6 Reasons Why Print Marketing Is Thriving

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.

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?

Lower Costs

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.

Higher Accessibility

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.

Mutual Existence

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.

Consumer Preferences

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.

Local Visibility

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.

The Caveats

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.

Direct Marketing Agency Triumphs Over ‘Mad Men’

“Wonder Who?” was not an unusual “Mad Men” reaction in 1960s when direct marketing agency Wunderman, Ricotta & Kline, already at the top of the direct mail and mail order agency league table, might be mentioned in a social or business conversation. “What do they do?” was the usual semi-curious follow-up, if there was one.

“Wonder Who?” was not an unusual “Mad Men” reaction in 1960s when direct marketing agency Wunderman, Ricotta & Kline, already at the top of the direct mail and mail order agency league table, might be mentioned in a social or business conversation. “What do they do?” was the usual semi-curious follow-up, if there was one.

In the sacred haunts of ad men (there were precious few women, but more on that later), the direct and data-driven marketing discipline just didn’t have the sex appeal that came with real advertising; especially real advertising that could be seen on television and bragged about over cocktails. It was an exciting world, where 30 seconds of peer-acclaimed, but unaccountable, genius had far more value than judgments based on the measurable and accountable return on marketing investment.

That we now live in a very different world could not be better illustrated than by the recent announcement that WPP has folded 150-year-old J. Walter Thompson, the citadel of “brand” advertising, into Wunderman, described by Adweek as “the first direct marketing agency” and “the darling of WPP.” The result will be Wunderman Thompson, with 20,000 people across 90 markets.

Wrote Avi Dean in Forbes: 

“This comes a couple of months after digital agency VML merged with traditional agency Y&R to form VMLY&R. While these are positioned as mergers of equals, they are essentially a takeover by the digital agencies of their older siblings.

“JWT’s demise is a metaphor of the demise of Madison Avenue.”

The ironies are too numerous to mention.

There must, incidentally, have been a compelling reason for the WPP management’s recent pairing of VML with Y&R to form VMLY&R. Could it have been that folding Y&R into Wunderman after Wunderman had been previously folded into Y&R might have been too much even for the traditional “Mad Men” to stomach?

The “demise of Madison Avenue” can be traced directly to the cultural clash between traditional agencies and their owners who looked down their noses at “mail order” and what became data-driven direct marketing. From the earliest days of the agency, its founder, Lester Wunderman, while optimistic, maintained a healthy skepticism about whether the chasm between these two cultures could truly be breached, given the opportunistic motivation driving most “mergers” of the disciplines.

In the early 1970s, when general agencies realized they needed to be seen to embrace direct marketing, Wunderman was acquired by Young & Rubicam. The embrace, however, spun to clients and the marketing world, was less driven by passion and an honest and sensitive understanding of the changes that were impacting the market than giving clients some comfort if, God forbid, they wanted some DM advice or service. There was — and to a lesser extent, still is — a historical incompatibility of two cultural systems.

The traditionalists mostly considered DM practitioners, if not second-class citizens, not to be the folk you would want to bring to a top client meeting — unless you had to. For those of us who experienced the “had to,” how the “essential” half-hour direct marketing portion of the big client presentation got reduced to 15 minutes and then to five (if there was still time before the client left to catch his plane), however demeaning, made our subsidiary status perfectly clear.

When Wunderman proclaimed that “Data is an expense. Knowledge is a bargain,” most of the traditional advertising world nodded their heads but didn’t quite get the “knowledge” part, or see how it would impact the future of every aspect of marketing. Writing about this future in the last chapter of his 1996 book, “Being Direct: Making Advertising Pay,” Wunderman said:

“The way of creating effective combinations of price and service is by creating knowledge-based direct channels between manufacturers and consumers, in which the media becomes the marketplace. The Industrial Revolution created the practice of branding, but in the Information Age, brand images increasingly provide only a thin shield against competition.”

The ever-expanding “knowledge” of the consumer and the market, made possible by the handling of data and of the accountable value of every advertising spend, are the forces that have propelled CMOs, as described by Avi Dean, to “care less about agency labels than ever before. They care about effectiveness and results.” So it’s hardly surprising that what we might call the “accountable” culture — making advertising pay — has overtaken the “image” culture. Or so it seems.

Because direct marketing had long been “down-market,” to quote an oft-used phrase, it attracted a disproportionate number of very talented women — many of whom knew they would never make it in the testosterone-dominated “advertising business.” Ironically, that’s all changed, as well, and two women have been appointed as “Chairman” (Chairperson? Chairwoman?) and CEO of Wunderman Thomson.

Some veterans of this culture war still insist that “brand” and “accountability” are, if not incompatible, not happily married, either. They mourn the loss of JWT and fear for the clients.

Quoted in the UK’s Campaign, Rosalind Gravatt, former director of communications, Lloyds Banking Group, said:

“I believe that the JWT brand name could have evolved and still has huge cachet (particularly among blue chip clients) in a way that the Wunderman name never will.”

Lindsey Clay, CEO of Thinkbox, was more emotional:

“It feels to me like someone I care about has died … I just hope that the brand guardianship and culture-defining creativity, which were central to the JWT ethos, live on beyond the name.

The loyalty to JWT is admirable, but the premise that brands will lose cachet and suffer when tainted by the Wunderman name and/or accountability, is a remnant of another age.

“Wonder Who?” is a question that isn’t asked anymore. What goes around comes around.

[Author’s Note: As the founder and first CEO of Wunderman Worldwide, the international arm of the original Wunderman company, and after the Y&R merger, the Wunderman member of the Y&R International Board, I’ve been privileged to have had a unique, if slightly prejudiced, view of the changes described above.]