Is Digital Marketing Driving More Print?


The role of print in the quest to reach consumers across multiple channels has become mission critical. 


If you were a sales professional for a web printer, you would be well served by starting your prospecting activities at my mailbox. We have managed to get on every catalogers list. Somewhat by design, as I work with a paper house. So, I do what I can to generate paper sales … please note we always recycle.

Traditional catalogs, plus next generation micro catalogs, magalogs, and mini-catalogs are lugged inside daily. Our mail is heavy. We’re DIY aficionados. We pour over home improvement and remodeling titles. The catalog is the demand generation piece of the puzzle. We see things on printed page, then go online to order them. In our case, the web is now more likely to be the transactional interface. The idea to buy something came from the printed product, and the purchase was accomplished via the Internet. In fact, almost 40% of online transactions take place while the consumer has a catalog or direct mail piece open next to the computer or mobile device.

Look what the USPS is saying about catalogs:

“In an age of digital distraction and ever-shorter consumer attention spans, the catalog is reemerging as a powerful way to engage customers to interact with brands on a deeper level—and it’s not in the traditional format you expect. It’s smarter, smaller, and less expensive to produce. It can deliver big impact by supporting digital experiences while still giving your customers the physical, tactile experience they crave in the virtual world. Experiences that can help your brand cut through all the digital clutter and stand out from the crowd. ”

Printed catalog production is headed back up.

Approximately 10.5 million catalogs were delivered by the USPS in 2015.

According to NAPCO Research and Target Marketing, offline marketing spend was about $148 billion in 2016, and 28.5% of those dollars went to print. At the same time, data and data management spend in support of direct mail is spiraling upward. The DMA Statistical Fact Book has the investment in digital data growing at about 35% last year.

Jennifer Bergin did a great job of pulling together even deeper supporting data for the hypothesis that print is growing alongside digital marketing in her April article: Investing in The Value of Print, for What They Think (Market Intelligence for Printing and Publishing).

Granted, some market watchers, like Printing Impressions’ Vincent Mallardi, have the overall print markets trending slightly down (-.02%) in 2017-2018, driven primarily by forecasts of inflation and labor, material, and transportation price hikes. But, select sectors will be strong. Mallardi sees Travel & Hospitality, Personal Care, Banking & Insurance, Food Service, Beverages, and Home Improvements all looking to spend about 5% more on print in the next two years.

NAPCO’s 2010 – 2016 Marketing Mix Trends indicated that Direct Mail, which it went on to describe as “Direct Response Marketing’s workhorse”, was going to continue at the same rate, or increase for 69% of respondents. Only 6% of respondents forecasted cutting back.

CIO magazine’s Online Marketing Insights, in the article 3 Ways You Can Combine Print and Digital Marketing Campaignspoints out some of the tactics being used to further integrate direct mail and digital campaigns. Solutions like digital opt-ins for catalog list building makes sure that catalogs sent end up in “fertile mailboxes”. Plus, direct mail remains one of the most measurable forms of media, especially when linked to digital analytics.

“Direct mail continues to serve as a key driver in most omnichannel marketing plans,” expert Lois Brayfield explains in the DMA Statistical Fact Book. “It’s complemented well by online efforts, and fills a much-needed niche. Where online is generally low-cost, low impact, print is higher-cost, higher impact. Where online marketing is passive, direct mail is active. Direct mailings are proactive and tactile — demanding that the recipient DO something with it.”
Lois Brayfield
Direct Marketing Association, DMA Statistical Fact Book
Ironically, digital marketing was once heralded as the primary contributor to the foretold demise of print. Now, digital marketing and print are being integrated to drive better overall results for marketers deploying omnichannel campaigns that deliver better overall brand experiences.