The Impact of Print in the Marketing Mix

Many companies wonder why they need a sales letter, brochure, or catalogue, when they can attempt to engage their audience with videos, interactive web pages, apps and even games. The answer is that print is still alive, vibrant and growing.

It is a point that is well worth raising: if print seems outdated and inadequate compared to modern marketing methods, why does it still exist as a medium? Why do we still have books, posters, magazines and newspapers?

The answer is because they are all still effective. And the reason why lies in psychology. The love of the physical is so deeply ingrained into our psyche.

Which is why, as strange as it may seem, Sky’s ‘Buy & Keep’ service gives you the DVD of your digital purchase to add to your physical collection. And they aren’t the only ones who have come to realise the importance of the Endowment Effect.

What is the Endowment Effect?

With over 50% of our brains dedicated to processing sensory information – much of which is touch – it is hardly surprising that scientific studies have found people begin to attribute a sense of ownership to an item after they have touched it, or even just thought about touching it.

This might explain Sky’s reasoning. And it’s not just DVDs people like to own. Despite not having been the main format for several decades now, the sale of vinyl records has been steadily increasing both here and across the pond.

2013 saw a 100% increase on the sale of vinyl records since the previous year, while 2014 saw sales up 50% in America, reaching 9.2 million.

Of course, let’s not forget about paper. Marketers still swear by direct mail – after all, nearly half (48%) of UK residents responded to a direct mail piece in 2012, with the average ROI for direct mail being more than twice that of search marketing.

Paper communication still provides a strong impression, suggesting dignity, professionalism, and gravitas: Prince Charles is quite famous for his letter writing, and Gordon Brown recently claimed £752 expenses in ink cartridges.

Again, there is a strong psychological rationale behind this. Studies have shown that people are more likely to remember and understand information when read from a piece of paper, than read online. This is true even of younger generations, despite them being more technologically savvy.

It’s always a classic marketing gimmick to present new technology as making its predecessor obsolete. Yet despite the vast variety of ways we can communicate digitally, we still send 16.6 billion letters per year in the UK.

And it says a lot that Sky’s digital service, arguably designed to replace physical video formats, now includes the DVD along with the digital copy.

As much as some may like to claim the future is digital, our brains have other ideas.


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