Is Print Relevant in a Digital World?

By Steven Larracey 

Simply, yes.

There have been many studies to explain the perceived credibility of print and how digital fads come and go. But there is an old advertising and marketing guideline that says to take a balanced approach to your efforts. The interwebs didn’t exist when that was touted, but it still holds true today.

There is a general wisdom that suggests that success will not go to those who focus on screens alone.

“Often the biggest synergies arise between screen and non-screen media, such as Posters, Print and especially Point of Sale.” (1)

That reminds us that a balanced approach combining channels like digital and print provides the best results.

At a trade show or convention, prospects are assailed by sights and sounds all day, sometimes to the extreme. How do you elevate your message through all of that clutter? How about through the one sense that is known to be amoung the strongest? Touch. Crafting a printed piece that actually feels good in the hand of the recipient might be the key to standing out in the crowd.

Common sense points out to us that no matter what technologies are available, we are still human, and humans experience the world through our senses.

In 2007, working in collaboration with the Centre for Experimental Consumer Psychology at Bangor University, Millward Brown used functional Magnetic Resonance Imagery (fMRI) scanning to understand how the brain reacts to physical and virtual stimuli. Their findings suggested that tangible (print) advertising engaged the participants more. The sense of touch appeared to produce a deeper engagement with the printed material. It evoked more brain activity associated with the integration of sight and touch, a stronger emotional response (suggestive of stronger memory formation) and deeper integration with personal thoughts and feelings. (2)

If that is so, then it makes a good argument to consider integrating a physical experience with digital marketing. Social media, websites and augmented reality are fun and exciting new tools for our marketing efforts, but we are still appealing to human beings that are designed to experience the world through a host of senses; sight, touch, hearing, taste and smell.

As any trade show veteran or marketing professional will tell you, the trick is to leave a positive lasting impression on your audience. What better way to do that than with print?

Steven Larracey is the Marketing Director and Digital Designer at Printing Partners in Indianapolis, IN. He has 28 years of experience in the design, printing and marketing industry. He can be contacted at

(1) “Digital and media predictions for 2014 and beyond” – Millward Brown

(2) “Do we underestimate the power of touch?” – Millward Brown

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