Is print, as a communications channel, on the rise again

I was at a weekend course in digital marketing recently and the group were talking about various digital marketing communication tools.

When the subject of email marketing came up I looked at my course notes and it stated: ‘one of the cheapest and easy to measure methods of communication’. However, the feeling in the room amongst marketers was somewhat different. Comments included:

Most young people avoid email and converse via social networks
Spam, spam, spam, spam… (and it even has a major carbon footprint according to MCafee.)
I spend too much of my time going through emails that are not relevant to my job.

The comments got me thinking about statistics I had heard from (obviously with a point to make) that 83% of 18-24 year old surveyed believed that reading from paper is nicer than reading off a screen.

My mind also went back to a Management Diploma course I did when we reviewed different methods of communication in an office. I heard the horror stories of email rants and reactions that are possible due to the ease of access to email and the dreaded send button (and the remoteness of the recipient).

So are we experiencing the start of the decline of email as a communication tool for marketing? Possibly.

Its popularity is based on its ease of access and affordability – but its assets are also its greatest weaknesses resulting in many ill-thought out, poorly planned and ineffective communications that cause as much annoyance (and damage) as interest.

Its recent rise in popularity has meant hard times for those involved in traditional publishing and print based industries.

Yet there are interesting things happening in the world of printed communications.

QR codes are very effective at taking offline communications online and now are seen extensively on magazine advert, billboards and the like. The use of PURLs via cross media marketing do a very similar job and enable marketers to message across a number of different channels including print, email and social media. New digital technologies are reducing the cost of printed products and enhancing their effect by utilising improved visual effects, textile appeal and smell!! And the case for print as the environmentally sound messaging medium (www.twosides,.info) is being made after years of being the whipping boy for most environmental groups.

Yet the key answer sought by the modern day marketing communications professional is ROI.The channel choice is insignificant compared to the results that a campaign delivers.And an increasing number of campaigns now use more than one channel. Print has numerous USP’s and can deliver these to the communications mix working alongside other traditional and new media.

After a torrid few years it could be that the printed medium may have found its feet.

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