If you talk to any marketers about what they want from their promotional and advertising campaigns, one of the top requirements is the ability to measure how much response they are getting. This is often cited as a reason for not using print, as online is very easy to track and trace. But, with digital print, the ability of print to allow the measurement of campaigns is becoming so much easier. To be in with a chance of catching the eye of the marketer today, you have to provide transparency in results, results, results.

Online is easily trackable – down to minute detail. The message can be changed easily and instantly. You can reach a broader audience. However, there are plenty of negatives. It is a scattergun approach and there is no personalised message that makes customers feel valued. Many people will never respond to online offers, or simply close the pop ups (if they haven’t already disallowed them) without taking any notice.

So, which is best online or print?

When it comes to price there is no contest. Online wins hands down, but for big brands, although there is still a price element, it is more about perception and interaction with customers, and here print wins hands down. It’s all about making the customer feel special, appreciated, important. However, undoubtedly the best way to get a message out is to use both – but use them intelligently in a systematic approach that is well planned, well executed and well defined.

And, harnessing the strengths of electronic communications brings double benefit. First, you can truly ensure the impacts and responses to print. Second, you can utilise a communication channel that the marketers are already tuned in to.

Print has a long history of effectiveness. There are numerous studies that point to the fact that people still value print, and believe it to be more secure, trustworthy, credible and eye catching, and they tend to actually look at it in depth and if interested, and importantly, respond. However, there is no way to accurately measure this from conventional on the page print. But, by using digital print and variable data, including augmented reality, smart purls and even something as simple as a QR code (which if done right can still work well, and prove very cost effective) and linking that to online or electronic communication, all of a sudden you can measure the impact of that print campaign as effectively as you could measure an online only campaign, but you get all the credibility, quality, assurance and customer satisfaction that only print can bring.

You don’t have to work for MI5 to work out that print campaigns have been suffering over the last decade, mostly at the hands of electronic media. But, now increasingly more and more marketers are seeing that the one size fits all approach of online is not working as well as they thought. Yet, those who opt for print are getting better results by using the power and technology that this industry can now offer – after all you no longer have to print huge runs, you can print only what you need; there are more exciting and eye catching substrates available; variable data means sophisticated personalisation so that the brand can reach out personally to each and every individual if they so choose. Effectiveness of print has increased, because there is less of it, whilst those who only print 100 instead of 10,000 find that they can opt for higher quality options or more intricate finishing processes.

Print has more longevity. Print forces the interaction – you make a conscious decision to read that print. Online campaigns on the other hand are a brief flash before the eyes and gone before you have really noticed them. There is no ‘decision’ to engage with online messages unless driven there by print – rather they happen whether you want them to or not. And, as is often the case with messages online, you either don’t notice them at all or find them a complete nuisance. Whereas, a beautiful piece of print that lands on your desk, albeit to drive you online, is something that you will react positively to.

Plus, print means key message retention. Many studies have been carried out by various research bodies that unanimously show that something that is read in print is retained and remembered better than that seen online – so if a brand wants its message remembered then print is the way to go.

The marketing communications world has changed and is continuing to do so. There will be no going back, and as more electro savvy generations come along there will be more emphasis on electronic communication – some of which we have not even thought of yet. Print can still have a place, but it must be measurable. It must be transparent and it must prove return on investment. To do this the best, and strongest way, to ensure survival is to work hand in hand with various channels of communication, playing and manipulating the strengths of each – and yes, print has its strengths that are an integral part of the best multi-media marketing campaigns.

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