Paper Beats Screen: 7 Reasons Why Paper Belongs in Your Marketing Mix
Direct mail persists because it works. Throughout the rise of digital marketing and advertising, print-based direct mail has continued to have an important place in the marketing mix, and research confirms this. Studies have shown that 98% of people check their mail daily. Millennials, one of the most coveted marketing demographics, aren’t immune to the allure of printed mail. Research found that 36% of people under the age of 30 look forward to checking their mail every day. Paper direct mail pieces also have advantages over their digital counterparts, many of which are overlooked, but they are crucial differences that can make a meaningful impact on any marketing campaign. To that end, here are seven strengths that paper has over pixels:
1. Physical Permanence Means Greater Staying Power
Paper has mass, shape and heft. People interact with paper pieces differently than they do digital marketing. The experience of paper is tactile and real. Paper pieces also have longer “shelf lives” than ephemeral digital messages, allowing them to continue to provide value, awareness and recognition. Paper occupies physical space and thus, more of the all-important customer mind share. Catalogs can be left around the house, and books and magazines often remain in circulation for months or years — shared, bookmarked, tangible, physical reminders. Contrast that with trying to remember (or find!) an old email offer once it gets buried in your inbox.
2. We Experience the World in Multiple Dimensions
The dimensionality of paper leads to more robust, memorable and “sticky” physical interactions (folding, unfurling, tearing open, scratching) to hold attention and make a memorable (and brand-appropriate) impression. Research has shown that when people interact with a physical object, more connections are made — crucial connections that the best brands need to engage a busy, distracted audience. Marketers need to employ every advantage to communicate with customers, and doing so with a printed piece that exists in the real world is a great place to start.
3. Personalization Can Power Paper
In digital media, we expect our experiences to be personalized—from Amazon home pages to Instagram feeds, everything is customized by hidden algorithms, cookies, login data, or some other way. Digital personalization is so ubiquitous that it has lost its impact. These powerful tools are now table stakes, but they are not the sole domain of digital marketing. Paper direct mail can be powered by the same kind of custom information, personalized for each recipient, whether it’s based on demographics, purchase history, geolocation or some other variables. Coupled with the power that physical mail has to surprise and delight audiences, these data-customized mailpieces now have even greater efficacy. It’s clear that combining data and the tangible benefits of paper is a winning formula.
4. Controlling the Format Lets You Control the Storytelling
Print allows nearly unlimited customization — of size, shape, page count, materials and more — and all of these factors let marketers control how a story is told. Being able to specify the size of elements, reading pace, the speed of information, how large and significant elements are — all help ensure that marketers can tell brand-appropriate stories that communicate in the ways that connect best with their audiences, products and services. Rather than viewing everything in the flat landscape of a screen-based digital device, print allows brands to tell a variety of stories.
The early grade school lesson “sharing is caring,” is not just a learned kindness, but it’s also an important marketing lesson, and printed matter brings this truth to life. A book can be borrowed, a coupon shared or physically mailed. Important documents can be read and underlined by multiple parties, which is not always the case with digital marketing pieces.
The act of sharing a paper direct mail piece lengthens its life and efficacy by adding opportunities for further action—not just between brands and their audiences, but between multiple consumers. Shared coupons turn into an excuse to talk and evangelize a brand. A marketing piece that travels is one that provides a better ROI, creating new brand touchpoints (and new audiences) everywhere it goes. These interactions germinate over time into brand advocates and fans.
6. Effects and Finishes Can Engage the Senses
Marketers who utilize paper have many “special effects” in their arsenals to grab attention and to make a print piece more noteworthy or covetable — using touch, smell and sight to communicate. Print can employ bright, saturated colors, glow-in-the-dark inks or thermochromic foils and inks. Texture and hand-feel are not just the domain of physical products, too. Printers can replicate organic textures or supple weaves—leathers, velvety coatings, wood veneers—all of which change the emotional and tactile connections between a person and a printed piece. Paper direct mail can be transformed into a collectible, desirable object, increasing excitement and raising response rates.
7. Paper Still Carries Clout
Printed matter costs money to design and produce, and that budget spent on a physical object is readily apparent. Thus, physical print materials still carry an air of credibility and legitimacy. If something is printed, it’s tangible. Who hasn’t written a blog post? But how many would-be novelists have written a book? The second has more authority behind it, with a gravitas that the screen can’t match. The investment in production, time, craft and materials shows through in most types of printing, and that value is more obvious because of physical production.
These are just a few reasons why direct mail and print not only persist — but also grow — amidst a changing media landscape. For many consumers, the typical media diet has changed, making print a more singular and valuable experience for both marketers and their target audiences. This is a great opportunity for marketers looking to make substantial connections with their audiences, and also make a difference in their next campaign or marketing push.