The brand in the hand, the continuing importance of print in the marketing mix
Despite the huge emphasis on digital marketing and the growing influence of social media, print is far from dead. Branded magazines and brochures continue to deliver the highest levels of engagement from audiences across every sector (apart from teenagers). Printed material can communicate a company’s brand values, and tone of voice in a way that digital is still trying to achieve. For example, despite the long vaunted demise of printed newspapers, the fact is that print continues to generate more advertising revenue and copy/reader sales than digital content. Why? Well, it probably comes down to two widespread perceptions — and as my old boss was very fond of saying; ‘perception is reality’.
First, people will pay for print media, newspapers, etc. and they won't pay for digital content. Print immediately gives the impression of value, a tangible sense of the item’s worth. ‘If you've bothered to print it, it must be good’. Digital, on the other hand, feels ephemeral and short lived. (That’s not true of course, what’s published to the web can live forever, but this is about perception). There’s a sense of belonging engendered through the printed copy — it’s only for those who want it and go out and get it. This makes print seem targeted. Newspapers, for example, offer their political sensibility right up front; membership magazines usually declare their audience in the title; business cards are personally exchanged. You don't access the content unless it is for you. I simply won't receive a copy of a professional association's magazine unless I am part of their targeted audience. Of course, I might view that targeted content online. But, my relationship with it is second hand, distant, I don't necessarily believe it. As such I wouldn’t purchase the Daily Mail -- expect perhaps to ritually burn it -- but I might view a widely discussed article online. Of course, in reality, both print media and digital can be targeted. And digital now offers the most accurate forms of audience segmentation through registration followed by immediate content sharing.
The second perception regarding the value of print is to do with time. While there is an immediacy to digital, there is a sense of depth to the printed word. Readers will peruse longer and more detailed articles in print formats. It's true that digital has now exceeded the amount of our time that it commands, compared to traditional media (including TV, Radio and all print). This is partly because of the range of digital media available; online gaming, social and streamed media are all included in the same broad sphere, along with news and connectivity. But that time doesn’t equal attention. How often do you have multiple pages of a web browser open in the background while working primarily on something else? Broadcast media and digital suffer the same problem as each other; that great fear of advertisers: the multi-media-tasker. The constantly-connected Spotify DJ, simultaneously chatting on Facebook and Twitter, while Instagramming in the background and booking a holiday — all seemingly while preparing their dinner/homework/company accounts (delete as necessary). How can you possibly categorise what they are actually doing — with which media are they engaged? In this, print is a marketer’s saviour. You can read and listen to music but that it. It’s not possible to track Ebay purchases and Snapchat when you’re half-way through the Guardian. You have to stop and pay attention. Company brochures become an oasis of calm; you need time to take a look and properly absorb the information. Anyone who simply grabs your business card and stuffs it in a pocket without first looking and admiring is just rude. Print demands time, and the counter-intuitive reality is that we want to give it time. And that is time and attention which print can focus on your business proposition.
A balance between print and digital media in the marketing mix is ultimately the best way to achieve results. Targeting content and media correctly in a way that reflects the audience's needs will produce the much-vaunted 'audience engagement'. And the whole point is that engagement leads to more business. So don't forget print, and don't imagine that the future is exclusively for digital. Print might be under siege, but it isn't defeated yet.
Post by Marc Bates
Marc is the founder of Balanced Agency. With more than 20 years experience, Marc has worked in advertising, content marketing and contract publishing on print and digital projects. His former clients include Microsoft, the British Heart Foundation and the Chartered Institute of Marketing. As a full-service agency, Balanced specialises in branding and content marketing for charities, start-ups, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SME's). Our aim is to develop targeted communications strategies and then to create practical, compelling and cost-effective marketing assets. Balanced is based in Camberwell in the London borough of Southwark but works with clients across the UK. Our customers come in a wide range of charity, B2B and consumer-facing sectors.
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