The Quilted Squirrel

The TQS Blog

What Came First: The Chicken or the Ineffective Print Ad?

 

When you hear the phrase “print advertising,” it just might conjure up one of three images:

  1. A Mad Men-era board room, with well dressed men using hand-drawn storyboards to pitch a (possibly sexist) magazine ad to an emerging brand.
  2. Your garbage can, which contains a weeks worth of junk mail you didn’t look at.
  3. Your local penny saver. By the way, did you remember your life-alert bracelet this morning?

OK, we know. Some people think print advertising has gone the way of landlines, fax machines and dial-up Internet. Some companies have even reinvested in new media, and traditional print advertising is sometimes labeled as stuck in the past or woefully old fashioned. Like people who read penny savers. Or Facebook users. Or TV owners.

But what came first, the chicken or the egg?

Do we not use print anymore because it’s not effective?

Or is it not effective because we don’t use it well?

The thing is, with all the new options available to marketers, it’s not difficult to see why some may view print as a waste of money. You’ll only reach people who are physically in a specified location. It’s easy to throw away. It’s easy to lose. And it’s not cheap. Printing and postage costs can be a real budget-buster. So why not just create digital brochures, online banner ads and websites that contain real-time catalogues of your product lines and one-click ordering?

Here at TQS, we know the secret to creating print advertising that people don’t throw away. And we’re going to share it with you, partly because we like you but mostly because we like to live dangerously.

Here’s the secret: create print marketing that isn’t mind-numbingly boring.

Duh.

You open your mailbox and pull out the daily stack of mail. Some bills, a bank statement, a flyer telling you to bring potato salad to the block club meeting. And a big stack of flimsy junk mail. Promotional postcards you’ll never read. Cheap, glossy, generic efforts to convince you that you must buy a new car this weekend, you must sign up for this credit card, you must be interested in this business you ordered a shirt from once in 1998.

It’s not easy to create something that stands out. It takes some really creative thinking. It usually takes some eye-catching design work, a bold message, and a willingness to devote some money to higher-quality printing options. A lot of companies fall short because they’re unwilling in one of those areas. But more often, companies don’t do this because they don’t think there’s a point. “No one reads direct mail anyway.” Of course they don’t, when it’s boring. And the cycle continues.

The way we see it, the fact that most companies are so bad at this is a gift to those of us willing to do it well.

British research group TouchPoints discovered that young adults are 38% more likely to look at something printed on high-quality paper. And they are 32% more likely to trust printed information than information on the Internet.

So for all the companies struggling to find a way to effectively market to millennials, it turns out we might have been doing exactly the wrong thing by focusing so heavily on Internet marketing.

But print isn’t just great for millennials. The baby-boomer generation still relies heavily on USPS (because you can’t teach and old dog new tricks), and is just as susceptible to awesome direct mail or print advertising as younger folks. Eye-catching is eye-catching.

It’s worth noting that even though more attention is given to newer, digital technologies, the printing industry has continued to evolve. You can do some really unique and compelling things with print these days. From die cuts to varnishes and coatings, and even out-of-the-box things like heat-sensitive ink and the emerging 3D printing options, marketers have a whole world of opportunities to create something really engaging in print.

Without very much competition. Like Michael Phelps diving in with your average high school swim team.

We’re not saying print is always the answer. And we’re definitely not saying that just dumping a bunch of money into a cool stock or coating will get you results. Like everything, print should be used strategically and with a specific audience in mind.

What we are saying is that we don’t believe print is an old-fashioned marketing tactic. In fact, we kind of think we’re in a golden age of print. And we think it can be extremely effective when done well.

We can’t answer the chicken question. All we really want to say is: we love print. We do a lot of it here. We also use Facebook and a landline. Hey, we can’t always keep up with the millennials. But we can catch their eye with some really cool print work.

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