A few years ago, you might have heard marketers claiming we were facing the end of an era for print. Online marketing is cheap, available to almost any business owner, and capable of reaching a global audience, so it seemed like the natural order of things for print marketing to die out. But this isn’t the case at all.
Print advertising spending has dropped only slightly in the past several years, and is projected to remain stable at roughly $24 billion per year in 2021 and beyond. Business owners are still relying on print marketing to spread word about their businesses, despite the advantages of digital marketing strategies. But why is this the case?
First, the cost of printing has dramatically decreased over the past couple of decades, thanks in part to the availability of online services. Printing a brochure online, for example, is much cheaper than printing one at your local office supply shop. That’s because printing companies have invested in new equipment that can operate much more efficiently, and rely on digital files and tools to facilitate more efficient production. This is especially true of higher-run orders, where businesses can decrease their per-unit price to absurdly low levels. Ultimately, this keeps printed advertising strategies in line with digital marketing strategies in terms of cost.
Printed materials also are more accessible than they’ve ever been in the past, again thanks to the prevalence of online tools. Most major printing companies offer online platforms where business owners can create an account, log in, manage their ongoing materials, lay out exactly how they want their items to look, and order something new with the click of a button. Rather than dealing with a salesperson or trying to navigate the complex world of technical printing requirements, they can navigate thousands of options in a simple, consolidated interface. This makes print more appealing than ever.
Traditional advertising and online marketing aren’t mutually exclusive. Naysayers proclaiming the end of traditional marketing tactics tended to assume that if a business was spending $60,000 a year on print marketing materials, they would soon shift to spend $60,000 a year on online marketing strategies. But this hasn’t been the case; instead, businesses would often split their budgets, spending $40,000 on print marketing and $20,000 on new online strategies. In some cases, businesses would simply increase their total budget, retaining their $60,000 traditional spending and experimenting with an additional $20,000 for online techniques. The success of online marketing in no way overrules or negates the power of printed materials.
It’s also important to note that not everyone prefers consuming material in a digital format. About 10% of the U.S. population doesn’t use the Internet, basically rendering them unreachable through digital means. In addition to that, some people either prefer or are more easily persuaded by material that comes to them in a printed format; for example, they may like flipping through the pages of a physical booklet rather than browsing through online pages.
This factor is somewhat dependent on your target demographics. If your audience strongly prefers printed materials, or is better influenced by them, there’s no reason to switch to digital marketing.
Printed ads tend to be more approachable for local businesses; it’s easier to distribute printed flyers and booklets around a neighborhood than it is to climb the search engine rankings for keyword terms related to your city (though this may also be possible). Accordingly, new businesses trying to cater to a local population tend to favor traditional, print-based advertising methods.
New Techniques and Integrations
It should also be known that the world of print marketing today is very different than it was 20 years ago. New techniques, and new integrations with other marketing technologies make it much more versatile—and powerful. For example, thanks to digital lists and inventive printing techniques, you can customize your printed ads with the individual names of your intended recipients. You can also use QR codes or other tactics to send your printed ad recipients to an online or digital destination.
Of course, this isn’t to say that print marketing is a perfect strategy in the modern era, or that it should be favored over online marketing. There are a wide range of tactics available, in both digital and printed formats, and how your business performs depends not only on which tactics you choose, but how well you execute them. A good high-level strategy, backed with research and grounded in creativity, will always succeed more than a poorly planned one, regardless of the specific tactics used to execute them. Keep that in mind as you plan your next strategy—and how your campaigns might evolve in the future.