Print Marketing V Digital Marketing

Is digital cheaper, less crowded and more measurable than print?

We like the BookBook YouTube ad produced by Ikea*. If you’ve not seen it, it’s below and it’s great.

As new tech and digital is losing some of its gloss, more and more marketers are rediscovering print. Like the guy in the ad points out – there’s lots to like about print. And when digital channels become more expensive to use and digital noise increases, it’s gradually losing its sexiness and people are returning to print (but don’t take our word for it – here’s just one example in MarketingWeek covering Next’s return to direct mail).

Now, we’re not here to persuade you to stop your digital work. We love digital here at Printing Brain. But we wanted to have a look at some of the facts and fiction that have grown up around digital and see if print can compete on several key areas: namely price, channel noise and attribution.

Digital’s Cheap?

There’s lots of work you can do via digital channels that’s cheap. Most popular platforms, like Twitter or Facebook, are free to use so you can publish and start connecting with your target customers pretty quickly and not spend very much. There are even free tools like Hootsuite that let you publish to multiple platforms simultaneously – again for free. Which is why we all give them a go and put quite a bit of effort into making them work.

So what’s the downside?

Well, if you’ve spent any time publishing through social media channels, you’ll probably have encountered two major problems.

Firstly, creating the content isn’t necessarily cheap. Your time and the time of designers and writers – it all costs. Origination whether it’s for digital or analogue channels, eats up resources and that equals cost.

Secondly, It doesn’t take long using these ‘free’ channels before you realise they’re not free but free-mium. All of them try and monetise you as quickly as possible. You start to find that your Facebook posts aren’t actually reaching all your followers. Or you can’t post to all your channels through Hootsuite, or access the reports you need. No, to access all your followers or find the insightful data you need, you’ll have to pay for it. And even if it starts off as a micropayment, you’ll be surprised at how quickly lots of micropayments add up!

£acebook Facebook logo

Digital – not as cheap as it first seems

And all that’s before you start with your Adwords, Linkedin or Facebook advertising campaigns. These can suck up some serious moolah in direct costs – but they also need continual tweaking and tinkering and improving and that’s a further pull on yours and your team’s budget.

The price of print

Just like digital, print can range in price from expensive luxury case-bound books to cheap flyers or cards. So by anyone’s judgment, it really is a mistake to see print as expensive and digital as cheap, because there’s such a variety of solutions.

Print comes in all shapes and sizes. They key is to find the right format for your job.

Print comes in all shapes and sizes. They key is to find the right format for your job.

Just like digital, print is all about getting the right message to the right person at the right time. And just like digital, the trick is to choose the right media for the right job. In digital’s case that’ll be the specific app or website, whereas for print, that’s the right format and distribution mechanism.

And while it’s not as immediate as digital, print has done its job for hundreds of years and in the age of big data and low cost printing options, it’s possible to quickly produce, cost-effectively distribute and target exactly the right people in just the same way as you can with digital media.

In a similar way that digital platform holders give you tools to target specific profiles, we’re all able to do that with either existing customer data or when buying in new lists of prospective customers.

But let’s have some hard facts. Well, they’re notoriously difficult to find because, understandably, people don’t want to publish their valuable channel data. However, research has been done and it is available if you know where to look. We’ve grabbed some of the most interesting of the digital v print stats that we can find which might just make you think again about putting that extra money into online channels.

  • Charitable donations are 3x higher in response to direct mail than email (Research by Campbell Rinker, 2012)

  • Catalogues and Inserts are 11.5% cheaper than email per lead/order

  • The average open rate for prospecting direct mail is 91%, compared to 11% for email. (Ebiquity Rapport)

  • Between 2006-2009, the ROI on direct mail increased from £1.57 to £3.22 – attributed to improved targeting. (OMD Brand Science)

  • 76% – increase in online purchase by a catalogue recipient against a non-recipient (Royal Mail 2010)

  • 109% – amount of extra time website visitors who received a catalogue spend on retail websites compared to the average site visitor (Market Reach/ComScore)

Digital’s easy to attribute

Not any more. Ever since customers have been exposed to multiple types of media, their journey to conversion has become increasingly complex. In the early days of digital media, many marketers were slow to catch on to this complex journey – or rather the tools at their disposal were. But as tools have developed to measure it, marketers have had their eyes opened to increasingly complex customer journeys and the road to attributing marketing spend and ROI to specific channels has become exponentially difficult.

Long gone are the days of last-click attribution to give any meaningful insight into where the marketing budget should be spent.

Which is ironic, because, of course, attribution is one of the key reasons people went digital in the first place. It’s quite difficult, they argued, to track the impact of old media, whereas with digital, you put your spend out there and you can track it back in, in terms of orders.

direct mail photo

Effective and measurable – direct mail

Well, that’s no truer with digital than it is with most print campaigns. Impact of a campaign is detected in increase in orders of course, but it’s also felt in increased online-chatter and visits to websites too.

For example, Tesco reported a 50-100% increase in the search term ‘Tesco Clubcard’ after each quarterly mailing to their Clubcard database.

Print can also have a marked uplift in order value. Check out the link to our infographic at the bottom to get a sense of what kind of ripple effect you can expect to see through digital channels from your print campaign.

So, in the measurability stakes, each channel has its own challenges but print is arguably no more or less measurable or its effects attributable than the other channels at your disposal. All need a full understanding of the interplay between them to truly understand how you find and entice your customer to spend their money with you – and to understand where to spend your budget.

Channel Noise

When it comes to noisy channels – where your message gets lost amongst all the messages from other advertisers – then digital doesn’t look so good.

There’s so much competition on digital (because it’s cheap, remember!) that every man and his pop-up store will have a go. And that all drives down effectiveness and drives up cost, be it in Adwords click prices or post boosting on Facebook.

The effect of this noise is graphically illustrated in the much lower open rates of email compared to direct mail (91% compared to 11%) – both similar direct channels but one with much less competition.

And of course, direct mail has a 100% coverage in the UK – far higher than any online channel. And for the 20% of the population who don’t go online at all (or the 51% who do it ‘without enthusiasm’), print is arguably a very noiseless channel indeed.

The benefits of multiple channels

Obviously, there’s a wide variety of print prices just as there are a wide variety of charges for social platforms and email sends, and it’s our challenge as marketers to choose the right channel, or mix of channels, for the right job.

But there is an increasing amount of evidence that multi-channel approaches, combining digital with analogue channels, provide additional benefits and increased ROIs from single channel approaches – and print is a key component in many campaigns. We compiled this infographic to highlight some of the more interesting findings.

How Print and direct mail drives online search and conversion

Click to Zoom into the stats. How print and direct mail affect online search and conversion

Of course, to get the most out of print, it’s vital that you choose the right format for the job. Just like digital channels, it’s also important to continually refine existing formats and test new ones to increase response rates. Ideally, you’ll also understand what your competitors are up to and what the latest developments are in the field. In digital circles, that’s what media agencies can help with. In print, that’s where print managers can help.

But that’s another story for another day.

Feel free to contact us if you need any advice or help with your print marketing or take a look around the site for useful information to help you get more from your print.

*We’re happy to say that not only do Ikea produce a great catalogue, but they support its launch with a leaflet (which we managed!)

Ikea catalogue leaflet

‘Our’ supporting Ikea leaflet.


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