Is print dead in the digital age?

The Royal Mail’s recent research, ‘The Private Life of Mail’, investigated whether printed materials are still relevant in the ‘digital age’ of marketing.   Flock Creative, with whom I’ve worked on several projects,  and I jotted down our own thoughts.

Me: “Print is able to meet some of our senses that online can’t.”

Too often these days people go for digital automatically because it’s ‘cool’ (and cheaper, and easier to measure) rather than because it’s the best channel to achieve their objectives.  But marketers should be media-neutral.  Rather than seeing digital as somehow a different type of marketing, we should be integrating it across the business and not marketing to people as if they somehow live in different digital and non-digital worlds.

Marketers should start first with what they’re trying to achieve – what do they want their existing and potential customers to think, feel, say and do?  Then decide which channels work best to achieve this.

If we think about how people are influenced, it’s more than through what they can see and read.  For example, print is able to reach some of our senses (including touch and smell) that online can’t (at least not yet).  It’s also able to impart meaning in a way that online doesn’t.  We tend to spend longer looking at printed material than we do online material.  It’s about the fact that someone took the time and thought about you, whereas an automatic forwarding of an email arguably implies less thought.

An integrated approach tends to work best, using a range of different, relevant channels.  In one of my recent projects we used print first then online to get the results we were after.  Neither would have been as effective on their own.

Justin Hutton-Penman (Flock’s Managing Partner): “It’s called a marketing mix for a reason.”

For me it all stems from understanding the customer.  That’s not just knowing who they are, it’s understanding what they do in their lives – where they shop, what their leisure activities are and what their media consumption profile looks like.

Knowing this means you are able to engage them with the medium most appropriate to them – undoubtedly some people will prefer to receive something on paper and not an email – Understanding their media consumption will tell you that…or not.  So if your target audience doesn’t respond well to digital communications, then print is the way to go.

Either way, you should never rely on one medium to target your audience – it’s called a marketing mix for a reason.  Usually, particularly for B2C markets, a mix of on and off line communications works best together to achieve the objectives required.

So yes, print still has a place and should always do so.  It allows us to be more personal and more human when we’re engaging audiences and we shouldn’t forget that.