The Rise and Fall of Media: The False Choice of the Channel Wars

by Doug Ryan

The Rise and Fall of Media: The False Choice of the Channel Wars

by Doug Ryan

by Doug Ryan

It seems anachronistic to ponder the role of traditional communications in the current marketing environment. What benefit can there be in direct mail, in-store marketing, and outdoor advertising in a world of mobile apps, digital voice assistants, and addressable television? It’s hard for marketers to even mention traditional channels for fear of appearing hopelessly behind.

There’s one way to reasonably consider these old standbys: You have to believe in harnessing every tool at your disposal to shape a better experience for customers. For at least the next decade, until the feared robot uprising, those customers are exclusively fellow human beings. And we human beings live in a world that blends the digital and physical environments. So the best marketers will create the best experiences by blending what each medium brings to that experience.

The best marketers will create the best experiences by blending what each medium brings to that experience.

Digital formats provide critical elements like timeliness, motion, and interactivity. Physical formats bring texture, dimension, and focus. It’s hard to beat the efficiency of email, but it’s just as hard to beat the response rates of direct mail. The direct mail household response rate is 5.1%, compared to 0.6% for email, and 0.2% for online display, according to the Data & Marketing Association. We can deliver a more timely message via mobile, but people are more likely to recall information from a printed page. Brand recall is as much as 70% higher from a printed message than from a digital message, according to a study by TrueImpact.

But setting physical and digital channels in opposition is a trap for marketers. Imagine asking a professional singer, who’s trying to build a fan base, to choose between live concerts and studio releases. Anyone from Tony Bennett to Cardi B would say they need both. The job of good marketing is not to take sides between channels, but to get on the side of the customer. What combination of channels is going to create the best brand experience for the intended audience? The answer is inevitably a thoughtful connection of traditional and digital communications.

The job of good marketing is not to take sides between channels, but to get on the side of the customer.

Good examples include a website for a resort property that triggers an immersive direct mail piece when visitors show a high level of engagement. Another is a follow-up email to a printed charitable solicitation that reminds recipients of the importance of their mission. These types of cases have shown time and again that the best result comes from bridging channels rather than relying exclusively on one or the other. One of the most respected prognosticators of the future of marketing, Rishad Tobaccowala, notes that “while we are surrounded by algorithms that are data-driven, digital and operated on silicon chips, we should never forget that people are analog, carbon-based and feeling-driven.”

That means we need to be guided by the full spectrum of the human experience if we’re to create an effective consumer experience. It’s deep in our bones to want something right away. That’s why the power of digital will be ever more vital to any marketing program. It’s also deep in us to want something we can run our hands and eyes over. That’s why the persuasive power of traditional media will never go away. You could say it’s imprinted in us.

Doug Ryan is president of RRD Marketing Solutions.

Are you ready to discuss how to blend physical and digital channels to create well-rounded marketing programs? Contact us.

This post was originally published October 23, 2018.

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