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The Value of Printed Media in the Digital Age: How Paper Mailers Work Better Than Email

Recently updated on August 28th, 2017 at 06:51 pm

Let’s face it. There is a whole lot of digital media out there, and I mean a lot. So much so in fact that the average American is bombarded with around 34 gigabytes of it everyday, and that’s outside of work. So how can you cut through the clutter and noise of the digital age to to ensure that your content effectively engages your audience? The answer might surprise you — it’s paper mailers.

In an era where print is derided and digital is privileged, it may seem counterintuitive to imagine paper mailers as more effective than email for your marketing campaign. But on deeper reflection it just starts to make sense, and for a few specific reasons. First, print is tangible, and therefore must be interacted with physically. This gives print credibility and lasting power. Second, print readers have much better recall than digital readers. In other words, the message contained in print media has more impact than the message contained in digital media. Lastly, paper mailers don’t strain an already overloaded digital inbox. There’s really only so much information a person can take in everyday. Paper mailers bypass the digital malaise of information overload and actually present your content to an interested audience in a classic and enjoyable format. Which is why the response rate to print marketing is nearly 30 times greater than that of email marketing.

Tangible Is Credible

While email and digital marketing campaigns appear to reach a larger group of people than paper mailers at first glance, this isn’t necessarily the truth. Email and digital marketing are wildly ignorable and often deleted before they’re even read, in fact open rates of marketing emails are usually between 15 and 25%. Whereas print media is tangible and attention grabbing. By their very nature paper mailers are physical, they must be touched and handled; this leads to investigation and of course to being read. What’s more, paper mailers aren’t deleted; they can be re-read, pinned to the fridge, or passed on from person to person — lasting for days, months, even years. This tangibility gives paper mailers a leg up on the ethereal quality of email and digital marketing which often vanishes in the instant of a page click.

Print is also a much more credible form of communication than digital. Print is fixed, all the information is there, and has been proofread for errors by copywriters, editors, and printers. The immediacy of the internet has no time for fact checking or, as we all know, spell checking. What’s more, the pop-up ads and Click Here banners that infiltrate email and digital marketing are distracting and remind people that they are vulnerable to hackers and computer viruses. There’s no need to scan for spyware, malware, or nasty viruses when receiving a paper mailer; it can simply stand on its own as a credible source of information.

It’s Alive

From the very first appearance of affordable personal computers, naysayers have been proselytizing the death knell of print. While it is true that newspaper closings give the impression that the end of print is upon us, the rise in niche print magazines, periodicals, and other printed media clearly demonstrate that the demise of print has been greatly exaggerated. Indeed, the specialty print market that has risen side by side with the expansion of the internet and the decline of generalized print demonstrate the importance and impact that focused print can carry. Focused printed media, such as paper mailers, are vastly effective at transmitting your content and message to your specific audience. That’s because print is far from dead, in fact it’s alive. So alive that print readership has actually gone up in the last two years. Like never before print is focused, vibrant, and wildly communicative. Because it has to compete with the sheer volume of email and digital marketing, print and paper mailers have become a focused and vital aspect of content marketing.

Print further demonstrates its value when considering the presentation of your information. Paper mailers don’t need to be formatted for smartphones, tablets, computer screens, HTML, Apple, or Windows. When customers have your paper mailer in their hands, it will look exactly as it did when it left the printing shop. What’s more, it won’t get lost in a spam or junk folder. It will be delivered just like you want it to look, through rain, snow, and heat.

Print Is More Thoughtful

Without a doubt, our collective attention span has seen a steady decline as the internet has become ubiquitous and our senses are further bombarded by the ever-increasing external stimulation of the digital age. One only need pay attention to the world around them in coffee shops, malls, and other public spaces to notice this difference. In fact research clearly shows that our attention span is not only shrinking but our ability to recall information–even of a personal nature–is also diminishing. Printed marketing, like paper mailers, cuts through some of the clutter and distraction to effectively engage with your audience.

A study conducted at the University of Oregon clearly demonstrates that readers of print media remember significantly more topics than readers of the same media in digital format. Similarly, readers of print recalled more details of each article than those who read the same articles in digital format. In other words, the message of printed media has a deeper more significant impact on its reader than digital media has on its readers.

What’s more is that readers of printed materials have stronger recall and retention of information  when compared to readers of digital materials. This means a few things. First it means that the content of your paper mailer marketing will be absorbed, understood, and stored in the mind of your readers more effectively than those of digital campaigns. This firmly demonstrates the short attention span and lack of retention of information that digital media has on its readers. So while digital media may reach more eyes in a seemingly faster fashion, what those readers are retaining is minimal and not nearly as effective at spreading your content and narrative as printed materials can be. Finally, this demonstrates that paper marketing has more impact than the digital screen when considering the meaning and lasting impact of your message.

Mailbox Overload

I spent this morning like I’ve spent so many mornings before. An average routine, wherein I wake early, put the kettle on, and settle in at my kitchen table to sip on a cup of joe and begin my morning ritual of reading the news and checking my email. In the six odd hours I spent sleeping I received 34 emails, not including those tucked away in my junk and spam folders. I immediately deleted 31 of these without opening them, all of which were email marketing. I opened only 2, scanned their contents briefly, and then deleted them with little thought. I actually read only one of these emails — a brief privacy update from my bank.

Throughout the day I repeat this same ritual. I check my email inbox and delete virtually all of the emails I receive. The reason for this is simple — I get too many emails everyday. We all do. In fact, last year nearly 4 trillion emails were sent and received, so it’s little wonder our inboxes are a little overwhelmed. So overwhelmed that I rarely read more than one or two unsolicited communications on any given day. My email inbox, like so much of the Internet, isn’t informative; it’s information overload. Even if a piece of marketing that could actually benefit me were to arrive in my inbox I would most likely delete it out of habit, just another aspect of my email cleanliness ritual.

Now let’s compare this to the ritual of receiving good ol’ fashioned snail mail, the physical kind. I check my mailbox only once daily, usually when I get home from work. I may find a magazine I subscribe to, a booklet of coupons for local businesses, a letter from a friend or relative, and sometimes the dreaded student loan or credit card bill. The point is that I look at every piece of mail I receive, I examine it to determine if I need or even want to peruse it further. I’m often even excited to open the box and see what’s in store. Whereas I usually have a feeling of dread when checking my email, because it’s become just another chore.

Everyday people change their email address, their phone numbers, their user names, or they add new filters to their email but they still use the same mailbox. That technology won’t change or go out of date anytime soon. Mailboxes don’t need software updates and can’t contract a virus.

No one ever tells me they were “so excited” to get an email from me, but when I send someone a letter or postcard in the mail it becomes a treasured gift, a link between the two of us. Physical printed media, regardless of content, embodies connection in a way that digital media lacks. Digital content is cold and vastly ignorable, whereas physical media is tangible and virtually cries out to be handled, felt, explored and remembered.

Email Is The New Junk Mail

This is because email is the new junk mail. Physical mail is losing its “junk” label and is instead beginning to inhabit that aspect of the digital age we all privilege — nostalgia. If there is one driving feeling behind much of the rise of the internet era, it is the longing for a simpler time, one in which the outside world didn’t crowd our daily lived realities, one in which there wasn’t a stimulation overload. There is quite simply too much information bombarding us every single day. Print media is an exercise in slowing down, and we must disengage with what we are doing and devote our attention to that task. There is pleasure in this process because digital realities render our attention in a variety of directions simultaneously. This is why print media can be so effective, if done the right way. It can be attention grabbing and attention holding. It can even be exciting to receive.

Finally, with the rise of email marketing, paper mailers have less competition for eyes than ever. According to the USPS, the average person receives 57 email marketing solicitations every day compared to only two via the post. To truly ensure your content stands out, advertise where there isn’t a jumble of other competition.

It’s apparent now more than ever that we live in a digital era of mass communication. We are bombarded by an increasing amount of information every day. Printed materials, like paper mailers, can ensure that your content effectively engages your audience. Paper mailers cut through the noise of the internet age and successfully communicate your message to your customer. Print has more credibility, more impact, and less competition for eyes. Choose for all your print needs.

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