Is print advertising losing its impact? Yes, but often not because it fails to reach targeted customers. In several markets we have measured, including the security and broadcast technology industries, buyers are as engaged with print as ever. Often the problem is in how print it is being deployed.
Let’s back up. The old-school view of print advertising is that it creates awareness, and as result, builds a company brand. But today, “branding through awareness” is being overshadowed by “branding though experience.” Through the Internet, potential buyers can experience a brand directly by downloading premium content, taking an educational webinar, getting product training, watching a video, or reading about actual customer brand experiences on social media. Against the advance of web delivered brand experiences, the “awareness” argument gets harder to make.
But the Internet giveth, and the Internet taketh away. Our research discovered a growing weakness in the effectiveness of B2B marketing for which print advertising provides an antidote.
The process of moving to digital marketing has magnified a long known B2B marketing weakness: Non-customers are less engaged with marketing messages than current ones are. Simply put, if you own a Sony camera, you will be more likely to read a Sony camera ad, take a Sony webinar, or visit their website.
Non-customers have always been less engaged with company marketing but the move from traditional to digital and social media has significantly magnified this weakness far more than most marketers realize.
When customers and non-customers of the same suppliers were asked if company marketing was motivating them to buy, we saw huge differences in three markets we measured:
Average scores of 24 security industry surveillance companies*:
63.3% of current customers were motivated by marketing
9.3% of current non-customers were motivated by marketing
Average scores of 17 security industry access control companies*:
69.9% of current customers were motivated by marketing
7.7% of current non-customers were motivated by marketing
Average scores of 34 broadcast industry technology suppliers**:
55.9% of current customers are motivated by marketing
10.7% of current non-customers were motivated by marketing
The marketing messages seen through digital media are largely self-directed. Users choose to visit a website or Facebook page, choose to opt onto a list to receive an e-newsletter or Twitter feed, and choose to select a company from a search list. There is a big benefit to this self-directed participation. Potential customers who choose to participate are naturally more engaged, but there is a downside as well. Non-customers are far less likely to opt in. They are much less likely to subscribe to a company e-newsletter, promotional list, or Twitter feed. They have fewer reasons to regularly visit a company website or Facebook page. When would non-customers regularly see messaging from a supplier they are not currently using? If your industry is lucky enough to have a trade publication read by both current and non-customers—they will see your trade ad.
Using print advertising in this way calls for less emphasis on image and awareness, and more messaging that motivates non-customers to give a new supplier a chance to prove themselves. Instead of reinforcing existing relationships, the goal shifts to winning new ones.
Smart marketers are rethinking their use of print advertising as an effective way to persuade non-customers. Not because print advertising “still remains effective” but because its plugs a weakness in digital and social media that keeps growing in an ever more digital marketing world.