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Eve Padula

Leveraging Print Marketing to Generate More Sales

Traditional Print Sees a Resurgence as Digital Fatigue Sets In

Sep 17, 2020 12:22:28 PM


There is no question that digital marketing dominates how today’s businesses communicate with their customers. Digital marketing is everywhere—just think about how many e-mails, texts, and social media ads the average consumer is exposed to. Unfortunately, all this volume is a double-edged sword because today’s consumers have become quite skilled at disregarding this digital messaging. The average American can be exposed to anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 pieces of advertising in a typical day, creating a state of “ad blindness.” Simply put, consumers have conditioned themselves to tune out digital marketing because they encounter so much digital noise on a daily basis.


e-Mail might seem like the most logical choice for marketing communications, but today’s spam blockers prevent many e-mails from ever getting to the intended recipient’s inbox. Furthermore, the average consumer is inundated with e-mail and will often mass-delete messages after only glancing at the subject lines. End-users who find marketing e-mails annoying can easily set up their own spam filters. It’s no wonder that bounce-back rates continue to climb. The digital channel is more popular than ever before, but the irony is that the sheer volume of digital marketing messages can make it quite challenging to reach and engage with consumers.  


Traditional Print Attracts Attention

Although it’s difficult to remember a time without online communications, digital content is now everywhere and its volume is increasing exponentially. It might feel like we’re old friends with digital marketing, but it has only been around for a few decades. In that time, our brains have needed to learn how to read digitally. According to DigitalInformationWorld.com, the average human attention span declined from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to 8 seconds today. Our brains are bogged down by the cognitive load of digital media, and it’s difficult to create engagement in the distracting digital landscape.


The human brain responds to the tactile experience of reading print. Neural pathways are created when we read, and they are reinforced by tactile experiences. You can hold a book and feel it in your hands, and you can even smell the paper. Human beings like to understand the size and shape of things, and physical books let us do this because it’s much easier to see how far you’ve gotten in a book and how much further you’ll have to go before you finish it. Digital does not offer the same tactile experience that print does.


Whereas it’s easy to get lost in today’s sea of digital marketing communications, print and direct mail have remained consistent and stable. What’s more, direct mail achieves high response rates and is actually experiencing a resurgence. There are a few reasons for this. For one thing, new technologies make it easy to integrate mail with digital in a way that was never before possible. In addition, digital fatigue has set in and many consumers—even digital natives—like receiving direct mail as a result. Direct mail is a much less cluttered channel, and it continues to receive high marks in terms of customer engagement. This is likely because the physical medium enables consumers to engage on their own terms.


Engagement can be measured in several ways, and one of these is readership rates. According to Keypoint Intelligence’s most recent Annual State of Marketing Communications research, consumers review a greater share of their direct mail (70%) before discarding it than they do digital marketing messages (60%).


What percentage of the direct mail/digital messages that you receive do you read/review before


Print Outperforms Digital in Multiple Areas

According to a Canada Post/True Impact Marketing study, physical print performs better than digital communications in three key areas:

  1. Cognitive load/ease of understanding
  2. Motivation/Persuasiveness
  3. Attention span (i.e., how long subjects viewed content)


Further findings from the study are as follows:

  • Direct mail requires 21% less cognitive effort to process, suggesting that it is easier to understand and more memorable than digital media.
  • When consumers were asked to cite the brand/company name of an advertisement they had just seen, recall was higher for direct mail (75%) than for a digital ad (44%).


A separate neuroscience study from Royal Mail Market Reach/Neuro-Insight suggests that print and direct mail have a powerful impact on long-term memory encoding. Direct mail is remembered 35% better than social media and 49% better than e-mail. All brands want to communicate at a deeper level so they can connect with their readers’ emotions. Because print reaches the emotional part of the brain that controls intent and motivation, it is a very powerful touchpoint.


Perhaps the greatest benefit of print is that it works well with other channels. The key to success is leveraging all channels in the most effective way and choosing the right channel for each job. The good news is that new technologies are being developed all the time to make print and digital work better together.


The Bottom Line

Relying on print marketing for certain aspects of a campaign does not have to mean abandoning all other media types. Digital and printed communications have their own unique strengths, but they are strong in different ways. Whereas digital is inexpensive, targeted, and fast, direct mail is tactile, engaging, personalized, and visually stimulating. Tried and true direct mail communications can cut through the clutter in today’s digital world. Ultimately, printed communications attract attention and create engagement because they are remembered.