print marketing isnt dead

Print Marketing Is Dead – Long Live Print!

Print Marketing Isn’t Dead! (Part 1 of 2)

“Print marketing is dead” is a statement I have heard numerous times in the past few years. In this world of digital, well, everything, printed documents are often considered a dying holdover from a different age. In many ways, this is true. Print marketing tools such as mailed brochures or flyers aren’t as common as they once were. Gone are the days of the 800-page Sears catalog, or even the traditional giant phone book. There is an increasing push to move more and more online, from advertising to support information.

However, before we send flowers or write a eulogy, we should step back and take another look. As the business world continues to integrate digital marketing more and more into the toolbox, there is a growing resurgence of traditional marketing techniques. Print is a big factor in that, for many reasons.

This is the first half of a two-part series about why print marketing is still very relevant for businesses, and some of the factors that are helping to make print more exciting and effective than ever for marketing.

Why Print Marketing Still Matters

In our world of email overload, disappearing Snaps, and pop-up ads, printed pieces still have value, in fact, perhaps more than ever. I remember when my mailbox was full of different printed brochures and catalogs, all competing for my attention. Obviously, it was the cool and innovative ones that stood out the most, and often got kept long beyond their relevant lifespan. Why?


Print is enduring

When I see an ad on my computer or phone, it is often fleeting. If I say “I’ll check it out later” and go back to that same webpage a few minutes later, it is often gone. If it pops up in my Facebook feed, and I don’t click right away, I usually won’t find it when I go back later. And talking to my friends and colleagues, I know I am not alone in this experience.

When I receive a printed marketing piece, whether in the mail, at a trade event, or at a retailer, I tend to hold on to it until I choose to act on it. It may not be in the same day or even week, but It’s attached to my refrigerator, or in my projects folder, or wherever, and there when I want to refer back to it.

And if it’s a really nice piece, I might just hold onto it, well, just because it’s really cool, or gives me inspiration as a designer.

Likewise, think about the market for old movie posters, print ads, and magazines. We may call them nostalgia,  but people pay big bucks for print items from past eras. I have a hard time imagining banner ads or pop-ups being a collectible item 50 or 100 years from now – if you could even find a way to retrieve them.

Classic Mars Candybar ad
Nostalgic magazine ads are popular collectibles today.


Print is tangible

Digital content can be engaging and interesting, but it will always be pixels on a screen, unless you print it. People like to be able hold onto something, feel it, smell it and know that it has substance. Printed pieces bring that “realness” that you can’t get out of an onscreen image.

Ebooks are popular and convenient, and I know a lot of people who love reading from their Kindle or iPad where they can store hundreds of books in a device the size of a thin paperback book. But for many people, it always feels like something is missing. There is a certain satisfaction in turning the pages. And the batteries on a real book will never run out and leave you hanging.

Print marketing flyer for La-Z-Boy recliners
Direct mail campaign mailer – graphic provided by EPI Printers, Inc.

In addition, the tangible aspect of print can be taken to another level. Different paper weights and textures can create a powerful tactile response. With different coatings, inks, and papers (more on this later!), it’s possible to create different experiences that a smooth glass screen simply can’t emulate.

And for those die-hard digital types out there who truly feel that paper has no place in our modern world, there is this gem: Emma toilet paper ad.

marketing 6pack quiz

Print is sustainable

One argument frequently used against print is that print kills trees and is bad for the environment. While it’s true that print does consume paper, much of the paper used comes from managed forests or from recycled sources, especially in North America and Europe.

Far more trees are cut down to produce crops, meat, and construction materials than for paper. In fact, when it comes to paper use, most of the deforestation related to paper use is for the manufacture of cardboard and other packaging materials, especially from countries like China.

Another big shift has been in the availability of quality recycled papers. Not very long ago, “recycled” typically meant sacrificing visual appeal. Today, the options for recycled paper allow for virtually limitless creativity.

Recycled paper logo
The recycled paper logo lets customers know you are doing your part for sustainability.

Does this mean that there should be a free-for-all on using paper? Of course not. But it shouldn’t feel like a social or environmental taboo. By using recycled materials when possible, and encouraging customers to recycle, printed materials can be an effective and environmentally responsible part of a marketing campaign.


Print works

Print gets a prospect’s attention. In fact, according to Marketing Tech News, people will immediately act on print almost 80% of the time, as opposed to only 45% for email. When it comes to direct mail vs. email campaigns, the difference is even greater: targeted direct mail generates a response rate of 4.4%, vs. only 0.12% for email.

Some of the most effective marketing campaigns combine both print and digital techniques, for example using a mailer with a clear call-to-action to send recipients to a website or to get them to scan a QR code. By implementing print into your digital strategy, you increase your user engagement, and often reach an audience that may not respond to digital marketing alone.


Wrapping up

Print is a powerful marketing tool that is more relevant than ever in our digital world.  The industry has changed dramatically over the past few years, and many of the old beliefs about print, especially for small businesses, are no longer true. It is an affordable and practical solution for companies of all sizes, and can be an effective way to reach consumers, boost sales, and strengthen your marketing.

Check back next week for the second half of our story on print, where we will discuss some of the incredible new technologies and services available through many printers. See you then!

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  • Ralph Lucius

    May 15, 2018

    I see print and digital marketing finding a collaborative sweet spot similar to how brick-n-mortar stores are finding a synergistic balance with online sales.

  • Earl Peters

    Earl Peters

    May 15, 2018

    I completely agree. A few years ago, we kept hearing how print was going to go away because of digital. But the opposite is true – companies from small to large are learning how to use both approaches together with great results.

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