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Tuesday, 23 February 2016 16:46

Has Printed Comms Come Full Circle?

With almost 80% of adults in the UK now owning a smartphone, you may be fooled into thinking that printed comms has had its day? After all, as a digital society we check our phones more than seven billion times a week.

But here’s the thing. Between 2013 and 2015, the recorded success of email marketing increased by a measly 1.4% - a wholly unimpressive figure considering we Brits purchase 32 million new smart phones each year. And where are the millennials, surely those crazy young things are leading the way for digital marketing? Wrong. Research shows that 68% of 18-24 year olds are more likely to react to printed marketing than digital messages, whether on email or via SMS.

Spam emails and the birth of mass delete

So it seems printed comms has in fact come full circle, with the age of digital marketing moving aside in favour of social media interactions (an entirely different beast!). One key theory for this shift change is the introduction of spam – a disease on email marketing for sure, and one which has given rise to the art of mass deleting.

We are all guilty of this to some extent, blanket deleting all marketing emails in one fell swoop safe in the knowledge that the majority of it will be spam and the rest will most likely be of a similar ilk.

Is the nation craving tangibility?

On the flip side, there is an increased trend for receiving something tactile, something with tangibility that can’t be so easily deleted. Add into the mix the more recent art of targeted and personalised printed mail and hey presto – we seem to have a winning formula on our hands.

Let’s go back to Generation Y for a second; the digital natives that should, in theory, be inherently drawn to words on a screen and not words on a page. What do they think about direct mail? According to research by JWT, the world’s best known marketing communications brand, 80% of people born in the 90s consider the tangible connection we make with printed materials to be of key importance. As you would expect, personalised and highly targeted campaigns are rated more popular than generic messages.

Why the change of heart?

We can confidently say that anyone with an email address gets hacked off by spam, so this is certainly a key driver in the shift back to paper. But perhaps we’ve also had too much of a good thing and we’re all starting to feel a little nostalgic? Holding paper in your hands while your phone is in your pocket is unusual, it feels different, awakens the senses and draws us in like never before – especially if it’s personalised or it demands physical interaction, like a scratch card or even a scratch and sniff campaign.

Perhaps printed marketing has become experiential and we should consider it akin with the likes of augmented reality? Whatever the reason, we are certainly witnessing the dawn of a new era. One in which printed and digital marketing through social media can live side-by-side to deliver a richer, multifaceted and more engaging brand experience.


¹ Deloitte, Mobile Consumer Survey 2015, Game of Phones

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