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Does Digital-First Mean No More Print?

Corporate communication professionals have embraced the “digital-first” strategy in a big way. Recognizing the prominence of digital communication channels and basing design decisions on the use of those channels are commendable practices. Unfortunately, some have interpreted “digital-first” to mean “digital-only”.

Neglecting to include print as a channel that complements and enhances the performance of digital efforts is a mistake. Instead of relegating print to the “old technology” trash heap, organizations are better served by re-defining print’s role in digital communications and omni-channel strategies.

 

Deeper Sensory Engagement

Print is tangible. It can be touched, smelled, heard, and seen. Anything that engages multiple senses affects us at a deeper neurological level. Touching, for example, taps into our haptic memory and triggers a stronger emotional connection.

A variety of specialty coatings, varnishes, or finishes, like foils and die cutting elevates the haptic engagement of any printed piece.  Specialty inks can release smells like a fresh spring day, for example, and a printed postcard can add dimension to digital messages for soaps or detergents.

Print is multi-dimensional and multi-purpose. In addition to the standard corporate collateral and direct mail, think environmental graphics, indoor and outdoor banners and posters, signage and way-finding graphics, and vehicle wraps. Printed promotional items extend beyond t-shirts, bags, pens, and water bottles, to three-dimensional puzzles and hi-tech gadgets. All of these trigger the senses, tickle the imagination, and have long service lives. All make great add-ons to any digital-first campaign.

 

Better for Retaining Information

In a recent Forbes article, behavioral scientist Roger Dooley stated, “Rather than an all-digital world, it appears that a multi-channel approach that leverages the unique benefits of paper with the convenience and accessibility of digital will perform best.”  Consumer neuroscience research firm True Impact and other research institutions support this further by suggesting that printed marketing materials tend to outperform digital along several key dimensions including reading comprehension, recall, emotional impact and persuasiveness.

In addition, USPS studies have shown that people spend more time reading their physical mail than their emails, meaning they spend more time with a brand’s message, absorbing it on a subconscious as well as conscious level. For these reasons and more, marketers should consider a multi-pronged campaign with deeper messaging on paper and quick information hits on screens for an impactful double punch.

 

Imparts Stature

The web excels at distributing information quickly and widely, but print wows like nothing else. Well-executed print pieces, with high production values, glitzy effects, and eye-popping photos, convey high stature for a brand.

 

Personalization in Both Print and Digital

Marketers can easily personalize digital messages, but did you know that personalization in print can be accomplished using the same data?

A recent Accenture study of over 8,000 consumers revealed that 91% of the respondents were more likely to shop with brands that recognize, remember, and provide relevant offers and recommendations.  Imagine the impact of printed direct mail with a personalized message and offer that matches the personalized digital outreach of the brand.

 

Cost Effectiveness

Advanced digital print technology now makes it possible to produce variable, personalized campaigns at affordable rates even in low quantities. Specialty finishing too, can be executed at reasonable costs. It may not make sense to send an intricately die-cut card to every customer, but strategically deployed to a segmented group, such a show-stopping piece can work ROI magic.

 

Generational Appeal

It’s true that older generations have an emotional, evocative attachment to printing. But several studies have shown millennials and other younger cohorts view print as a pleasurable novelty that creates a counterpoint to digital. Want to stand out to a millennial or Gen Z? Research the design trends for the specific generation with which you’re trying to engage and design a combination campaign that touches them with both digital and print communications.

 

Non-Intrusive and Long Shelf Life

For most of us, the bloom has faded on video calls and emails. They are disruptive. Coupled with spam filters, the variety of screen sizes, and the hit and miss nature of social platforms, it can be challenging to push a digital message through the clutter. It’s also difficult to know how recipients will experience a message from one screen to the next.

Print is not intrusive. We can read it at our leisure, and it is much more likely to stay around longer, be seen more often, and experienced as marketers intended.

 

Driving to Digital

Incorporating QR codes and pURLs into print can work wonders to drive recipients to websites or landing pages, and print can even kick start a social media campaign. With the escalation of consumers online presence, marketers have increased their digital marketing and advertising activities. But the messages easily get lost in our inbox and the ads are perceived as annoyances to our screen time. Incorporating print to become part of these digital campaigns can result in a much more engaging customer journey.

Imagine combining the advantages of digital marketing:

  • Laser-focused targeting
  • Personalized user experience
  • Highly measurable and flexible

With the advantages of print marketing:

  • More memorability and connection
  • Added credibility
  • Better engagement
  • Longer lifespan in the recipient’s hands

Creating amplified calls to action in both print and online.

Print may now have to share the spotlight of a marketing campaign in a digital-first world, but it is a critical strategic component that can’t be overlooked. Ask the experts at Bolger for professional advice about how your campaigns can pop with print.