Trends: Why print is indispensable in promotional communications

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Obi already did it last year, Rewe wants to follow suit in July and discontinue its printed advertising brochure. Netto has been testing a slimmed-down version of its “Promotional leaflet” in the greater Berlin area since the fall of 2022, and Aldi has said goodbye to its printed customer magazine. Reports like these give the impression that printed promotional communication is a discontinued model. But the opposite is true, as various studies have repeatedly shown.

Attendees of this year’s Online Print Symposium were already given an exclusive first look at selected results of Prospektmonitor 2023 at the end of March. The first part of the two-part study series “Brochures and advertising journals in times of digitization” by IFH Media Analytics not only showed that printed advertising brochures are anything but “out”, but also dispelled the prejudices about their supposedly lower sustainability.

Yes, the use of digital brochures has increased year-on-year, especially in weekly use (from 47% of respondents to 56%). However, if the market research and consulting company IFH Cologne (Institute for Retail Research) is to be believed, the truth is that weekly use of print brochures is still significantly higher at 79% – and has also risen year-on-year (from 76%). In terms of occasional use, print brochures even reach 91% of respondents and digital brochures “only” 77 %.

Within those who counted themselves as brochure readers, 96% said they read printed brochures at least occasionally. This figure was 98% seven years ago and 94% in 2020 – and has slowly risen again since then. The proportion of those who at least occasionally read brochure websites or apps has grown to 78 % over the same period – as have those who use both, printed and digital brochures. Their share was 82% in 2023.

Print brochures are an integral part of the customer journey

The study also concludes that printed brochures continue to be an integral part of the customer journey, and not only play an important role in stationary shopping, but are also used for subsequent online shopping. Particularly in times of high inflation – as in the last two years and also currently – print brochures are important signposts and orientation aids. Overall, the development of print and digital brochures is clearly moving toward a symbiosis – or as Dr. Ralph Dittmann, Managing Director of the WKS Group, summed it up at OPS 2023: “The insert user of the future is hybrid and uses both the printed brochure and digital offers.” (A detailed report on Dr. Ralph Dittmann’s presentation will be available shortly here at beyond-print.net)

There are many prejudices when it comes to sustainability

What the IFH Cologne study revealed has long been known, especially within the printing industry. Indeed, the study also cleared up a number of prejudices about the sustainability of the printed brochure that seem to persist in society. Such as the myth that paper production uses an excessive amount of water, that the digital brochure produces only a fraction of the CO2 emissions of its printed counterpart, or that paper is bad for the environment. The actual facts that debunk these myths can be read in the study’s executive summary.

Other studies also confirm the importance of print

But it is not only IFH Cologne that concludes that print will continue to play a fundamental role within offer communication: The “Touchpoint Decoder” by mScience, a research subsidiary of Group M, also dispels the prejudice that emotionalizing customer groups is only possible via moving images. The study conducted in the summer of 2022 showed, for example, that magazines and moving image touchpoints were rated almost equally well in terms of “entertainment value,” and that this was true of younger people as well as older target groups. Print media are also superior when it comes to brand loyalty and conveying information. And when it comes to credibility and trustworthiness, printed touchpoints such as brochures, newspapers and magazines also achieve the highest scores – among 18- to 39-year-olds as well as 40- to 69-year-olds.

Brochures perform better than apps

In the summer and fall of last year – and thus in the course of the discussion about the withdrawal of Obi and Rewe from the brochure business – ZMG, Zeitungsmarktforschung Gesellschaft, also looked at the comparison of brochures with customer apps and surveyed 4,500 people aged 16 and over about their usage behavior and assessment. The results showed that brochures are largely rated more positively than customer apps. They are more practical than print brochures because they are always with you thanks to your smartphone, but when it comes to saving money, not missing out on offers or planning purchases, the brochures also came out on top among those surveyed. In addition, brochures are perceived as less cluttered and less tempting to buy. Anyone wishing to view the results of this survey in more detail can do so here.

Meta study aims to raise awareness of print’s communication performance

The meta-study by Krefeld-based consultancy Schramm, Meitz & Partners, which looks at the question of what actually makes the printed flyer the frequency and sales driver that it demonstrably is, also seems interesting, according to an article by Horizont on the study.

The meta-study analyzes international studies on the effectiveness of printed insert communication on the basis of 245 studies published in trade journals from more than 30 years and with a volume of over 6,000 pages. In the process, Boris Schramm and Dr. Tino Meitz arrive at both well-known and previously less well-known findings: For example, that brochures are not only used to find bargains, but are also used for general market observation, i.e. retailers are regularly checked for their variety and prices. It is also interesting to note that, according to the meta-study, flyers are not only effective in the short term, but build on each other from week to week – and thus have a brand-building dimension.

In their analysis, the two advertising experts also address current developments on the market, including rising costs on the manufacturer side and the decision of individual retailers to withdraw from printed brochures. With their research results, they want to point out that “usage situation and processing depth” are different for print and online and that one cannot simply be replaced by the other. Their aim is to raise awareness of the communication performance of print.

My Take: Both printed and digital promotional communications have their advantages and disadvantages. Advertisers who rely exclusively on apps and e-mail newsletters lose valuable opportunities to build a brand that is successful in the long term because it is credible. To achieve as much as possible, print must not be left out. The greatest potential lies in the clever combination of both worlds, because the customer of the future is “hybrid”; he is not an either/or, but a both/and user.
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Trends: Why print is indispensable in promotional communications
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Trends: Why print is indispensable in promotional communications
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Obi already did it last year, Rewe wants to follow suit in July and discontinue its printed advertising brochure. Netto has been testing a slimmed-down version of its "Promotional leaflet" in the greater Berlin area since the fall of 2022, and Aldi has said goodbye to its printed customer magazine. Reports like these give the impression that printed promotional communication is a discontinued model. But the opposite is true, as various studies have repeatedly shown.
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Beyond-print.net

Judith Grajewski war 14 Jahre für Deutscher Drucker tätig und hat als Redakteurin vor allem über den Wachstumsmarkt Digitaldruck berichtet, als Online-Verantwortliche das Portal print.de und die Social-Media-Kanäle mit aufgebaut und sich als „Transaction Editor“ mit Content-Management- und Marketingstrategien beschäftigt. Nach einem kurzen Intermezzo als Chefredakteurin des Werbetechnik- und LFP-Fachportals Sign&Print, bleibt die studierte Dipl.-Ing. für Medientechnik (FH) ihrer Leidenschaft für Print treu und widmet sich nun der Beratung und Projektbegleitung von Druckunternehmen auf ihrem Weg in eine digitalisierte Zukunft. Darüber hinaus gibt sie als Redakteurin für Beyond Print regelmäßig Einblick in relevante Themen des E-Business Print. (Profil bei Xing, LinkedIn)

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