Digital media is all around us. As consumers, we are constantly bombarded with awareness campaigns and tailored ads, written by a myriad of different companies, all relentlessly fighting for our attention.
But the truth is that, as personalized as digital marketing can be, it’s still limited by the medium through which it is consumed: a flat, texture-less, rather lifeless screen. Digital catalogues are artificial, intangible, and in a way “unreal”.
Sitting with a printed magazine on your hands, however, is a whole different experience.
Print media is a more palpable medium, which literally “forces” customers to physically connect with your brand. On a time when e-mail inboxes are full and a single swipe can delete an unopen newsletter, a physical print can be exactly what your business needs in order to:
– increase awareness of your brand, and
– build trust with your customers.
There has never been a time when people have had a stronger desire to disconnect. A survey of over 1000 consumers in the UK (2017) revealed that 47% of them believed they spend too much time on electronic devices, with 31% suffering from “digital overload” (that number rose to 58% amongst the 18 to 24-year-olds). Another study showed that the impact of digital consumption on health is gaining attention: fifty-three percent (53%) of over 10.000 participants were concerned that the overuse of electronic devices could be damaging their health, causing eyestrain, headaches and sleep deprivation.
Add to that the intrinsic benefits of print media (described below) and the fact that 57% of consumers admit to doing their best to avoid online advertisements.
Have I picked your curiosity yet?
What exactly are the benefits of print over digital media?
Permanence: Print is durable
Catalogues, posters, booklets and other printed media are physical items that can stay in offices and homes for months after they are received. The fact that they require space means they can remain on a fridge door or on top of a coffee table for days, where they will be available at any time one wants to continue reading.
How often do you go back to an e-mailed newsletter, a Social Media post or a digital ad?
Authority: Print inspires trust
With most people overwhelmed by more-or-less relevant digital marketing, there is a certain feeling of legitimacy that comes from printed media. It requires a higher investment from a company, and it is therefore perceived as more deliberate and well-thought. Most people believe that the information they find in printed magazines and newspapers is credible and accurate. It is simply taken more seriously.
A reason for this can be the fact that for our brain, our sense of touch is our “sense of truth”. We’ve all misheard things or been fooled by our eyes, but I’ve never heard anyone say they’ve “mistouched” something. On a subconscious level, tactile stimuli add credibility.
Are you interested in being perceived as a trustworthy brand? Then a well-executed print marketing campaign could be exactly what you need. In the words of Olaf Hartmann (MD, Multisense Institut):
“Digital communication picks the fruit from the tree of brand trust, but it doesn’t make the tree grow. Print is ideal for strengthening the roots of brand trust”.
Differentiation: Print can reflect your brand
Printed media can be manipulated in ways that other media can’t, giving you and you company a much better chance of standing out from the crowd.
Print can be done in a wide range of materials and a variety of special effects and finishes can be added post-print. This translates into countless unique creative possibilities. Besides, print allows you to have complete power over typography, colors, graphics and designs without having to worry about operating systems or browser configurations.
With embossing, metallic foil or glow-in-the-dark ink, or by choosing a specific type of paper, you can convey a message that fits your unique brand and goes far beyond the printed words.
Tactility: Print stimulates more of your senses
Have you ever caught yourself, lost in thought, caressing a soft woolen sweater while shopping? Or felt the irresistible need to run your fingers over a book cover, feeling the touch of the different textures?
We humans love touching things. And the more we like touching a product, the longer we will touch it and the less we will want to give it back. This is why touching enhances readiness to buy.
Reading print is an experience that engages several of your senses: feeling a thicker, more porous paper through your fingers, the smell of ink (or maybe an added scent?), the sound of browsing pages…
Signals that stimulate multiple senses increase brain activity, get more attention and are more likely to be remembered.
Focus: Print is better at retaining people’s full attention.
It is no secret that the digital age has reduced the human attention span considerably. With print media there aren’t any pop-ups or notifications distracting your multi-tasking customer from your carefully curated content. You get your reader’s full attention and focus – which guarantees a greater engagement and deeper understanding of your brand and message.
Memorability: Print can create more lasting impressions
We’ve already mentioned how print stimulating more of your senses increases the likelihood that your message will be remembered. Well, another way to create something unforgettable is by being original, and when it comes to print, it’s fair to say only your imagination sets the limit.
Just look at this campaign (in Danish) for a shining example – teaser: it involves mussel shells and vacuum packing. Every single person who received the campaign reported remembering it and multiple recipients unsolicitedly expressed their enthusiasm for the idea and creative design of the campaign.
Do you want to stand out from the crowd? Get creative with your printed media.
Emotional Impact: Print engages emotional responses.
A research project by branding agency Millward Brown used fMRI brain scans to show that paper-based marketing caused more emotional processing and left a “deeper footprint” in the brain than digital marketing did. The study also found that physical materials are more “real” to the brain and can generate more emotionally vivid memories.
Why does it matter?
Emotions give more meaning and depth to the experience of a brand or product – they help create a bond between customers and your company, leading to long-term commitment.
(Better) Communication: Print is easier to understand and remember
Studies show that students can have significantly higher reading comprehension scores for texts read in printed media compared to digital devices. Research also indicates that readers of print books absorb and remember more information than readers of e-books, and that it takes 21% less cognitive effort to process print information, when compared to digital.
What does this mean for you? Your costumers will probably understand and remember your message better when they read about it on print.
Happy people: Consumers prefer engaging with print
Most people would agree that reading on paper provides a more enjoyable experience than using a screen. An international survey of over 10.000 consumers worldwide found that they preferred to read the printed version of books (72%), magazines (72%) and newspapers/news (55%) over digital options. Over half of these consumers (65%) also believed they gained a deeper understanding of news stories when reading print.
Not only do consumers think reading on print is more enjoyable, but many of them also agree to the belief that they spend too much time on electronic devices (see graph). A lot of people are looking for good reasons to “switch off” and put away their electronics – it’s on your hands to give them one.
Now before you go delete all your social media accounts, let me say this: This is not an either/or situation.
The best ROI (Return of Investment) comes from campaigns across different media. According to Analytic Partners, leaders in analytics consulting, the same media budget spread over multiple channels can increase ROI by up to 35%. Thus, the challenge for marketing professionals lies on finding the right balance among the different platforms and media.
Think of digital and print as bread and butter, they go together. Even better, think of them as coffee and milk and mix them up! You can make your prints more interactive by adding codes for custom apps, NFC chips or QR codes. Or do like IKEA and turn them into a pregnancy test.
Digital marketing is gaining more and more territory but remember the kind of results that print media can help you achieve. In a nutshell:
- Brands and products that are more trustworthy and easily remembered.
- Better differentiation of your brand and product from your competitor’s.
- Increased ROI. See for example Post Danmark’s case (in Danish).
- Increased customer loyalty.
- Happy consumers that enjoy their interaction with your marketing materials and are more ready to make a purchase.
- Your message is understood more clearly and remembered for longer.
Interview with Olaf Hartmann, MD. from the German Multisense Institute for Sensory Marketing – online resource: https://www.printpower.eu/experts/olaf-hartmann/
Delgado, P., Vargas, C., Ackerman, R., & Salmerón, L. (2018). Don’t throw away your printed books: A meta-analysis on the effects of reading media on reading comprehension. Educational Research Review, 25, 23-38.
Mangen, A., Walgermo, B. R., & Brønnick, K. (2013). Reading linear texts on paper versus computer screen: Effects on reading comprehension. International journal of educational research, 58, 61-68)
Canada Post, TrueImpact (2015). A bias for action – The neuroscience behind the response-driving power of direct mail (online publication).
Millward Brown (2009): Using neuroscience to understand the role of direct mail (online publication).
Source: Two Sides (2019) – Busting the myths: A European study of consumer perceptions and attitudes towards print and paper.