By marketing to Millennials, brands are rediscovering that print is an engagement goldmine. What’s surprising them, however, is how thirsty Millennials are for print marketing. Neil Howe, who coined the term “Millennial Generation,” writes in Forbes that Millennials lead other generations in reading and prefer print.
That’s one of the reasons marketing to Millennials in print works so well today. Print marketing — whether it’s via direct mail, inserts or another means — works because the channel is more memorable, stirs the senses and creates trust. Trust creates engagement. And that engagement doesn’t end in the print channel — marketers can translate that communication into cross-channel action, either converting from digital to print or vice versa.
Print advertising yields lifetime results for marketers. Customers stay with brands who market memorably to them over the long-haul, which means customer retention and sustainable results. And in Millennial marketing circles, long-term may result in a very long customer lifespan, indeed.
Print marketing — especially with a long-term investment — has a significant advantage over more ephemeral touchpoints, because it’s memorable. When marketers provide useful content — and Millennials value branded print ads more than other generations — consumers will remember it and turn to the print marketing when they’re ready to buy, writes Ashley Leone, marketing coordinator at full-service direct marketing agency IWCO Direct, in the company’s“Marketing to Millennials” report. (Opens as a PDF)
Marketing thought leaders agree that one way to create memorable print marketing is to help customers solve their problems. Whether that’s through educational content, how-tos or other tips, it’s marketing they’ll pick up again and again — and remember.
For a more scientific explanation of why Millennials think print ads are genuine, Leone turns to The Centre for Experimental Consumer Psychology at Bangor University. A test there involving MRIs found that the “real” experience of physical media is more likely to become part of a consumer’s memory.
The study itself says touching printed materials while looking at them triggers spatial memory in a way that other channels don’t, leaving a footprint deeper in the brain. The deeper in the mind the material goes, the more mental processing it requires, making it seem more real and require more of an emotional response. Emotional responses are more likely to be positive toward brands.
“The real experience is also internalized, which means the materials have a more personal effect, and therefore should aid motivation,” reads the research.
Plus, revisiting Howe for a moment, who can forget how a book smells? Who hasn’t sniffed a Yankee Candle catalog? Print can engage the senses in more than one way and create a real memory.
Being authentic with Millennials in print ads can go a long way. The generation that grew up during the Great Recession also values the personal more, so print marketing that communicates messages from brands they can trust may see more engagement. Leone, for one, cites anonymous Internet ads as less trustworthy than print.
Memory generates emotion, which translates to positive brand associations, finds the fMRI study. The tactile becomes internalized and personal and aids in motivation. (Opens as a PDF)
Leone says that motivation spurred engagement that, specifically measured, resulted in 65 percent of Millennials buying from a catalog and 63 percent purchasing because of a mail piece.
“Twenty-three percent of Millennials bought or ordered something as a result of receiving direct mail in the last 12 months,” the “Print in an E-commerce World” Brand United whitepaper says, citing “The Life Stages of Mail” by Mailmen.co.uk.
Marketers interested in print ads may want to consider what emotions most communicate their brand messages. For Audi’s recent commercial, the cross-channel campaign centered on the excitement of driving in the desert, as well as the traditional brand pairing with Airbnb — an edgy new marketer, reads a Target Marketing case study published in June. The campaign not only paid off for Audi, but the featured Airbnb home got fully booked in seven seconds.
So the foundation is there. Millennials prefer print.
Howe cites research that 92 percent of college students “prefer reading print material to digital material. If the cost of the print and digital copy of a leisure book were the same, 80 percent would pick the paper version.”1
If cost weren’t an issue — say, if marketers were providing the reading material — Millennials would be eager to engage. Some are even telling marketers they’re missing an opportunity by not providing print ads.
About 54 percent of Millennials surveyed for a 2016 USPS study told researchers businesses in their neighborhoods needed to do a better job of keeping them informed, and they’d prefer the information via physical mail rather than telemarketing or email.
Another study found Millennials are not only the most likely generation to read print marketing in the form of direct mail, but 25 percent of them consider it a luxury.
Turning back to the IWCO research released in August 2016, Leone says of her generation: “Maybe we like printed materials because we spend a majority of the day staring at a backlit screen and our poor retinas need a break. Maybe it’s because there’s something luxurious about being able to stare at a page for as long as you want without the fear of your device going to sleep mode. Either way, this preference spells out success for advertisers.”
One particular print marketing option illustrates Leone’s point clearly. Target Marketing blogger Jeanette McMurtry writes in September:
“According to Shelley Sweeney, a VP/General Manager at Xerox, brands are seeing big increases in results,” she writes. “Catalogs are re-surging, not just because they can be personalized, but because they appeal to some key psychological drivers that digital just can’t. We humans are tactile people. We seem to trust more, believe more, like more and act more when we can reach out and touch something or someone. When we hold a magazine in our hands, carry it in our bags, and feel it with our fingertips, we feel connected. And when those catalogs present stories about the products, about the people who use the products, about the lifestyle qualities, values and causes associated with those brands and products, we feel connected with brands with a veracity that is hard to get from the fleeting digital screen with all of its moving parts, pop up distractions and links to click.”
Print marketing already has a large share of the Millennial mind.
In Q1 2016, Comperemedia calculated a 16 percent YOY increase in credit card direct mail volumes. IWCO notes that these print marketers segment out professionals younger than 34 who are college graduates, married and have incomes higher than $50,000. About 97 percent of credit card applications come in via the websites.2
This shows print marketing benefits from attribution. Consumers don’t always follow marketers’ rules that would reveal touchpoints.
So in an industry that’s become addicted to attributing sales to the “last click” — even if that’s an in-store transaction — marketing professionals may gain insight into touchpoints via consumer engagement from print marketing.
Similarly, digital professionals can gain access to how print advertising is a complementary channel.
A Brand United case study with Amara, a company bringing luxury style to homes, found that to be the case.
“Direct mail,” says Tom Freeman, head of digital marketing, “has expanded Amara’s reach, promoted our brand and relieved the pressure on our email campaigns, to which only 40 percent of our customers subscribe during the checkout process. Today, we are using the inserts to reach the remaining 60 percent and it has made a difference.”
Brands can also urge customers to cross from catalogs to the Internet to purchase.
Many consumers are already doing so. It’s a lesson Lands’ End learned the hard way. McMurtry highlights research from Accenture Strategy’s Kurt Salmon: “In 2000, Lands’ End cut back on sending catalogs to consumers. The result was a mere drop in sales of $100 million. When the company conducted a survey among its customers to see what happened, they discovered that 76 percent of their online customers reviewed their printed catalog before going online.”