To the digitally devoted, the idea of print marketing might seem like something from a bygone era.
But rest assured – print is not dead.
Inevitably, the medium has had to move over to make room for the explosive rise of digital, but it’s far from becoming a niche format. Some traditionally digital-based companies have even started to see the benefits of producing printed magazines or content-rich brochures to market their brand (more about that later).
As Content Marketing Institute founder Joe Pulizzi stated as far back as 2012, print may have become the new ‘non-traditional’ marketing strategy; for content marketers at least.
In this article, I want to explore how the print should still have pride of place in any marketing drive and how it can actually work in unison with digital platforms in the marketing mix through cross-pollination.
We’ll begin though by looking at some rather revealing statistics.
Print marketing statistics
According to the CMI’s annual report in 2015 the top three paid advertising methods in the B2B sphere in North America were Search Engine Marketing at 66%, Print or Other Offline Promotion at 57% and Traditional Online Banner Ads at 55%.1 This single stat alone should make it clear that the bottom has definitely not fallen out of print advertising in financial terms.
Of course, this doesn’t say anything about print’s efficacy as a marketing medium when compared to digital. There are a couple of interesting studies that do, however.
The first is a survey conducted by Nielson in 2014 looking into the retail sector and how US consumers arrive at purchasing decisions. The results were unequivocal in presenting the power of printed materials over digital in this area, with 56% of consumers surveyed citing mailed materials as the chief source of information used to make purchasing decisions (some 20% higher than the nearest digital influencer).
Print also has the power to influence B2B end-users, with 45% of those polled in a 2013 ABM survey stating their regular sources of information to obtain business information were magazines. When looking for info on new products or services this rose to 69%. In this second instance, print magazines were just 11% behind websites.
Creating print and digital cross-pollination
None of the surveys I’ve cited should be the reason to abandon your digital marketing strategy of course; just as evidence showing the efficacy of digital shouldn’t be the reason to reign in your print marketing budget. As I have made clear in the past, there are many reasons not to cut back on your print marketing budget, regardless of the attraction and scalability of digital.
Below are a few techniques to help you not only make the most of both approaches but encourage cross-pollination across media, driving and tracking consumers from print to digital and vice versa:
- Use QR codes and personalized URLs to track media crossover
QR codes and personalized URLs are brilliant ways of building bridges between your printed marketing and owned media in the online space. With consumers scanning the codes or entering the URLs on their smartphones at the same time they are consuming the printed material, not only can you drive traffic to your online campaigns but you can track cross-pollination and harvest some interesting data on your users, such as when and where they are interacting with your printed material. QR codes, in particular, allow you to get really creative as well and can be printed onto practically anything.
- Explore the possibilities of variable printing
Variable printing has actually been around for some time and is a technology that allows you to personalize graphics and images as you print them, without slowing down the print process. This is perfect for direct marketing drives where you have data on your intended recipients. An effective use of variable printing could be using it in conjunction with a social media campaign in which you encourage subscribers to sign up for free goodies and, on occasion, marketing materials. You can then target your printed marketing around certain interest groups by harvesting data from Facebook or Twitter. This goes far beyond targeting basic demographics like gender and age.
- Leverage social media
Social media remains the single most effective digital tool for reaching a lot of people in a short period of time. If you’ve cultivated your followings then social media can act as the perfect jump board for launching your printed marketing campaigns. As mentioned, this can be perfect for traffic flowing from print to digital but it can also be used to push traffic the other way.
- Constantly seek feedback
One of the problems with the crossover from print to digital is in getting useful analytics. Despite some of the methods discussed here, this will always be a problem (it can often be a problem with 100% digital campaigns). The simplest strategies can sometimes be the best strategies through and so actively asking consumers what prompted them to visit your website, social media page or even pick up the phone by constantly seeking feedback is always a good start. If you find people are not willing to give up thirty seconds of their time to tick a box then try incentivizing them by offering deals, competitions or access to exclusive content.
- Use CTAs to drive traffic from print to digital
A lot of printed marketing material is passive and designed primarily to spread a product or offer or raise awareness of a brand. By incorporating CTAs into your printed materials that encourage consumers to visit your social media page or website for more info or maybe the prospect of exclusive offers, you can use your printed materials to drive more traffic online. You could also include special promotional codes to incentivize more traffic, whilst harvesting reliable data on cross-pollination.
- Coordinate strategies and departments
One of the main challenges of creating joined up marketing campaigns across platforms and media is internal coordination. It’s important to allow the sharing of data across teams and departments so a complete picture can be seen and your strategy adjusted accordingly at a meta level.
Digital brands leveraging print
As I’ve mentioned, magazines are being seen by some digitally based companies as the perfect medium for content marketing, despite the increased costs associated with production.
Whilst magazines are far from the only option when it comes to creating offline content, they do offer some very interesting case studies with some very prominent digital companies deciding to use them. Below are some examples:
Air BnB released its quarterly travel magazine Pineapple, sending 18,000 copies of the first issue to its registered hosts worldwide.
Net-a-Porter launched its bi-monthly fashion magazine Porter in 2014.
CNET launched its quarterly print magazine of the same name in 2014, which will regularly include exclusive content that won’t feature in its digital publication until a later date.
Clearly, these companies aren’t abandoning the digital marketing model, given that they are digitally based companies, but are instead utilizing the power of glossy high-quality print magazines to promote their brand and encourage greater takeup of their core online offering.
The payoff from print and digital approaches might at first seem mutually exclusive due to their fundamental difference as mediums of communication. And compared to running two digital strategies alongside each other, the potential for analytical convergence and cross-pollination will inherently be more limited.
But, as we’ve seen, there are a number of techniques that allow print and digital to work together and produce joined up marketing that is greater than the sum of its parts.
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