Yes, Print Marketing Still Matters

Those who’ve been shouting “print is dead” for years are just plain wrong. Print marketing can still work well for your store.

Yes, Print Marketing Still Matters

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Several years ago, at a well-known national marketing seminar, a marketing expert opined that it wouldn’t be too long before we stopped differentiating between marketing and digital marketing because all marketing would be digital. This expert wasn’t necessarily predicting the extinction of non-digital or print marketing; rather he was predicting, based on current trends, that marketing would be vastly, overtly, and obviously digital. And to not be digital would risk being irrelevant.

These days, marketing is probably mostly digital. Virtually every existing organization’s marketing efforts include digital tools or channels such as a website, some form of social media, e-newsletters, imagery and videos posted online, and more. And these are all necessary and good and have a rightful place in the marketing mix.

But notice, too, what other marketing tools are still around: some long-form publications such as catalogs, newsletters, and magazines; one-pagers or sell sheets; and even branded giveaways. These suggest that print marketing is anything but dead — in fact, in some contexts, it’s actually better than its digital counterparts.


Long-Form Publications

Long-form publications can include anything from magazines to catalogs to newsletters to technical sales information. Yes, you can find digital versions of these publications, and often they’re created to be digital first. But a quick look around reveals plenty of publishing and advertising going on in print.

The on-going viability of print publications — even if it is far less than what it used to be — is likely due to a couple underlying factors:

First, at times, many consumers are suffering from digital fatigue. If almost everything is digital — and it mostly is — then everything has to be processed through one medium: a screen. Whether that’s a large monitor on a desk or wall or a laptop screen or, for many, the screen of a mobile device, it’s a screen nonetheless. Screens are powered by electricity and put off a certain kind of light and require a level of focus that’s different from a print publication. Screens provide amazing amounts of visual information from websites and apps and software and more, and there are constant notifications or interruptions — this can be a lot of information to process. It can be physically tiring. And that’s why the culture buzzes about ‘screen time’ and what it means to have too much in a day.

Second, some information is better consumed as a print publication. Much of this may be subjective, but just consider how much information you take in each day that isn’t digital. Human experience includes digital but isn’t primarily digital. Minimally, it’s physical, and that simply means non-digital experiences have their place. Reading printed books may be a good example of this. Avid readers will likely tell you there’s just something about reading a print version of a book and getting immersed in the story by looking at words on a page, turning pages, seeing a bookmark and the progress, etc. — all while away from or isolated from everything else. These same ideals can be extrapolated to include long-form publications in marketing. Sometimes a reader (or potential customer) is helped by looking through a magazine and either reading an article or seeing an advertisement about a particular product or service. Sometimes complex messages such as technical sales information is better consumed when it is in print because it provides a more thoughtful, uninterrupted communication that more easily offers opportunities for engagement such as note-taking or side-by-side comparisons. Or it’s just easier to step away from a publication and return to it later because a reader can open it on a desk or table, leave it open, and engage with it later without a battery running out or a screensaver turning on or a notification interrupting the flow.

Offering long-form publications (like catalogs) only as digital may make seem to make sense for your organization; the reduced cost and ease of updating can be very attractive. Just make sure it makes the most sense for your customers by asking them what they prefer.


One-Pager / Sell Sheet

Not only do some long-form publications enhance a reader’s experience when in printed form, but so do short-form publications such as the classic one-pager. How many times have we asked for or been asked to provide a ‘one-pager’ or a ‘sell sheet’ or a ‘hot sheet’ or the like? The reason for the popularity of this tool is the simplicity and brevity of having the needed information in one location, on one page. Generally, it’s an 8.5 x 11 page, because it’s easy to print on a desktop or office printer. But it’s also less expensive to have hundreds printed at a professional printing shop, compared to other print jobs.

The one-pager is your opportunity to distill, into a single page, your marketing message. A lot has to happen in a relatively small amount of space. Of course a one-pager can be a digital-only message/channel, but it may become printed media eventually. Readers want the one-pager not only because it’s a quick read, but also because it can be easily printed if necessary.

Take a quick look at trade show booths and checkout counters and examples of what constitutes a “leave-behind” at the end of a sales conversation. Likely it’s a one-pager. Offering one or many from your organization may be a good idea for the same reasons a long-form publication makes sense: Readers may want to consider the information on it not via a screen but in hand, make notes, not be distracted, etc.


Branded Giveaways

Trade shows are still alive and well because there’s just something about in-person, non-digital (non video-conferenced) human-to-human interactions that are important and helpful. And while there are plenty of ways to give away branded content in digital forms, still the trade show booths are filled with printed materials such as branded notebooks, pens, stickers and other tchotchkes. Call them trinkets and trash if you want, but they’re still at every trade show and a part of sales conversations around the nation. Why? Because human-to-human interaction matters. We like giving and receiving stuff. It feels good to give away a notebook with your logo on it; maybe the end user will consider it a helpful tool and think of you and your company often. Maybe not. But you gave a gift. And on the other side, it feels good to get ‘free’ stuff that’s useful and/or fun. It makes the booth visit or the sales interaction just a bit more meaningful.

The giving and receiving of gifts in a human interaction is as old as anything, because that’s what people do. Granted, you can give out some things digitally. You can put a digital version of a long-form publication on a shared drive or send it to a potential customer via email. But you won’t really have given anything. You can give it out on a branded thumb drive, but even those are waning in usefulness. The point is to think through what you can give out that is thoughtful and useful to whoever receives it. Since we’re talking about the remaining goodness in print marketing, an actual notebook and pen (good ones, not junk) can be very useful giveaways. Just keep in mind: Don’t put all your hopes in the giveaways; make them an extra added value to your professional conversations and interactions.


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