Telling Your Story—Digital or Print?

We all love a good story. What’s the best way to tell it? Clients often ask us whether to invest precious marketing budgets in digital OR in print advertising. With the constant buzz about new technologies, people wonder if print media have become obsolete. Yet they also are not confident that electronic media truly motivates their specific audiences. This is a classic modern dichotomy: Can print really be passé if digital media are not serving all needs?

Soothsayers began predicting the demise of print media when radio was invented. Certainly, radio, TV and the internet have each led to dramatic changes for print: A study by the Pew Research Center, for example, found that 30-50 percent of every demographic except seniors uses mobile devices to follow news. Another study by Valassis documented that despite being considered “digital natives,” even Millennials are heavily influenced in their purchasing by print ads. These studies show why—at least for now—the answer to the question our clients pose is: print and digital media are BOTH important and each offers different opportunities for telling your story.

Print Maximizes Memory
The longer electronic media is around, the more research documents that readers absorb information differently in print than they do on screen. It seems that the physical experience—flipping pages, locating information in spatial context, etc.—of engaging with print media provides a multi-sensory experience that improves information retention. When people say they like the smell of books, that’s not just nostalgia talking, and the effects aren’t just limited to books. Studies show that people also remember significantly more ad content after paging through a print document than after seeing the same ad online.

So tell your story in print ads to make an impression readers will remember later, when they are prepared to take action.

Digital Boosts Connectivity
From the audience’s perspective, digital advertising offers the irresistible potential for immediate gratification. Barriers to taking the next step are minimal—a reader doesn’t have to remember anything or talk to a person on the phone. They click through to instantly discover more—including text, imagery, and video. From the client’s perspective, online advertising offers the promise of data about how users move through a site and what engages them most.

So tell your story digitally to reach readers who are already prepared for action and have the time to investigate your organization right now.

Accessing the Best of Both Worlds
Planning a marketing campaign across multiple platforms requires thoughtful coordination of messaging, timing, and budgets. At Good Design, we have helped many clients maximize their ad dollars by consolidating purchasing with larger, multimedia publishers. Some newspaper and magazine publishers will bundle free print advertising into a group buy of their digital products, such as banner ads on relevant websites and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) programs.

We also have been helping clients make use of “Augmented Reality” techniques to bring print to life. When readers scan a print piece with the viewfinder of a mobile device, an embedded link takes them directly to further content. This is a more elegant and deeper version of QR codes because, with some planning, readers can segue from the strong impression of a print piece to instantly taking the next steps online. Doing this, of course, assumes that advertisers have told their stories in both media to begin with.

Technology is constantly shifting the landscape of marketing. Making the most of each opportunity means understanding how audiences interact with each new media. Regardless of the medium, your story is the most compelling link to your audience.

Gabrielle Good Hoffman is the co-founder of Good Design, based in Connecticut. For nearly three decades the firm has specialized in developing effective marketing strategies and multi-media materials corporations and independent schools need to succeed.


By Gabrielle Good Hoffman
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