Communicating to your audience

You can reach further with digital. You can engage deeper with print. The few studies conducted in this area tend to reach this conclusion. The two work together seamlessly, and are almost co-dependent on each other, to stimulate intent to purchase. It’s clear to see that there is little point in pitting one against the other. If you consider the individual characteristics of any target audience, it’s an easy concept to fathom. Communication can be both tactile and dynamic. In the day of digital acceptance and popularity, many research studies actually struggle to identify a preference either way. The hierarchical print versus digital debate is outdated.


The chances are you can remember the last two or three pieces of physical direct mail you received. Can you recall the 3 most recent promotional emails in your inbox? Allowing your audience to be in the present with print material can increase the subconscious value they put on the offering and content suggestions, triggering more of a desire for the product or service. This is where the idea comes from  that customers don’t know what they want or why they want it until you show them. UK consumer research suggests almost 80% of people find printed content more relaxing to consume than digital content. The tangibility also helps reinforce trust. A relaxed audience which is 'in the present', and engaging with trusted real material, provides the ideal circumstance for a marketing message to be absorbed. Neuroscience marketing studies demonstrate how effectively the message is received when absorbed in this setting. The studies found confidence and speed of recollection are higher when the content is recalled from a print source. This is an important insight to consider if you intend users to remember certain details within a compelling message. Due to the fact we also tend to engage with print material for longer, in the study, recall was also better a week later from physical print sources. Print material triggered a greater emotional response and activity in the brain in areas associated with value and desire – but the likelihood you’ll keep a piece of direct mail you’re interested in is higher, too. Both factors influence future intent to purchase more strongly.


Rarely can you afford just to rely on digital communication and that comes down to the importance of the user experience. It can be frustrating interacting with and in-putting details into a smaller screen.  If it is not made easy, content will be abandoned. However, society is mobile, and society have mobiles. The easiest way to reach a wider audience is digitally, but they will be less open to suggestion in this context, and their undivided concentration is more difficult to obtain. It might be harder to lose digital content, but it’s also easier to lose it in an overkill of digital information. Less information is absorbed from a screen source, making recall slow and unconfident, due to the flicker effect making concentration harder. In addition, the nature of people interacting with digital devices whilst on the move increases the likelihood that they’re not concentrating anyway. In this context of multiple distractions, banking on your audience being able to go back to your message when it suits them isn’t wise – having endless digital tabs lingering is taxing on the brain, and it’s far more tempting to just forget it. The fundamental benefit is the fact that it is fast and convenient to complete a purchase or respond to a call to action – you can get it done on the way to your next real-life location. Print simply can’t provide that opportunity. Your reach can be international, but still economical, too, with tailored messaging enabling you to address variations in location, time of day, names, or previous purchase behaviour.


Making print engaging is relatively easy. Print communication drives quality of respondents. The challenge is to increase reach and drive quantity of respondents.

The simple truth is that we can't continually live our lives online. If we do, we’ve just decided that we’re probably not paying attention. This involves more work to extend your reach to a wider audience. Targeting local media and business would be a good place to start to build brand awareness. There is a wealth of resources available to research your target audience, industries, businesses and associated print media, using social media, online business directories and membership groups, to nurture a continually growing contact database.

Creative thinking enhances the opportunity for engagement and print organically lends itself well to this potential. What touchpoints do you have with your audience that might present an opportunity to exchange a creative, strategic piece of messaging? What events could you attend, to display and distribute your print material? Could you place your engaging message on appropriate products or within the public environment? People want to engage with real life and respond much better than to digital interruptions. Think about what people really do in real life, whether in a business or consumer environment, and seek those opportunities to convert your audience from strangers into customers.


Reaching out with digital communications drives the quantity of respondents, but sufficient engagement is harder. Making it relevant is the challenge . An effective strategy needs to command attention and be worth it in the minds of the audience. It’s easier to make a digital message disappear than a physical format one.

Capitalising on intuitive design principles, colour and audio influence, and the human emotional response can help achieve some of the effects people would experience engaging with print material. Choose calming colours to relax and alleviate stress, and sounds that strengthen the suggestion in your message. Treat digital communication as you would if it were human – ask questions. Most people are interested in how their opinions and values fit with others, making it easier to evoke a response from them.

Creative concepts that assist in storytelling help to strengthen digital engagement. Keeping it short and sweet, allowing the audience to tap into the details if they want to, will help you appear both authentic and useful. It’s better to leave them wanting more than to lose them to real-life distractions.

This Hubspot blog post pulls together some interesting ways brands have combined print and digital technology. There is a heavy focus on being useful, and on getting the user to perform some type of action: