Print is dead, right?


If you have read any of my stuff before, you’ll know that I often have only a passing, nodding acquaintance with facts, so please don’t confuse this piece with a finely researched, deeply analysed polemic, distilled from months of exhaustive inspection of 13 tons of cross-referred statistics. There are a few facts (I will helpfully point them out), but mainly this is how things are, as I observe them.

So, there are two reasons I believe the days of printed matter (that’s the first fact – I do believe3 this…) are far from over;

1)  How many ‘selling’ emails do you get a week? And how many times do you read one? A quick scan in your inbox perhaps, and, if the headline is clever, you might click on it and read the first line or two (just in case you really do want to collect a limited edition, pressed tinplate quarter-scale model of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, one of a series of 80 ‘Bridges that Span the Ages’, yours for just £1.99 ( subsequent issues £2050.99 each…),

But in general, it’s click, scan, delete. Pretty much every time.

Now, imagine a finely crafted, personally addressed brochure in print, flopping with a satisfying thunk on your doormat with just enough of a fanfare to briefly excite your dog from its sofa. 

You pick it up. You see it’s for you and you alone (the label says so), and you just have to open it. Oh, the bridges! Oh, the smell of the crisply printed pages as you flick through them… of, course, you don’t really need a bridge, but you’ll pop it on the coffee table to have a gander at tonight before you throw it away.

And there it will sit ( if you are anything like me) for about a fortnight. Just in your peripheral vision every time you reach for the TV remote. And you do leaf through it. Several times. And, whether you actually end up buying a bridge or not, you engage with the brochure. When was the last time you engaged with an email?

One final thing – imagine you are in the fortunate position of thinking about buying a new car; I bet my last Minions Kinder Egg that you could get all the information you needed – prices, specification, performance, trim options etc. – online.

Of course you can.

But (and please tell me I am not alone in this) how much more engaging and ultimately satisfying is a glossy brochure, liberated from your smiling, helpful local dealership, sat next to where you put your coffee, ready and willing to be thumbed through, whenever you have a spare moment?

2)  How many personally addressed letters do you get a day?

Me? Oh, about 1 or 2 on average. Perhaps 3 or 4. Some are bills, some are letters from aunts etc., and perhaps 4 or 5 a month are printed Direct Mailings from people who have gone to the trouble of getting my address and spelling my name right.

And I read them. All of them. Because there are so few of them.

In fact (and this is a fact), the Post Office tell me that, since 2013, the average daily postbag delivered to British doors has fallen by almost 20%, with the average number per household now receiving around 600 pieces of direct mail a year. Given that the average household contains 2.4 people (who knew?), this works out to just under 5 items per person, per week.

Now, let me ask you how many pieces of email marketing do you get per week? 30? 100? 200? A gazillion? 

So (and thank you if you are still reading this), if you really want your product/company/service/offer to stand out from the humming crowd of promotional noise, write to your potential clients, don’t spam them.


Richard Pettinger –