The One Thing About Print You’re Still Wondering

Jan 27, 2016

On our blog we talk a lot about ways to increase the value of your communications, whether from a strategic perspective when it comes to planning or from the technical and execution end of the spectrum. This month we’ve discussed the many ways to boost the impact of your printed materials, including ways to spruce up their visual appearance and extending the shelf  life of those same materials with new channels like digital publishing. But the one thing we haven’t really gotten into is what people are still wondering in our increasingly digital age: Does print still matter?

Digital marketing strategies like display ads, paid search and sponsored content are most definitely effective. Oftentimes, from a cost perspective, digital marketing options are viewed as less expensive. They’re even the go-to choice for reaching a wider market or for acquiring new customers or donors. While new digital options come and go, print always remains on the table. If you aren’t integrating print into your overall marketing strategy, you’re missing opportunities. Successful advertising and marketing requires innovative ideas and the use of every available tactic.

Here are three reasons why print still matters:

The User Experience

Let’s start on the surface. Providing a unique experience for your recipients helps to keep your name top of mind. Though when the phrase “user experience” is uttered, the first things that come to mind are probably websites or mobile apps. Sure, there’s an entire job sector dedicated to designing UX in the digital sphere, but print actually affords people a special experience that they can both see and feel; something that doesn’t happen outside the flat screen of a digital device.

With print, you can actually see something unfold not just before your eyes but in your hands. The anticipation of ripping open an envelope or tearing the wafer seal of a self mailer to see what’s inside is essentially Christmas morning for adults. Maybe that’s a little extreme, but you see where we’re going with this. Beyond simple techniques, a well designed package provides an exploratory experience for recipients that they won’t forget. And when it comes to promoting a brand or reaching new audiences, what better way to stay on their minds than an unshakable memory?

Technical reasons why this is worth trying out? There are no cross-device compatibility issues or required software, and when you’re dealing with target markets that aren’t the most tech savvy isn’t that important? Plus, we all know that there is only a matter of seconds to capture a person’s attention. The last thing you want is to navigate them off your web page and wait for them to download and install a plugin, then restart their browser before they can see “that really awesome thing” on your site. With print, it’s right there.

Gain Focus

Take a moment and imagine you’re relaxing at home reading your favorite online publication (yes, that’s our idea of an oxymoron). Really put yourself in that instance. You’re scrolling through an article, and then it happens. A pop up ad that you can click away after 10 seconds. An instant message dings at you from another tab. Your browser is letting you know that you have another new email. Maybe you’re getting a text or your television is throwing some other message at you. Before you know it, you’re bookmarking the article halfway through to read at another time. When you’re trying to communicate with an audience that is deeply engaged, you’ve got a lot of clutter to cut through.

We’re bombarded with thousands of messages daily, with a few hundred actually reaching us and a smaller fraction being remembered. Print is one medium that can get above the noise. It requires focus but is also free of unnecessary distraction. Research shows that readers spend about 20-30 minutes engaging with a branded magazine, a far more impressive number compared to the few minutes spent reading something online. For advertisers, the users they’re trying to reach might not even be aware of the ads trying to envelope them amid all the distractions. When it comes to print, we tend to be singularly focused and thus we can recall engaging content more easily.

Establish and Build Trust

Quickly think about how easy it is to replicate branding or advertisements online. Everyone’s been duped by a lookalike ad here or there, and as technology advances it’s getting increasingly more difficult to truly verify something you’ve seen online. With the viral nature of online culture, it’s also hard to find out where something originated. Things are popular, and then they’re gone and we’re talking about something else.

Print has been an age-old way of establishing trust with people. The tangibility of print translates into credibility. The ability to build this kind of relationship with your target audience is a key element to retaining customers and growing their business. In fact, research shows that 56% of consumers trust print more than any other marketing method*.

*According to

The Wrap Up

In addition to some of these more philosophical reasons, stats show that print boasts a higher response rate, higher return on investment and a lower cost per lead for marketers. For any marketing campaign to be successful, these messages and efforts must be integrated and distributed across multiple channels. Save costs by printing and mailing to those in your audience who are most likely to want to receive information that way. Conversely, reach younger audiences and develop brand ambassadors using those same messages and images online and on social. Try using email to tease about new offerings, and direct mail to unveil the final product. Digital is great to experiment with what messages yield the best response, and print can be used to solidify the message.

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