4 Reasons Why Print Marketing Outperforms Digital

Research shows that print marketing (a form of direct marketing) outperforms digital marketing, but why is this so? Don’t the low cost/high volume approaches of digital ad strategies mean that digital is the de facto winner over print and direct mail marketing?

Isn’t this why companies have pivoted to digital strategies and continue to abandon direct mail, leaving the space less competitive (and more lucrative) than ever before?

Digital strategies have their place, but it’s a mistake to overlook the power of print in the digital age.

Reason #1 – Digital Oversaturation

Most people ignore most of the digital ads they see. The average American is “bombarded with about 300 different types of advertisements within the first waking hour of each day” (Barr, 2016) and about 4,000 throughout an entire day.

Consider that for a moment: by the time you’re eight hours into your day, you’ve exposed yourself to about 2,000 advertisements through your smartphone, computer, tablet, television, radio, and virtually every other digital device you may use.

Forbes places digital ad exposure even higher, at between 4,000 and 10,000 advertisements per day (Simpson, 2017).

(Table 1. Barr, 2019)

“As a general rule of thumb, about two percent of advertisements garner our valued attention each day. In other words, only about 100 out of every 5,000 ad exposures have any meaningful impact on consumers” (Barr, 2016).

That’s only two percent.

Think about what that number, two percent, means for a moment: consumers filter out 98% of ads. Compare that to the 9% response rate of print (direct marketing), and you can start to see how the physical presence of print and direct mail is a distinct competitive advantage.

Reason #2 - Trust

Saturation isn’t the only challenge facing consumers today. Trust is also a significant factor. A study of nearly 14,000 consumers in 23 countries conducted by GroupM revealed some startling insights into consumer skepticism about digital ads (Myers, 2020):

  • 64% of consumers would have a negative opinion of a brand next to inappropriate content
  • 60% of consumers say they are less inclined to use a product if their data is used for any purpose.
  • 56% of consumers want more control over their data.

Print marketing alleviates many of these concerns.

First, there’s no threat of print content appearing next to inappropriate online content, the placement of which can negatively influence the purchasing behavior of consumers. Business owners and marketers get to choose how, when and why to send their next direct mail piece.

Second, data tracking for direct mail is far less invasive than digital data collection methods. Much of the data used, such as mailing addresses, is readily available public information. From the consumer perspective, no one is tracking what they’re searching for, how their mouse moves across a webpage, or how they’re behaving online.

Data tracking for direct mail is highly effective … and it’s also benign. This is one of the reasons why direct mail is a proven method to build trust between brands and consumers.

Reason #3 - The Mailbox or the Inbox?

We’ve established that most people ignore the majority of the digital ads they see, but what about email inboxes? Are they saturated, too?

The short answer is yes.

Email inboxes are bursting at the seams, with the average business email user receiving a whopping 128.8 emails a day (The Radcati Group, 2015).  

How many of those advertising emails do you read?

If you’re like most people, you filter what’s important by subject line and sender and delete the rest. That’s a lot of waste on the part of businesses trying to reach customers and generate more revenue.

(Table 2. MacDonald, 2020)

In fact, a study by SuperOffice Marketing found that email open rates in 2019 were only 22.1% (MacDonald, 2020). An open rate is a good starting point, but it’s responses that drive purchasing behavior.

For email marketing, the more important metric to look at is click-through-rate (CTR), which averages 2.62% across all industries (MailChimp, 2019). While they do vary from year to year, this should give most business owners and marketers pause, especially when you think back to the response rate you can achieve with direct mail: 9% versus 2.62%.

The difference between email and print is its physical form. Unlike email, “direct mail advertisements give people time to think. They provide new ideas with the space to grow into the things we didn’t know we wanted. These ideas morph into our must-have purchases.

“With print advertisements, we’re not anticipating the next click … We’re not bombarded with competing ads from half a dozen alternatives who bid for our attention via algorithms … It’s quiet. The advertiser, much more easily, gets past our ‘mental wall,’ and “as a result, most people can tell you the names of dozens of local businesses that one day they will rely on to choose a new restaurant, fix a plumbing leak, or bring their dead lawn back to life. That’s the power of direct mail in a digital world” (Barr, 2016).

Reason #4 – Less Competition = More ROI

The volume of mail distributed by the United States Postal Service has declined by nearly 27% since 2007. This is great news for marketers and business owners.

It means this advertising space is less crowded and your messages are more likely to stand out and resonate with buyers.

There’s simply less noise so it’s easier for customers to hear your voice instead of your competitor’s voice.

(Table 3. Mazenrau, 2019)

Do your marketing efforts incorporate a healthy mix of print and direct mail? If your business isn’t using these direct marketing channels, you’re missing out. Click here to learn more about how we can help execute your next direct mail project, or contact us today.

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Barr, C. (2016). The Power of Direct Mail in the Digital Age. Neilpatel.com. Retrieved from https://neilpatel.com/blog/direct-mail-in-the-digital-age/

Canada Post Corporation. (2015). A Bias for Action. The Neuroscience behind the response-driving power of direct mail. Retrieved from https://www.canadapost.ca/assets/pdf/blogs/CPC_Neuroscience_EN_150717.pdf

COX. (2018). Consumer Pulse Fast Facts 2018 Survey. Retrieved from http://newsroom.cox.com/download/COX+Consumer+Pulse+Fast+Facts+2018.pdf

Haskel, D. (2015). 2015 DMA Response Rate Report: Direct Mail Outperforms All Digital Channels Combined By Nearly 600%. Retrieved from https://www.iwco.com/blog/2015/04/14/dma-response-rate-report-and-direct-mail/

Keller, E. Fay, B. (2012). Face-to-face conversations about brands communicate higher credibility than online conversations, brand experts say. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from https://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2012/05/14/why-most-successful-branding-and-sales-talk-happens-offline/

MacDonald, S. (2020). The Science Behind Email Open Rates (And How to Get More People to Read Your Emails. Retrieved from https://www.superoffice.com/blog/email-open-rates/

MailChimp. (2019). Email Marketing Benchmarks by Industry. Retrieved from https://mailchimp.com/resources/email-marketing-benchmarks/

Myers, C. (2020). New GroupM Research Examines Consumer Trust in Digital Marketing. GroupM. Retrieved from https://www.groupm.com/new-groupm-research-examines-consumer-trust-digital-marketing/

Simpson, J. (2017). Finding Brand Success In The Digital World. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2017/08/25/finding-brand-success-in-the-digital-world/#676620a626e2

The Radcati Group. (2015). Email Statistics Report, 2015-2019. Retrieved from https://www.radicati.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Email-Statistics-Report-2015-2019-Executive-Summary.pdf),

United States Postal Service. (2019). Is Direct Mail Advertising Effective? A Research Study. Temple University and the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General explore the power of print vs. digital marketing. Retrieved from https://www.uspsdelivers.com/why-direct-mail-is-more-memorable/


Table 1.

Barr, C. (2016). The Power of Direct Mail in the Digital Age. Neilpatel.com. Retrieved from https://neilpatel.com/blog/direct-mail-in-the-digital-age/

Table 2.

MacDonald, S. (2020). The Science Behind Email Open Rates (And How to Get More People to Read Your Emails. Retrieved from https://www.superoffice.com/blog/email-open-rates/

Table 3.

Mazareanu, E. (2019). United States Postal Service’s advertising mail volume from 2004 to 2019(in billion units). Statista. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/320243/advertising-mail-volume-of-the-usps/

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