Why are brands using print in the digital age?

Lisa Nethercott

By Lisa Nethercott
14 Nov 2019

5 min read


Usually I start my Fridays by gulping down my family-sized bucket of coffee before I begin my catch-up calls with clients.

One of my calls was with my client, ITC, and we discussed fixed numbers.

Nothing spectacularly abnormal about that, but the reason behind it surprised me.

The ITC brand had begun to invest heavily in print material for their advertising campaigns and required full visibility on how well these print ads performed so they turned to Infinity’s fixed numbers.

I must admit, my first thought was “But, isn’t print dead?”

Apparently not, according to my client.

How foolishly naive of me.

Hopefully, you can forgive me. I assumed digital advertising space now prioritised the budgets of CMOs and CEOs alike.

Alas, I can never just leave it at that.

As a feverishly curious person that I am, I wanted to find out if other businesses were turning back to print marketing, and, if so, why?

I reached out to clients, agencies, and journalists, and here’s what I learnt.

The sprint to print

Earlier this year, we discussed what the growing trend of digital detoxes was having on businesses. This gives weight to perhaps why people are still using print. Are consumers now suffering from an overflow of digital ads?

Is the shiny new internet way of advertising starting to dull its shine?

In 2019, SurveyMonkey found that 74% of respondents in their survey think there are too many ads. These numbers grew to 78% for participants aged 35+1.

Furthermore, according to research which studied consumers’ subconscious responses to advertisements, people generally process digital ad content quicker2.

But when it came to physical ads, respondents spent far longer with them. The ads were also able to create a stronger emotional response in people and embed themselves in their memories.

To support print ads somewhat strong relationship with consumers is Frank Norman, Director at Design Inc Agency.

“It’s because consumers are still reading printed publications, walking past billboards, travelling on buses, trains, trams, and going to airports and events. They live in houses with letterboxes.”

“Advertisers know that the target audiences see different types of media throughout the day. They are aware that digital media is one part of this. But, at the same time, print is a huge part of their daily life. And, as such, advertisers will use all mediums they can to target their audience.”

Frank Norman | Director, Design Inc

So, I pose the question.

Are people suddenly remembering that print is still embedded into our daily lives, but they just don’t see it as clearly with the bright lights of digital advertising shining on?

To answer this, I asked my client, ITC.

“It’s important to use print in 2019, and beyond, as we find that the response rate for direct-mail marketing is higher than digital. When making purchasing decisions our clients keep our print publications in their home, re-reading articles or sharing with others.”

Emma Donovan | Marketing Manager, ITC Travel Group

So, who exactly is using print?

To name every brand turning to print would turn this blog from quick-read to War and Peace.

But here are some of the best examples I found.

In a recent interview with The Business of Fashion (BoF) revealed, Naked Cashmere, a luxury knitwear company in Miami, claimed they’re now diverting digital ad marketing budget to produce a coffee tablesque catalogue. The founder, Bruce Gifford, told BoF:

“It’s been a terrific way to acquire new customers. We’ve actually reduced paid social to increase our budget for catalogues.”

Naked Cashmere isn’t the only brand to jump on the printing press.

Nestle owned company, has begun direct-mailing advertising. Lucky receivers of the DM received a free kit-kat chunky.


Upmarket department store, Fortnum and Mason, produce a yearly gift guide in the form of a catalogue for customers to order via phone/website. And Bonobos, a Walmart-owned menswear company, produce their own catalogues in-house.

When do I use it?

Whilst I’d probably be fired for advocating the abandonment of all digital advertising, I’m now more than ever seeing how effective print media can be. It’s all about harmony between the two.

“If your target audience reads print magazines as a part of their day, there is still a reason to consider print ads in your marketing mix”

“However, you need to adjust the expectations of actions your audience will take. Print ads will be more effective if they are a complement to your digital campaigns and entice readers to interact with your brand online.

Jeannie Ruesch | Former Senior Manager, Customer Marketing, Xero

In 2019, and most likely onwards, print will present itself in the form of beautiful storytelling.

Concise copy and detailed pictures will work cohesively to deliver brand messages, sell products, and raise the allure of a brand.

There’s no real need to display every product and tell everyone who you are. That’s what your website is for.

“Throw out [the] pre-conceived notion of what a catalogue is, and use it as a conduit to deepen the relationship between a consumer and a brand. Beautiful storytelling around the product allows consumers to go much deeper than a digital transaction or being retargeted when they’re surfing the internet.”

Colin Nagy | Head of Strategy , FF New York

But, how can I track it?

The beauty of digital advertisement means not only can you raise awareness of your brand on a mass scale, but you can also track down how each ad performed, where visitors originated from, and how many sales you obtained.

But, the elephant in the print room is that print advertisements are slightly harder to track.

But, not impossible.

Marketers can attribute a specific ad’s contribution to an up-take in sales in one particular area, or even review online sales after the of a print-ad launch.

However, obtaining granular results can be challenging.

This is where call tracking plays a key strength in your print attribution. By assigning a fixed number to a specific print ad, you can track exactly:

  • How many calls were received from the ad?

  • What areas they were from

  • How many sales were made during the call

Not only this but with the added injection of Infinity’s Conversation Analytics you can also reveal the following

  • What people were discussing on the call?

  • Did they use certain keywords related to an offer, product, or service?

  • How do they feel about your goods?

  • Was a competitor mentioned?

  • Were they happier at the end of the call than the beginning?

The return, or rebirth?

After I showed ITC how to order the fixed numbers, I made a mental note to ask for their luxury travel catalogue.

Whether or not this accidentally falls onto my husband’s desk, who knows. But what is certain is that, is that print is still extremely relevant in 2019, and onwards.

Happy printing!

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