Why Print Production is Making a Comeback

Dec 12, 2019 - Paul Ryan

There’s something special about holding a tangible piece of content in your hands. Now that the Internet is pervasive and there’s a plethora of digital content, people are once again remembering the emotional power of paper, and print production is making a comeback.

Maybe it’s nostalgia, or maybe it’s a return to the norm.

Nowhere is the return of print more clear than in the music industry, where back in 2016, UK vinyl and CD sales topped digital sales for the first time since 2011. In 2017, vinyl records and CDs outpaced digital download revenue in the US by over $350 million dollars.

While streaming remains the primary source of music revenue (75%), physical products, particularly vinyl records, continue to eat into online platforms’ grip on music distribution.

But, does the desire for physical content equate to print marketing also making a resurgence?

The answer is yes.

In fact, mail maintains a significantly higher response rate (4.4%) than online ads (0.12%).

Young People Prefer Reading Print

Young people, in particular, are fond of print. People aged 18 to 29 have the highest print readership of any group. Having grown up surrounded by television, the Internet, and digital media, they prefer physical copies of books more than other generations. A surprising 77% of young people consider digital content to be less trustworthy than print because it can be altered with very little effort, is often disingenuous, or it lacks basic fact-checking. To them, paper materials feel more honest and official.

For marketing, generational divides become more clear when you consider the use of ad-blockers, which permeate young people’s computers. As many as 43% of adults 18-24 (Gen Z) will use ad blockers this year, much higher than the US’s national average of 25%. Though ad-blockers don’t stop social media ads, they do prevent banner ads, Google ads, and most other non-native advertisements. Additionally, smartphones, which used to not have ad-blockers, now do.

Digital and Print Partnerships Make Mail Matter

Beyond what the statistics say about peoples’ preferences, what’s definitely true is that printing has become easier, more affordable, and more accessible.

Digitized Marketing Mail

The United States Postal Service is a great example. Did you know that through the USPS, your marketing mail pieces can be digitized and forwarded directly to your targeted audiences’ cell phones—For free? Through notifications, mail recipients can preview their mail, before walking outside to check their mailbox. The service, called Informed Delivery, is free and also empowers marketers to attach a clickable link to digitized mail, allowing brands to use traditional mail marketing techniques to bring audiences into modern digital marketing funnels.

Follow-up with a Postcard

Digital marketing companies see the value of print production as well. Mailchimp is a well known marketing email software company that allows brands to quickly build customized marketing emails. The company’s new marketing platform features an option to send printed postcards, allowing marketers to quickly and easily reach prospect mailboxes. This makes for an excellent opportunity to follow-up with warm leads in a new and interesting way, especially when emails alone aren’t pushing prospects to the end of marketing funnels and converting them into customers.


The union of digital and print makes another amazing feature possible for print marketing materials. Print-on-demand is the process of producing one-off prints as they’re requested instead of large runs. This allows for each piece to be fully customized for each recipient. For instance, a high school senior could visit a college admissions website and note that they are interested in both nursing and web design. The school could then follow up with the student by sending a booklet that only includes information on those two majors. This process is easily automated with software. It saves the sender money and the recipient time.

New Technology Keeps Mail Out of the Trash

A lot of mail simply gets thrown away. Studies suggest 44% of marketing mail is tossed in the trash without being looked at. But, there are things that can be done to combat that. Take this Steel Dynamics mail piece we created. The piece includes a 6-inch screen, full audio, and player controls. The chance of a customer throwing this away without engaging are extremely low.

Nichols Steel Dynamics Video Mailer

Modern Mail Can Include Analytics

A historic downside of print advertising is the lack of analytical data that can be gathered. However, that’s not the case anymore.

Can QR Codes be Useful?

Almost nobody uses QR codes, but they can do really cool stuff. QR codes allow for mail recipients to directly engage with the mail they receive. Add the right analytics to the QR code link and marketers will be able to track who and how many recipients engage with the mail they receive. Combining that information with digital engagement information can build a much more complete profile of what your customers want. WrestleTalk Magazine, a UK based pro-wrestling publication, utilizes QR codes to provide full audio-versions of every page of their magazine, providing accessibility, analytics, and engagement.

Augmented Reality is the Future

Other technologies, like augmented reality (AR), can be used to stunning effect and can have benefits that extend far beyond basic marketing and analytics. AR offers the opportunity to go viral with amazing video effects and cool packaging design. Check out an AR-enhanced mail piece from Jaguar here.

Coupons Add Value and Analytics

Another simple way analytics can be included in mail pieces is by using the most classic form of mail marketing: coupons. Custom coupon codes can be sent to individuals and are easily tracked so your brand can determine where your customers live and what they care most about.

Everything Old is New Again

For most people, it’s rare to hold a beautiful piece of printed material in their hands. Beyond new smartphones, few products care deeply about packaging design, flyer thickness, or eccentric varnishes. For many young people, they’ve never seen the amazing quality and creativity that a well thought-out, high-end print mailer can have. And, for those who have been around since before the world went digital, it may have been awhile since they’ve seen a mailer or flyer that made them want to grab it, feel it, and appreciate its aesthetic.

But, printers can do amazing things, many of which you may not even know about.

Die Cuts

Die-cutting is the process of cutting out text or shapes from printed literature. This can lead to amazing effects that provide double meanings when opened or closed. This Nichols Open House Invitation opens up to reveal the invitation information inside a house.

Nichols open house mailerNichols open house mailer opened


Beautiful colored foils can be added in as large or small amounts as needed. Foils come in numerous varieties including metallic, clear, and cold stamping, which is the process of using a UV dryer to attach a custom foil design to a seperate custom paper.

nichols foils printing

Specialized Paper

Paper isn’t just paper. Paper can be as thick or thin as you need. It can have a rough sandy texture or a smooth rubbery feel. For instance, a minor league baseball team may want to use a rough texture to denote the dirt surrounding home plate, or a local basketball team may use a more rubbery texture to suggest the presence of a basketball.

Nichols Specialized paper

Coatings and Varnishes

Matte and glossy finishes only scratch the surface of the possible coatings for printed marketing literature. Varnishes can also be applied which can create stunning visual effects. Nichols created business cards for AccuTemp featuring a reticulation effect, which in the right light, reflects the logo across the card.

Nichols accutemp business cards

Custom Folds

The shape of printed material can make powerful statements. This recent piece we crafted for Cameron Memorial Hospital folds out from a small square into a large medical cross which doubles as the health provider’s logo.

Nichols Cameron Print Literature closedNichols Cameron Print Literature open


Not only is print not dead, it’s in the midst of a stunning revitalization. Technology has made high quality print production more accessible, affordable, and customizable. Additionally, as younger generations crave tangible products, it only makes sense that advertisements they can hold in their hands are better representations of products for them than digital ads alone. Today, marketers, designers, and printers have the opportunity to introduce an entire generation to the beauty and sophistication of high-end print design.

Does your brand need help with mail or print marketing? If so, Nichols can help. Send me an email anytime at pryan@wetellyourstory.com or click the button below to get started.