest customers are likely to hang on to the leaflet for reference. Emails get rapidly pushed down the inbox and are as good as forgotten.  Meanwhile your print item is stuck on their notice-board at home.

Greater reach than digital

extend your reachHow many people see the contents of your email inbox? Probably just yourself. How often do you forward an email offer on to friends? Rarely, if ever? A print leaflet can be seen by every member in the household, can be shown around friends and shared.  This is particularly helpful if other members of the household are the decision maker or influencer.  For example a college may contact their future students by post – in order to get in front of the parents too. You’ll reach more people with each communication.

Make the intangible real

Particularly in services marketing we face the challenge that the thing we are selling is intangible – you can’t pick it up.  That can present some communication challenges.  In particular, if your service is high-value customers will want something they can hold in their hand as proof that the service exists. Think holiday brochures, wedding venue brochures or university course prospectuses.  Digital content can change from day to day or even be deleted, whereas if I have an official printed copy in my hand there is some certainty to what I am buying.

Print speaks for your brand

Whilst great design, photography and copywriting all say a lot about a brand, print has the added dimensions of paper and print quality. These provide marketers with another opportunity to communicate brand values and make an impact on their prospective customers. Personalisation and other innovations make print an exciting field, so think beyond the standard letter or flyer and get creative.

We’re not all digital natives

According to the Office for National Statistics, 17% of UK households still don’t have internet access. For some this is about price or security concerns, whilst a significant number just didn’t feel the need for it. If your target audience includes some ‘anti-internetters’ then print is the ideal medium with which to reach them. Let’s not assume that everyone is online all the time.

Push the envelope

Print is not just about flyers, posters and letters.  Print materials have a range of uses which are great for spreading the word and keeping your message front of mind – think ‘leave behinds’ at meetings, calling cards, postcards, vouchers etc. How you use print will depend on your marketing objectives and distribution method.

I’m a big advocate of print marketing – used appropriately, well designed and written, and produced by expert printers, print can have a fantastic impact.

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