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Commentary & Analysis

If Print Is So Powerful, Why Do Multichannel Marketing Studies Ignore It?

If the benefits of including print in the marketing mix are so clear, why is print regularly shut out of the multichannel marketing studies and discussions in the larger world of marketing? Is it simply because digital channels are easier to track? Or is it something else?

By Heidi Tolliver-Walker
Published: February 7, 2018

There are many mysteries in life, and marketing has no shortage of them. One of those mysteries is why, if the benefits of including print in the marketing mix are so clear—and the numbers certainly support this to be the case—print is regularly shut out of the discussions in the larger world of marketing.

I recently read a compelling argument for multichannel integration put out by Braze, which offers a platform for creating integrated, personalized messaging across devices, channels, and platforms. The conclusions are based on data from its more than 300 million users, and the numbers are stunning. For example:

  • Brands that send cross-channel messaging to customers see engagement rates up to 844% higher than those who send no additional messaging.
  • Brands that send messages to customers through a single channel (email, push, or in-app messages only, for example) see average engagement levels 179% higher than those who send no messaging.
  • When customers receive outreach in two or more channels, their levels of engagement are 166% higher than those receiving only single-channel messaging and 642% higher than those receiving no additional messaging.

These data are in the context of digital marketing, not print, but the psychology crosses channel lines. When a brand stays in regular contact with its customers, those customers stay engaged with the brand. In the digital world, the Braze data shows us just how powerful those simple touches can be.

This principle applies regardless of channel, and print is a powerful tool for customer engagement and retention, too. So where is it in the industry research and discussion? In this industry, we encourage clients to integrate both print and digital. When we study multichannel integration, we study the integration of both print and digital channels. So why does the digital world only study its own? Why is direct mail—a $10 billion industry—ignored?

In part, in the digital world, it is easy to track results across channels, making comparisons easy. Platforms are designed to integrate a specific set of digital channels, and it’s easy to mine your own data. But that’s an overly simplistic answer. If the printing industry can study print + digital integration, certainly the digital industry can do it, too. If they want to. If they want to truly promote the power of cross-channel marketing, and if they want their customers to get the best possible results, why wouldn't they?

I’m turning the question over to you. Why do we not see print included in the overwhelming majority of studies on multichannel integration? Is it because content creators just want “easy”? Because they want to take the low-hanging fruit of readily available data whether it provides a complete picture or not? Or is it something else?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let’s solve the mystery together.

Heidi Tolliver-Walker Heidi is an industry analyst specializing in digital, one-to-one, personalized URL, and Web-to-print applications. Her Marketer’s Primer Series, availalbe through Digital Printing Reports, includes “Digital Printing: Transforming Business and Marketing Models,” 1:1 (Personalized) Printing: Boosting Profits Through Relevance,” “Personalized URLs: Beyond the Hype,” and “Web-to-Print: Transforming Document Management and Marketing.”



By Gina Danner on Feb 07, 2018

"Follow the money." Print is not tracked in these studies because marketers and marketing agencies, in general, are focused on budgets and/or billings. Marketing agencies are able to bill lots of hours for digital management, however, the budgets quickly get eaten up with the cost of print and postage.

It has been my observation that agencies, for the most part, are still adverse to physical mail and only use it as a last resort - it eats up the budget. End clients who know and trust direct mail are the driver for its use.

When we, MSPs doing cross media marketing, do case studies we need to remember to properly test in a way that shows digital only, print only, and multi-channel. We have a tendency to test print only vs. multi-channel and forget to test the digital only effort.


By Glenn Wells on Feb 07, 2018

I've often heard clients state that mailings are too costly to consider, yet they did not consider the value per qualified lead that results from including print: higher-value leads than those acquired via response from single or other channel mixes.


By Rick Levy on Feb 07, 2018

Marketers are also focused on metrics and automation.
Other than Mindfire Studio, I'm not aware of any other automation platforms that work well with direct mail. For Studio to work, the reader has to engage a CTA which links to a landing page.


By Heidi Tolliver-Walker on Feb 07, 2018

You would think that printers would be more proactively talking about the higher value leads and be promoting data and case studies to that effect. If they don't get that information in front of their clients, who will?


By Chuck Werninger on Feb 14, 2018

I'd agree with Gina Danner, it's all about the money. I've seen marketers think they don't have the budget or confidence they can "reach" as many customers with print so they choose the lower "cost per piece" method and settle for the dismal results they get that way.

My customers have recently told me that the cost difference, longer time to market and lure of "higher end digital marketing methods" have pushed them away from print. I think we have to keep showing them it's not a one or the other question but a combination that'll work best in most cases. I believe that printers' lack of promoting digital solutions mean we get excluded from the planning that leads to making smart choices.


By Gina Danner on Feb 21, 2018

We recently did a campaign for a client that we tested print only, digital and print, and digital only.

Print only generated 218 donations. (approx. 15000 recipients)
Digital and print generated 250 donations. (approx. 5000 recipients)
Digital only generated 10 donations. (approx. 5000 recipients)

We will continue to test in this manner for all of our clients where they will allow us to do so.

While the readers of this type of post get it -- too many in our industry still think they are printers. We are all marketers.


By Patti Groh on Mar 08, 2018

We only have 5 seconds to grab the attention of consumers, and print is still one of the most effective ways marketers can do this. Sappi North America has done a great deal of research on the impact of direct mail and the power of print – and the numbers don’t lie. There is an overwhelming amount of data in print’s favor. Print makes an impact and creates a sense of ownership for the product or service that online channels simply cannot match. Leading marketers know that print is not a cost, but an investment and a powerful differentiator. It’s a matter of finding creative, innovative ways of entering the marketing mix to get the attention of decision makers and consumers alike.


By Stan Tan on Mar 12, 2018

There are a few reasons why print is ignored by marketers:
1. Print doesn't generate instant results. It isn't like digital where you run a campaign and you will know whether the campaign performs or not. Print is the opposite. That brochure might sit on your prospect's table for weeks before they take any action. That is the beauty of print. It is right in their face (unless they throw it in the bin).
2. It is hard to measure print if you don't know what you are doing. Some solutions to tackle this is: (1) Use a new phone number for your print campaigns and (2) Use a landing page specific to that print campaign.
3. Print is expensive. However, digital is becoming more expensive. As more and more competitors come into Facebook and Google, the CPC and CPM go up. The cost of print generally stays constant.


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