In our digital culture, print is full of opportunities

Just over a week ago, BuzzFeed – a giant of digital publishing – did something very unexpected (don’t worry, the listicle isn’t going anywhere). In the hustle and bustle of the morning commute, New Yorkers were able to cut through the noise of their Twitter feeds, podcasts and Instagram stories with a one-off printed BuzzFeed newspaper. As a statement from the creators reads, “BuzzFeed, a company that was born on the internet and social media, is testing a new technology called print … showcasing the latest news stories and favourite BuzzFeed content in an easy to consume mobile format.”

Was BuzzFeed’s temporary move to print a cheeky ploy for press coverage or a comment on how jaded everyone has become with all things digital? After all, they joked that “fans all across New York will be able to check out the must-read stories without ever needing WiFi.”

This isn’t the first unexpected resurgence of print we’ve seen recently. In November of last year, Mail Chimp launched a new printed postcard and direct mail service, whilst a number of B2C companies such as Casper (mattresses), Quip (electric toothbrushes), and Wayfair (interior décor) are opting for traditional marketing methods such as direct mail, postcards and pamphlets as a way to get round increasingly saturated inboxes (and increasingly saturated brains, too).

So why the switch to print in the first place? When you look at the maths and the science, it all adds up: according to a 2018 report from the Direct Marketing Association, 57% of UK consumers opened post addressed to them, whilst leaflets and flyers are revisited up to 4 times each, giving brands a lengthier opportunity to create a long-lasting impression. Personalised post also has a unique ability to stir up emotions: 55% of us look forward to receiving it, and 79% of consumers say they’re more likely to act off the back of a campaign. Maybe this is why, according to the DMA, direct mail generates 10% more customers than email.

It may sound too good to be true, but print really does have a strong psychological impact on us as individuals. Researchers has theorised that printed materials stimulate more of our senses than digital formats. Because of this, we engage with – and invest in – print more than email, social, or other media. Get the texture, feel, and look of a print campaign right and it becomes a tangible, sensory experience, helping brands connect with their customers on a human level.

This is not to say that digital is no longer effective. After all, our lives have become so intertwined with technology that it’s difficult to imagine a day without its benefits. You wouldn’t run a business without a strong web and social media strategy, whilst emails and landing pages are still an incredibly effective method of communicating to your customers.

What this popularity for print tells us is that the integrity of your message is more important than ever before. In a culture of fake news and social media saturation, print can be used in conjunction with digital to instil value and bring brands and customers closer. Used together with digital, printed materials like postcards and letters can help you make a lasting first impression on a prospect before directing them to an online discount code or a product landing page. A colourful, creative event invitation can be sent to your VIPs including a QR code to a sign-up form. You can leverage the personal, tangible effect of print to demonstrate the worth and value of your brand, product or service. Or, like BuzzFeed, you can do something delightful, unexpected, and create a conversation – print opens the door for all sorts of opportunities.

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