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Mission Control / Publications

No Publications? No Direct Mail? No Print Strategy of Any Sort? Big Mistake.

Don’t call it a comeback — printed collateral is a marketing mainstay.

Print Marketing SVCF

By Erica Harmon

Video may have killed the radio star at one point, but then along came the podcast to remind us of the power of audio storytelling. Now, as the digital landscape continually becomes increasingly crowded and cluttered, print marketing is providing savvy marketers an opportunity to cut through the noise and foster deeper connections with target audiences. Here’s why you need to integrate print back into your marketing strategy — and how to do it in a way that bolsters your brand.

Print Is a Novelty

As a medium, print naturally lends a more aspirational air to marketing communications, and it encourages people to indulge in the ultimate luxury: A precious few moments of distraction-free entertainment. We all get mountains of emails. But how often do you get a beautifully designed piece of actual mail?

Unlike digital communications, printed marketing materials reach consumers in a moment they have set aside for reading, while direct mail accesses people’s homes and lives to deliver a targeted sales message. Even for the digitally native Millennial, print is a proven way to connect, with 75% of them reporting that receiving personal mail makes them feel special. Compared with Gen X and Baby Boomer generations, Millennials are the most likely to take action on marketing mail.

Putting it into practice: While a full-scale print campaign may be beyond the limits of your budget, that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the medium. Consider targeting a smaller subset of your audience with printed materials — show appreciation to longtime supporters with complimentary copies of your publication or leave a lasting impression on potential new customers with mailers to high-income ZIP codes.

Case in point: We helped Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s create a biannual publication to connect with donors, nonprofit partners, government leaders and more. The result? An inspiring and eye-catching look into the foundation’s efforts to strengthen the common good.

Print Is Tangible

Screen fatigue is a very real by-product of increased digitization, and the desire for physical brand experiences is only accelerating. As people fill their phone’s photo library with screenshots that they’ll never come back to, the postcard stuck to the fridge begins to carry a bit more weight. The very nature of tactile objects like magazines, letters and brochures commands the user’s attention, and serves to increase long-term ROI and brand equity.

Putting it into practice: Try not to think of print and digital marketing efforts as an either/or proposition. In fact, campaigns are most effective when print is used as one element of an integrated approach. Use QR codes, near field communication (NFC) or augmented reality (AR) to link your printed pieces back to your website or social media. For segmented campaigns, consider driving back to unique, trackable landing pages that speak to each audience.

Case in point: As one of the leading cancer centers in the saturated North Texas market, UT Southwestern’s Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center wanted a way to build relationships with both patients and physicians, online and off. Here’s how we helped make that happen.

Print Is Effective

A study from the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General and Temple University’s Center for Neural Decision Making found that participants processed digital ad content quicker, but ultimately spent more time with physical ads. When viewing physical ads, participants had a stronger emotional response and remembered them better. And perhaps most notably, physical ads triggered activity in the area of the brain (ventral striatum) that is responsible for value and desirability for featured products, which can signal a greater intent to purchase.

Putting it into practice: Avoid the temptation to create a siloed print campaign, opting instead to integrate it into your overall marketing strategy. This ensures that your messaging is aligned across all channels and provides opportunities for deeper engagement with calls-to-action that drive print readers back online.

Case in point: From a bi-annual alumni magazine to university-wide brand messaging, our work with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University had one goal in mind: reach the right audience.

What Can Print Do for Your Organization?

Let’s chat about how print can help you connect on a deeper level with your audience. We have some fun ideas that work.


Erica Harmon Yellow
Erica Harmon Editor

Erica has more than a decade of experience leading messaging development, content strategy and magazine projects for clients in the higher education, hospitality, book publishing and museum industries. At C/A, she helps clients such as Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Niagara Falls USA and Northern Arizona University bring their unique stories to life.

Erica enjoys traveling to places that have pop culture connections: She’s seen all the Goonies sites in Astoria, Oregon, flown through time and space with Doctor Who in Cardiff, Wales, and sang on the Sound of Music hills in Salzburg, Austria. She loves books, magazines, road trips, Broadway musicals and cottagecore activities such as gardening and sewing, but her favorite thing to do is spend time with her fiancé and stepcat.

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