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Print and Advertising: Where It’s Headed

It’s easy to assume that the next new thing will kill the old thing. But in reality that’s almost never the case. Sure, you can point to examples of compact discs killing cassette tapes, but that’s more the exception than the rule.

Look all the way back to the invention of writing. Socrates was afraid that writing would kill human memory and destroy our ability to reason. He thought that any knowledge that wasn’t contained in the human mind was not true knowledge, so he advocated for an oral society. He feared that writing would kill the oral tradition. But we’ve found that both writing and speaking are fully used.

Fast forward a couple millennia to Guttenberg and you get the same argument going on. Printed text was supposed to replace writing in short order. But what we’ve found is that writing is still a part of daily life, jotting down lists, keeping a journal or addressing an invitation – all done with writing. Instead of killing writing, the printing press transformed the way it’s used. Now a skilled calligrapher can command top dollar because the skill is rare and valuable.

In the same way, electronic advertising isn’t killing print advertising. They can and will co-exist for a long time. However, there will be changes and you need to be ready.

Power to Print

According to Forbes, print advertisements have unique characteristics that set them apart from electronic media and give them an advantage in the advertising world.

  • Tangible – The physical connection with a piece of paper is more lasting than the ephemeral electronic advertisement.
  • Credible – Print has always been a curated medium, so print advertisement has the credibility of being vetted before people see it.
  • Branding – The consistent repetition of brand identity through print solidifies it for your customers.
  • Targeted – Magazines and other niche publications give you a way to target your ads to a specific, motivated demographic.
  • Engagement – People read more deeply when it’s printed versus when it’s electronic.
  • Scarcity – More and more advertisers are moving to electronic ads, which means there’s less competition in the print sphere.

To Forbes’ list you could add: control. When you send your advertisement out over the Internet, you cede control over the size and color to the monitor of everyone who’s looking at it. If they’ve set their monitor colors poorly or they have a tiny screen, your advertisement may be a garish blip rather than the masterpiece you created. Plus, you can’t control the number of people using ad-blocking software to filter out all the electronic ads. When you put it in print, you can be sure that everyone who gets a magazine, postcard or flier will see your work in the color, size and location you intended.

Print is Fashionable

It’s difficult to replace the stunning imagery of a glossy, print picture with a screen. Lauren Keyson writes that the audiences that read fashion magazines are different than those reading the websites for those same magazines.  Turning the page and seeing a full spread ad in a fashion magazine showing the latest style can’t be replicated through electronic means. Ads can’t take up the whole viewing area on a website and the size is always contingent on the screen used to view it. For that reason, fashion magazines will continue to be successful. They are, essentially, picture books of ideas and not even Pinterest can compete with that.

By the Numbers

Four out of every five households look at the print advertising they receive in the mail. That’s a drastic advantage over electronic media that’s skimmed, scanned or totally ignored. In fact, just one-tenth of one percent of electronic ads get a response. The rationale is that you can just put more ads out there for free since it’s only electronic. The problem is you’re oversaturating the market. According to Tech Crunch in 1997 200 billion ad impressions gave a response rate of about seven percent. By 2011 ad impressions had risen 1,000 times to 200 trillion, but the response rate dropped 70 times. That’s not a sustainable rate. Before long the response rate will drop so low and the impression rate will grow so large that online advertising will cease to be a viable choice unless something changes.

Non-profit organizations get 78 percent of donations through direct mail campaigns. Since nearly $300 billion was given to charity in 2011, print campaigns accounted for $234 billion in donations. So print is vital to the ongoing health of charities.

You might be tempted to think that email campaigns are significantly cheaper than print campaigns, but you have to factor in all the details to get a full picture. The response rate to email advertising is a paltry 0.12 percent and direct mail is 28 times higher at 3.4 percent, according to the National Mail Order Association. So even though it costs more to produce one print ad versus one email ad, the cost per customer is roughly the same. Direct mail runs about $51 for a new customer, post card campaigns take $54 to generate a new client and email takes $55 to get a new customer.

Print to the Future

Socrates was wrong about writing. It didn’t limit our ability to remember and reason, it amplified it and gave it new, more powerful outlets. Guttenberg didn’t kill writing with his printing press, he brought more text into play which, in turn, drove up the demand for writing. In the same way, the Internet isn’t going to destroy past communication technology, but rather compliment it. It’s more important to find ways to bring print and electronic marketing together than it is to pick one format over and against the other.

The future of marketing isn’t electronic media over and against print media, but it’s a dialog between the two. Even more than that, it’s a way to create dialog with people. Customers can feel like a part of the brand image when they have the ability to connect with a company online and through social media, but the brand story starts in print media and traditional means. Connect your story with the stories of your customers and your marketing will be successful.

About Anna Cruz

Anna Cruz is the editor of PrintPlace's Small Business blog. Aside from running her own online business, her other interests include photography, listening to an eclectic range of music, preparing an international assortment of culinary fare, getting absorbed in the appreciation of online talents in design and illustration among others.

3 comments on “Print and Advertising: Where It’s Headed

  1. dongrgic
    October 14, 2012

    Excellent and informative.

  2. judithc08
    October 25, 2012

    Print advertising would be even more important in business marketing mix, it has a long way to go, it is adapting and changing, but it will never disappear.

  3. Joan L.
    October 31, 2012

    See, I don’t get whoever started spreading the word about print dying. As amazing as online technology is, it can never provide the tangibility and more personal appeal offered by print. Never. That’s essentially where print and online differs. Print will always be around; moreso now that people are starting to get a little tired of being online.

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This entry was posted on October 13, 2012 by in Advertising, FEATURED, News.
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