Print Marketing Reloaded: Combining Tradition with Innovation

By Phase 3
November 02, 2023



If you Google "Is print dead?", you'll see a huge list of blogs and articles answering the question in various ways, dating back more than 20 years. Some say yes, some say no, some say yes, but no (meaning it's changing). But generally, the prevailing answer leans towards yes.

As an industry-leading full-service print services provider offering a wide range of services, including small- and large-format digital, fabric printing, variable data printing, and marketing services, we are uniquely qualified to address this question.

Our answer? No, but yes, with a caveat. Print is not dead; we just need to think about it differently. Let us explain


Print is not Dead

Consumers interact with printed marketing and advertising materials daily in many ways. On any given day, millions of people open mail, read magazines, drive past billboards, pick up brochures at a trade show, search for a sign to find the door, or see a sale poster in a store window. Print is all around us, and it's not going anywhere.

And it shouldn’t. Why? Because it’s still a highly lucrative marketing and advertising strategy.

Here’s the data:

  • 56% of all consumers trust print marketing more than any other advertising method.
  • Print marketing has a 75% recall rate, while digital ads are only 44%.
  • Print ads receive an average response rate of 9%, email, paid search, and social media receive about 1%, and online display receives 3%.
  • 73% of consumers prefer direct mail for brand communications because it feels more tangible than digital ads. Read more about the power of direct mail on our blog page.


Traditional print marketing has become a powerful complement to digital and is a valuable tool for reaching and engaging with target audiences. This strategy offers the best return on investment and gets the best response rates.


The Synergy of Print and Digital

Print and digital marketing go hand in hand. Together, both techniques create powerful marketing campaigns that maximize reach and engagement. Here are some ways they complement each other:

Multi-Channel Marketing

Integrating print and digital into a multi-channel marketing strategy allows brands to reach an audience through several touchpoints. This amplifies reach and enhances recall. For example, marketers should follow up on a direct mail piece with an email campaign, reinforcing the message.


Brands can use print materials like direct mail, advertising, brochures, and POS signs to drive traffic to digital channels. In contrast, digital channels can drive customers to storefronts or a salesperson. For instance, a print ad can include a QR code that directs customers to a landing page for additional information or a digital ad can include a discount code to be used in-store.

Consistent Branding

Keeping a brand message consistent across print and digital materials reinforces and enhances brand identity. When consumers see the same brand elements on a direct mail piece and a website, this consistency builds trust and recognition.

Analytics and Tracking

Digital analytics tools enable marketers to collect and analyze consumer behavior and preferences data, providing valuable insights for both print and digital campaigns. Digital analytics also provides real-time data on the performance of digital marketing campaigns. Traditional marketing efforts can be adjusted based on this real-time feedback, allowing marketers to optimize their strategies as they unfold. This ensures a more data-informed approach for all channels.

Enhancing Engagement

Multiple opportunities to engage with a brand are paramount to building loyalty and retention. Printed materials can pique interest and create curiosity. Digital assets can provide deeper information and interaction, creating a more engaging customer experience.


Digital innovations will enhance a traditional marketing campaign. For example, when a customer sees a print ad and then visits a website, retargeting strategies can then further engage them through digital or print channels. This keeps a brand top of mind and deepens the connection.


Today, both print and digital marketing allow for personalization, which can be a powerful engagement strategy. Brands can tailor messages to specific audience segments in either medium for more effective communication.

Content Amplification

Print can introduce a topic, while digital content provides in-depth information and encourages exploration. This amplifies a brand’s message and keeps the audience informed and engaged.

Customer Feedback and Interaction

Digital channels provide an avenue for immediate feedback, comments, and interaction. Print materials can invite readers to take part in online discussions or provide input, creating a sense of community.

By combining print and digital marketing, brands can create a comprehensive approach that maximizes marketing efforts and provides a seamless experience for an audience. It should not be a matter of choosing one over the other but instead harnessing the strengths of both to achieve marketing goals.

However, some recent digital innovations arepushing the limits of traditional print marketing and advertising. Let's look at some essential innovations, starting with Artificial Intelligence.


Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Print

AI simulates human intelligence in machines capable of performing tasks traditionally performed by humans. These tasks include problem-solving, learning, recognizing patterns, speech recognition, and decision-making. It has made transformative changes in many sectors; the print industry is no exception. The good news is that these changes can be leveraged to benefit printers and their customers if they understand the power and potential of the technology.

Once fully integrated, AI will significantly transform print marketing by enhancing personalization, efficiency, and effectiveness. Here are some examples:

Enhanced Personalization

AI can analyze customer data and behavior to create highly personalized print materials. This includes tailoring content, images, and offers to specific recipients, resulting in more relevant and engaging print campaigns.

Improved Audience Targeting and Segmentation

AI can separate an audience into deeply segmented groups based on their preferences, behaviors, and demographics. This allows brands to create different print campaigns that speak directly to each segment's interests and needs.

Dynamic AI-Generated Content

AI can generate dynamic content, which changes or adapts based on a viewer's characteristics, behavior, or other factors. While print materials are typically static, accessing dynamic content through QR codes or Variable Data Printing is possible. The content can include personalized product recommendations or localized information. This keeps the content fresh and relevant.

Predictive AI-Driven Analytics

AI can analyze historical marketing data (both traditional and digital) to make predictions about customer behavior, allowing a brand to anticipate customer needs and tailor their print marketing and advertising accordingly.

Automated Campaign Creation

AI can automate the creation of both print and digital campaigns by generating designs, layouts, and content based on predefined templates and data inputs. This streamlines the production process and reduces the need for manual design work.

Cost Reduction

AI can help identify the most cost-effective ways to allocate a print marketing budget, ensuring brands get the most value for the investment. For example, AI can optimize print runs by recommending the ideal print quantity based on historical demand data and current market conditions. This reduces overproduction and minimizes waste. AI can also identify and correct print errors before they result in costly reprints.

Cross-Channel Integration

AI can ensure consistency between print and digital marketing efforts. For instance, it can identify when a print campaign has driven recipients to a website and trigger corresponding digital follow-ups.

Quality Control

AI-driven quality control systems can inspect printed materials for defects and errors. Catching issues early in the production process can minimize costly reprints.

Adaptive Campaigns

AI can adjust print campaigns in real-time based on changing circumstances or external factors such as seasonality, location or demographics, ensuring that messaging remains relevant and timely. Based on the feedback and performance data, AI continuously refines and improves print marketing materials and strategies.

Customer Journey Mapping

AI can assist in mapping the customer journey and identifying touchpoints where print marketing can best guide customers toward conversion. AI selects the most successful channels for delivering print materials at each customer journey stage.


AI is poised to revolutionize print marketing by making it more data-driven, personalized, and effective. By harnessing the power of AI, businesses can optimize their print marketing strategies to better engage with their target audience and achieve their marketing goals.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) in Print

VR and AR are immersive technologies that brands can integrate into print marketing to create interactive and engaging customer experiences.

VR immerses users in a computer-generated environment that simulates a real or imagined world. VR typically involves using specialized hardware, such as headsets, gloves, or motion controllers, to create a fully three-dimensional experience.

AR projects or integrates computer-generated content into the real world, such as images, videos, 3D models, or information. Unlike VR, which immerses users in a completely virtual environment, AR enhances the real world by adding digital elements. AR is typically experienced through smartphones, tablets, AR glasses, or heads-up displays.

Despite these highly technical descriptions, VR and AR have the potential to revolutionize print and enhance user engagement. Here's how VR and AR enhance print marketing and advertising:

Interactive Brochures or Catalogs

Printed marketing materials become experiences with AR markers or QR codes. Users who scan these markers with a mobile app land in a virtual world and receive exclusive content, such as 3D product models, videos, or interactive experiences.

Magazine and Newspaper Augmentation

Magazines and newspapers can include AR glasses and markers that unlock exclusive brand content. This content can range from product demo videos or interviews to interactive 3D graphics illustrating brand stories.

Product Packaging

AR can bring product packaging to life. Customers can scan a product's packaging, and the AR technology can showcase product demos, assembly instructions, or customer reviews. It could also offer games, contests, or interactive experiences to build brand loyalty and engagement.

Education and Training

Printed books, educational materials, and manuals can incorporate AR to provide customers and students with interactive learning experiences appealing to all types of learners. This can include 3D models, product demonstrations, interactive FAQs, installation tips, or real-time translations.

Advertising and Promotion

AR in advertising campaigns can engage users in immersive experiences. For example, a printed ad for a travel destination can include an AR element that lets users explore a 360-degree virtual tour of the location.

Product Displays

In-store displays can incorporate AR to allow customers to visualize products in their real-world environment. For instance, customers can use their smartphone to see how furniture or home decor items would look in their homes before purchasing.

Event Promotion

Event flyers, posters, and tickets can include AR markers that provide event details, links to purchase tickets, or interactive elements that engage potential attendees.

Product Customization and Personalization

AR can enable the customization of printed materials. For example, a clothing catalog can use AR to allow customers to virtually try on clothes, selecting colors and styles to personalize the experience.

Integrating VR and AR into print materials enhances customer engagement and provides a more immersive and interactive experience. As these technologies continue to advance, there are numerous creative possibilities for merging the physical and digital worlds to enhance the impact of print marketing and advertising.

Aside from digital innovations, the global warming crisis also affects the traditional print sector. But perhaps not the way you would think.

Sustainability in Printing

The need to be more sustainable does not mean the end of print. There is a solid and profitable future for green printers. Some of the most innovative and sustainable business practices that all printers should adopt include bio-based solvent and water-based inks, recycled paper and packaging, sustainable substrates, digital print systems, and sustainable on-demand capabilities, like Phase 3’s Media:Link. For more details, check out our recent blog, Print with Purpose: Investing in Sustainable Printing.

Wrapping Up

Print marketing and advertising are far from dead. They are still worthwhile strategies to build brand awareness and customer engagement. Recent innovations in technology and digital marketing enhance the reach and strengthen the power of traditional print marketing. Don't give up on tried-and-true strategies just because shiny new tactics are on the horizon. Print lives on!


Phase 3 is committed to staying current on print and digital marketing trends and passing that knowledge to our clients. If you'd like more information about Media:Link or Phase 3's print and marketing capabilities, please  reach out today.