Print’s Role in the Digital Revolution

Technology is cool. It opens up a whole new world of marketing opportunities—email blasts, pURLs, PDA pushdowns, RSS feeds, tweets. But what happens to your message when the iPhone battery is drained, or your format isn’t compatible with your prospect’s device?

What makes electronic media so captivating is that it presents a real-time marketing environment. Print adds a dimension to this experience that is warm, inviting and readers can’t ignore because they are literally holding your message in their hands. No need to boot up or power down. Overlooking the role of print can prove fatal to a marketing campaign. If your objective is to inform, teach, persuade or entertain, print marketing is a must.

Print remains relevant in the integrated marketing communications mix for many reasons. Despite the ubiquity of the Internet, many people just don’t go online. Certain demographics simply prefer print collateral over digital options. Consumers use a variety of sources to gather information about a product or service, but research shows that they seek print when it’s time to buy. Having words and images in a touchable format provides reassurance that bit-and-byte media can’t match. Web technologies provide quick answers, but the responses are often contradictory. Print shows that you found your message to be important enough to commit it to paper and you stand behind what you’re saying. If you’ve abandoned print in favor of e-media, you’re missing out on big sales numbers.

Digital marketing techniques work best when you introduce them in coordination with print. You could post a banner ad and hope those who find it among the 100 million other Web sites click through to yours. But think how much more powerful it would be to use direct mail to drive targeted prospects to a personalized Web site, after which they receive a follow-up “thank you” card with a special offer. By combining print and digital, you produce an educational, engaging experience that speaks more directly and pertinently to your target audience.

Just as you keep up with the latest technology, commit the time to educate yourself about advances in the printing industry. You can create dazzling special effects that make readers want to touch and feel your message thanks to a new generation of papers, inks, varnishes and coatings. It’s a tangible dimension that electronic media can’t impart. And throw away what you think you know about direct mail. The new direct mail uses technology to deliver customized messages that can link to a corresponding Web component. It’s all much less complicated and less costly than you might think.

Companies that utilize the full spectrum of marketing channels realize exponential increases in brand identity, prospects, sales and ROI, but this requires an upfront investment in sound strategic planning. You might replace one static message with many targeted variations delivered through multiple channels, all of which have to be consistent. Those who successfully bridge the digital and print marketing environments deliver a result that is greater than the sum of the individual marketing elements.