When mass marketing lost its lustre as technology made targeted marketing possible, the marketing mantra became “get the right message to the right person.” As technology improved and print and personalization equipment became faster and more affordable, the mantra became “get the right message to the right person at the right time” to focus on relevant messaging.


Today, as customer experience becomes the focus for marketers, “via the right channel” has been added to the chant.
Print: gateway to online conversion
Print still works, but it’s most effective when used in conjunction with other channels. It’s important to understand consumer behavior in order to provide solutions that drive results. For example, there’s been a resurgence in catalogues because shoppers enjoy the tactile experience of thumbing through the pages, folding down the corners, and circling items to share with family and friends. But when was the last time one saw an order-form envelope in a catalogue?
Consumers are using catalogues to select items. Before a purchase decision is made, they’re likely visiting the cataloguer’s website for a number of reasons: to read reviews, search for similar items that may not have been in the catalogue, engage in online chat to ask questions about the merchandise, or save items in an online shopping cart until they’ve decided on their purchase. If the cataloguer also has a retail location with the option to “pick up in store,” the consumer may choose that ordering option. Simply said, print drives shoppers online. These same shoppers may also drive to a retail location.
Marketers know that millennials love to shop, but they may not know that research shows millennials pay more attention to advertisements in print than to digital ads. It’s important to understand this highly desirable demographic is not just an audience of digital natives; it’s also a group that expects a satisfying multichannel experience. That means multichannel campaigns, including the print portion, must be mobile-friendly.
Clever interactivity engages print audiences
Making print interactive doesn’t end with adding purls, QR codes, NFC, or augmented reality. The experience that’s created must be authentic and relevant for the reader. But don’t get trapped into thinking every interactive device has to be high-tech. Last year, for instance, the LA Times’ Oscar preview used a brilliant design, great printing, and the sun to mimic the kind of motion one sees on a phone or tablet. When light hit the cover showing three rows of Oscar statues representing best picture nominations, the clothes on the statues changed. The brilliance of the design was what was happening on page two, which lined up perfectly with the cover. It also meant that page two stood on its own if the reader was not holding the page up to the light.
Some of the best examples of how print connects to other channels come from car ads. Almost four years ago, Lexus created a print ad that, when viewed through the camera of an iPad, revealed the car in action with different backgrounds and music. Perhaps more people will consider buying a Peugeot after the ad they created that featured a front view of the car that asked people to hit the ad. The spread following it included a mini air bag that inflated when struck by hand. (Now if they could just get Peugeots to run...) And while Volkswagen has had some recent brand challenges, readers still loved their three-page “Test Drive” spread that offered readers a free app download that let them try out different features. The readers’ favourite was the "Lane Assist" mode that would cause the phone to vibrate when it got too close to one side of the road.
Making print work with other channels isn’t limited to foreign car manufacturers. To show off the features of the Ford Explorer, Ford’s agency created three print ads with interactive elements. The reader scanned a QR code and then lined up their phone on the ad to see the car going down the road.
Cutting through the clutter
My mother was a lifelong reader of The New Yorker, so at an early age I learned to love the weekly peek at the cartoons long before I had any interest in the amazing articles and reviews between the cartoons. Perhaps in response to a decline in subscriptions to the print edition, The New Yorker boosted interest in the paper-based version by making the front and back covers come to life using the camera of a smartphone or tablet and AR.
In the multi-channel, multi-touch world, the longest-standing channel – print – has become key to attracting attention and cutting through the clutter. Print is the most trusted channel and when used in combination with other channels, helps build trust in brands. The key to success is smart integration of channels, including print, and keeping brand consistency top of mind.

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