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Print's Place in a Digital World
By Norwin A. Merens, Managing Director, NM Marketing Communications

Capitalizing on these elements can make print an effective part of your marketing program now and for many years in the future.

There's no denying that we're living in a more digital world.  Many pundits have speculated that as baby boomers slowly give way to the Internet generation, surely it's only a matter of time before print fades away with them.

I don't expect that to happen. Research shows that for many purposes, print is the preferred medium of consumers and business executives alike. The classic strengths that have made print a powerful communicator over the ages - permanence, tangibility, sensuality, physicality, convenience, portability - still matter to human beings. These characteristics make print an effective element in an integrated marketing effort. The key is understanding when and how to use print.

In order to make those judgments, you need to know the key benefits that print provides you and your audience. From my perspective, print offers seven specific advantages. The first four advantages deal primarily with the physical qualities of print, while the next three are more related to how print is used by your audience. The seven advantages are:

Permanence

Print's durability has a positive impact on every message it touches. It says your message is significant and that you cared enough to put it on paper. Electronic content comes and goes and when it's gone, your marketing initiative disappears with it.

Credibility

The very tangibility, physicality and sensuality of print suffuses the content with a sense of authenticity. The message feels real, it looks real and it springs from an identifiable source to which your audience can relate.

Quality and impact

The beauty of print enhances your product or service, giving it a special appeal of its own and an extra tangible dimension that no electronic media can impart. Print resolution is three times that of digital, so details and fine elements are much clearer. You also have better control of color and the way images are portrayed. Online viewing is subject to the many variations of screen size, color adjustments, brightness controls, screen glare and similar issues.

Multiple formats

Print can be used for everything from a simple three-panel brochure to folders or multipage brochures with foldouts that increase the impact of a panoramic view. Printed materials are subject to the limitations of screen size. For example, when looking at two side-by-side pages online you either have to reduce the size dramatically to get the full view or scroll across to see everything. Online works best for single page views that go in sequence, and you're still stuck with scrolling to get through multiple pages. That can be frustrating if you're impatient and the pages are loading slowly.

Portability

Print is the ultimate in portability and playability. You audience can pick up a magazine at a newsstand or grab your brochure from a trade show exhibit. There are no compatibility issues, no need to keep anything charged and never a worry about screen glare. You can fold print, stuff it, clip it, even scratch-and-sniff it.

User preferences

Most people (80%) read or scan their direct mail, according to a USPS 2006 study.  And print prompts purchases. Online consumers who receive a printed catalog from a retailer are twice as likely to buy online from that retailer as consumers who didn't receive the catalog, according to another study. Print is also a very safe medium. While handing someone a brochure or sending a catalog may seem a bit old-fashioned, no one ever got a computer virus from a brochure.

Personalization

New variable data printing (VDP) and one-to-one messaging techniques let you can personalize each and every piece of your print campaign - right down to the specific photos you use and every word of your pitch. Even without using these sophisticated techniques you can use some simple tactics to personalize print pieces. A folder with insert sheets that can be used selectively depending upon audience needs can be used to promote multiple product lines or services.

Capitalizing on these elements can make print an effective part of your marketing program now and for many years in the future.

Norwin A. Merens is managing director of Glenview, IL-based NM Marketing Communications, an integrated B2B marketing, public relations and trade show/ special events management firm. He may be reached by calling 847.657.6011 or at nmerens@nmmarketingbiz.com. Find out more at www.nmmarketingbiz.com

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