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Five practical advantages of print

Friday 30 July 2021

Think about who the reader is, the specific scenario they are likely to be reading the information in, and what you need them to do as a result.

The ultimate aim of any piece of marketing or communications is for it to be seen by the right people and for them to be able to interact with it with ease: reading, understanding and acting upon the information we publish, as appropriate.

To achieve this, we need to consider the practical implications when choosing a publishing medium. Print and digital each have strengths and weaknesses in this regard. And so, in the second instalment in my series looking at its benefits, I am considering five of the practical advantages of print.

Reach audiences who are not online

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in January and February 2020, 20% of households in Great Britain with one adult aged 65 years and over did not have internet access*.

Of course, people, rather than households, are the intended recipients of any organization's marketing and communications. And there will undoubtedly be people who live in a house with internet access who either do not know how to use it or choose not to.

Looking back at the ONS data for individuals in the 65+ age group, we can see that:

  • 64% used the internet to find information about goods and services within the last three months (compared with 92% in the 35–44 age range).
  • 33% used the internet to obtain information from a public authority or service's website within the last 12 months (compared with 52% for 35–54 age ranges).

This data paints a picture of the comparative use of household internet by different ages groups. And it is clear to see that those over 65 are less likely to see the marketing and communications that organizations publish online.

Age is an important factor to consider, but there will also be those who cannot easily access the internet for many other reasons.

Easier to use

Many people use their mobile phones for everything now. They have put a metaphorical dust sheet over their desktop computer where it sits in a corner – forgotten or too much hassle to fire up.

But some things are just not as doable on a mobile phone as they are on a desktop computer. Think of non-mobile-optimized websites or downloadable forms created in Microsoft Word that you're expected to complete on-screen. Frustration follows hard on the heels of experiences where the chosen media doesn't match the intended use and can make paper feel like a blessed relief.

Easier to discuss and use collaboratively

Print is convenient in situations where it is helpful to review the information you want to share with the recipient. Perhaps it is particularly critical or complex – or maybe the recipient is less able to understand it.

Teaching and learning situations, financial advice meetings, health appointments and careers fairs all present scenarios where it could be beneficial to have printed information that can be read together, explained and discussed. The low unit cost makes using print significantly more practical than providing digital devices, like iPads. And the recipient can annotate their copy and keep it for reference.

Easier to refer back to

Any material which might need to be retained and referred back to may benefit from being produced in a printed format. While users could bookmark a collection of instruction manuals for various household appliances, for example, you would need to maintain these resources in the same location for the life of the appliance for this to work in practice.

Other information may be difficult to access online – health information, for example. A stroke patient who is given printed information about their ongoing care and recovery when discharged from the hospital is unlikely to find the same tailored information available to download online.

Helps to drive online action

Print is well-suited to situations requiring more in-depth deliberation. But it can also drive online activity. So once the reader had made a decision, the resulting action will often occur online.

And importantly, this holds true for what Sarah Burns, Head of Media Solutions at Edit, calls the ‘grey’ market, broadening the audience demographic for any organization's digital campaigns.

What does this mean for me?

Print is most effective as part of a multi-channel marketing and communications strategy, so it’s worth considering when to use digital and when print would work better.

Before deciding, think about who the reader is, the specific scenario they are likely to be reading the information in, and what you need them to do as a result.

*Internet access – households and individuals, Great Britain: 2020, Office for National Statistics

Are offline campaigns effective at driving online action?, Edit

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Hello! I’m Sarah, an independent typographic designer, helping businesses to communicate their unique selling points through printed marketing and communications.

I’ve been sharing my knowledge about design, typography, marketing, branding and printing since 2014. I hope you enjoy reading my blog.

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Sarah Cowan