The So-Called Death of Print

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” The familiar words of John Wannamaker, pioneer of the department store concept and inventor of the price tag, only strike marketers as half funny. We’re always chasing the dream of the next big thing that will prove our efforts, boost our ROI, and increase our reach.

Image courtesy of People of Print

Print was deemed dead in the late nineties due to the new kid on the block, The Internet. Here was our shiny new promise of increased messaging and higher returns. All with a low price tag.

It became quickly clear this strategy alone wasn’t going to work. It’s been proven that an integrated campaign is your best bet and specifically that print boosts web traffic.

Catalogs are a good example. Women in particular like to thumb a real live catalog, but go online to order. Consumers who receive catalogs in the mail are more than twice as likely to make an online purchase, compared to consumers who don’t receive a catalog.

The Direct Marketing Association reported in 2007 that the paper catalogue was the primary channel for generating orders; Responsible for 60% of orders, as opposed to Internet marketing, which was responsible for 9%.

Today’s research shows that 57% of consumers prefer a printed catalogue over a digital catalogue. In fact, 69% of catalogues are opened and read.

A German study last fall showed that people were more likely to trust print news.  Online news is more likely to be considered “Fake”.

The Postal Service’s “Mail Moment” research shows that Americans value and look forward to receiving their mail. The Mail Moment lasts 30 minutes on the average and involves consumers bringing their mail into their home and sorting, reviewing, and acting upon it. This research also revealed that the two mediums work together, that consumers use catalogs to assist with online shopping. Typically, people are more “Web active” when they receive a catalog.

People still see mail as “important” in a way they don’t view online messaging. Tech in general has given us a short attention span and the mindset you enter when you go online is one of impatience. Media channels are so “noisy” that consumers tune them out.  Email is probably the noisiest of all of the marketing channels- In part, this can be blamed on the rapid and complete adoption of the Internet as a primary marketing vehicle. Mail is something you flip through with a cup of coffee. We scan our email but we read our mail.

Multi-channel marketing has long stopped being a good idea and become considered crucial. We now have to market not only to the kid, but also the parent. We have to target everyone at the same time. And we have to do it while maximizing every marketing dollar and increasing ROI. Mail continues to enjoy a strong response rate, long shelf life, and measurable results. It is the strongest support of other media tactics.

Print continues to be the warmest vehicle.

Direct mail has gotten smarter. Targeted data driven pieces that truly speak to your customer base have replaced the shotgun method of crossing your fingers and hoping you get 2%. Print has actually started to do what was once considered what digital media was supposed to do best – speak individually to the consumer.

Retailers are looking for ways to shorten and target their catalogues.  Customization not only achieves this,  but revenue per catalog is 3 times greater.

Marketers don’t have to print 25,000 brochures just to throw out 10,000 of them anymore. Using print has become more viable and trackable. In fact some of the paradigms made common by the Internet are helping print marketing become more successful. A combination campaign that uses print to drive consumers to the web not only puts the response power in the customer’s hands, it also drives efficiency by telling us exactly what interests them on an individual level. Years of research has been dedicated to trying to identify what the buyer wants. We have finally come up with a way for them to tell us.

As print gets seen as passe, it’s surprising at first that the rate at which books are printed as risen steadily over the past decade. According to the Association of American

Publishers, US publishers have seen a compound growth rate of 2.5 percent per year since 2002. Some book publishing is actually to the credit of the internet. Digital printing has both improved techniques and has put the power of publishing in the people’s hands. Publishing and printing are more accessible than ever to anyone.

Print Guru, Frank Romano writes in his “birthday card” to printing: “Printing will survive the Internet and e-books and all those misguided souls who say that “Print is dead.” Print is more alive than at any other time in its history”.