Choosing Your Medium for Most Impact

Do I continue to allocate resources to print materials when digital seems much more practical?

How do I properly evaluate the cost benefit of print versus digital, ink vs. pixels, paper vs. screen?

How much of my budget should be toward digital marketing and how much for print marketing?

Some projects are best suited as a digital communication while others really should be printed. Some programs could benefit from both printed pieces and digital resources. With ever-increasing sales targets and tight marketing budgets we need to get this right. These tricky questions can be answered more easily by breaking the decision down into smaller parts.

Pixels or Ink

The low cost of producing and distributing digital resources makes a very appealing case for all kinds of digital communication. One thing to consider is that the information consumed online is absorbed differently when compared to information consumed in printed form. We tend to understand, and remember information better when we read it on a printed page. Researchers have given different possible reasons that may help explain this, though it remains a bit of a mystery. One theory has to do with the physical strain on our eyes, consuming energy otherwise dedicated to interpreting data. Seven out of ten heavy screen users - people who work most of their day in front of a screen - suffer from some sort of eye fatigue, blurry vision and stress. Another potential reason has to do with the physical aspects of reading something on a page may help trigger memory - the thickness, or type of paper, the position on a page, even the act of opening a folded piece. The fact is that with so much digital information hitting each of us each day, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to sift through the volume of data to find what we really need to know. Information will continue to be consumed on line but we should keep this in mind when designing our marketing strategy.   

  • Digital communications consume less resources so: save money by preferring digital communications.

  • Retention of information is better with printed materials so: use print to help your message be more remembered.

Email or Direct Mail

If you have a good email list of people who requested information from you, subscribed to your list, or otherwise gave you permission to contact them, your email campaigns will be far more successful. Purchased email lists can cause real problems and are a great way to get blacklisted and have your email automatically sent to spam folders or even rejected. People are more accustomed to receiving mail from sources or organizations they don’t yet know and with the right message you have a good chance of being seen. If you don’t have good email list, direct mail will probably yield better results by reaching more people.

  • Email cost less than posting a letter so: don’t send a letter if an email will do.
  • Email address with user permission are not always available so: avoid sending email from a purchased list.
  • A letter is more persistent so: don’t send an email if you’d like the customer to find it again later.

Printed Materials or Digital Files

Booklets, brochures, catalogs and flyers help customers understand and find your products and services, but these materials need to be produced and distributed to sales teams and customers. Websites and digital materials often provide a great alternative to many of these materials, as their low cost scalability with no inventory, production or distribution needed, make these options very attractive. Yet there are situations where you need to have materials you can hand out to customers, leave with them or even mail to them. Sending the prospect a PDF of a brochure doesn’t have the same impact as walking away with the printed brochure or rack card. These materials can drive interest at the moment and if they sit around on their desk or coffee table they often have secondary impact as others pick them up and give them a look. Another challenge with digital documents is the distribution: as easy as they are to send, they also are often held back due to size, rejected from email boxes or simply discarded by the recipient without even opening. Handing out thumb drives or DVDs makes more sense if there is audio and video as part of the media, but in other situations printed documents may prove more appropriate.

  • PDF digital files can be difficult to distribute so: use printed booklets if you need to hand them out.
  • PDF digital files cost less to produce so: don’t print a booklet if a PDF file will do.