Trends among retailers and recent research show the power of print: having a print presence matters in our digital world, especially among millennials and younger adults.
For some of the same reasons that many people prefer a printed book to an e-reading experience, consumers may prefer a catalog or magazine to a website, social media or email marketing.
Having a printed page in hand may help the products or messaging stand out rather than getting lost in an inbox or passed quickly by in a scroll of the screen.
Additionally, the power of print can be found in the high-quality printed pieces that can show off a product’s features in a way that a screen’s color and resolution cannot.
“The ROI on print can’t be underestimated,” says Tammy Tufty, Domtar’s communications manager for paper advocacy. “Companies and brands are recognizing that print is still a critical part of an omnichannel strategy and a quality customer experience.”
She adds, “You have digitally native companies like Amazon and Airbnb producing toy catalogs and magazines. I think that alone attests to the strength of print, especially when paired with other digital marketing tactics to drive web traffic and customer action.”
360-Degrees Includes Print
In recent years, more companies have moved to take advantage of branded magazines, periodicals produced for their unique audience. (Think Uncommon Path from REI and Paper Matters from Domtar.) By engaging customers with relevant content delivered in a high-touch format, brands can foster a sense of belonging and community.
Dr. Samir Husni, founder and director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media, says such tools aren’t merely a luxury — they’re mandatory. “How can you say that you have a 360-degree brand if you don’t have all of the components?” he asks. “To have a complete brand, companies need to manifest on all platforms.”
A 2015 InfoTrends study on direct mail found that millennials were more likely to notice print and paper quality and to respond to print catalogs at a much higher rate than older generations.
Internet startups such as makeup brand Glossier and menswear brand Bonobos, as well as longer-established companies with brick-and-mortar stores, such as Restoration Hardware, are looking to catalogs for a boost.
More recently, Harvard Business Review published results of a large-scale field experiment with a luxury e-commerce retailer that showed lifts in sales and inquiry when email marketing was combined with a catalog.
“Consumers are surprisingly enthusiastic about receiving them — response rates from catalogs have increased by 170% from 2004 to 2018,” the article says. “The effects are not just confined to digital laggards who do not go online — in fact, there’s evidence that millennials are particularly interested in catalogs they receive in the mail.”
The article adds, “Their real power is how — for certain products — they increase the vividness of a product by enhancing consumers’ ability to visualize and imagine product usage experiences.”
Power of Print: Making an Impression
Debora Haskel, vice president of marketing and corporate communications at IWCO Direct, also notes the importance of print for modern marketing.
“I think that has continued to drive the trend toward higher-quality print marketing materials,” she said in an interview last year. “Younger generations respond to the combination of paper, design and print.”
“It establishes a different kind of presence for them and strengthens their brand,” she added. “It gives people something to touch and feel and hold, and companies are learning that paper-based marketing is an important part of their brand identity.”
Haskel said if you’re the owner of a company and you’re getting something printed, you notice how paper, design and color come together to create an impression, even if you don’t realize that’s what you’re thinking.
“A low-end sheet of paper conveys a message that the product is low-end,” she said. “But high-end materials create a promise of quality. Customers aren’t coming into a store to feel and see the products, so you have to convey that in other ways. Paper is turning out to be an effective way to do that.”