Turning Back the Pages: Why Millennials Prefer Print (and What You Need to Do Next)

Topics: Marketing Fulfillment: Best Practices

Do you think the world is abandoning the printed page? Research indicates that a trend toward the tactile—even among millennials—is opening up exciting new creative opportunities for fulfillment collateral.

Yes, it's true. In 2014, more than eight out of ten American adults would rather read magazines in hard copy than online. Similarly, 67 percent would rather read a book with a spin than one that glows. This information comes from a report by JWT, the New York marketing communications firm formerly known as J. Walter Thompson.

Do you know what's even more surprising, midway into the second decade of the 21st century? This trend is consistent among generations, even the grew-up-online millennials, according to the same report, " Embracing Analog: Why Physical Is Hot."

Almost eight out of ten millennials say "Physical cards/letters make me feel more connected to people than digital notes (emails, SMS, etc.)." These findings, as well as other studies, are calling upon the printed page to play a larger role in your marketing collateral and fulfillment efforts.

Keeping It Real: A Clear Yearning for Touch

Based on a poll of 1,200 adults 18 and older, the report reflects a yearning for the tactile—a trend toward valuing the physical over the electronic when it comes to such activities as reading books or magazines, playing games, or exchanging greeting cards (the old-fashioned way).

This trend holds true even among millennials, ages 18 to 35. In fact, their preferences are on par with Baby Boomers (ages 49 to 68), Gen Xers (ages 36 to 48) and even the Silent Generation (age 69 and older) in most cases. In fact, when asked which hold-in-your-hands items they'd miss most, more than half said books, with mail, magazines, and newspapers following closely. Also on the list: maps, textbooks, medical records, mailed catalogs and business cards.

Hello, It's 1974 Calling

"As human beings, we need our emotional being satisfied, and obviously that need isn't being met by our digital experiences," says Paul Woolmington, one of the report's authors. "Therefore...we're seeking the analog more than ever. We're looking for more meaningful emotional experiences and connections."

What specific emotions are driving this trend? Nostalgia, a quest for originality and the need "to have and to hold" rank high, and may account for the popularity of such thoroughly 1974 mainstays as vinyl records, wristwatches and stationery.

Exploring Your Role in a Print Revival

Of course, the report's authors are quick to point out that digital remains a strong channel. That said, it makes great sense to leverage the nostalgia for the tangible in marketing fulfillment—especially in areas where your competitors have wholeheartedly gone digital.

The report suggests some specific actions that marketers can take to make the most of this trend:

  • Amplify the unique qualities of physical goods when developing collateral. "Brands can amp up the enduring, imperfect qualities of hand-held objects by creating unique gifts or collectibles."
  • Work around digital's "emotional void." Get creative by developing bridges between digital and physical properties. For instance, the Australian version of dating site eHarmony recently offered its users the opportunity to "turn your romantic thoughts into a beautifully handwritten love letter" for a Valentine's Day promotion.
  • Use physical objects to increase a digital offering's perceived value. Physical keepsakes can enhance the staying power of online experiences and properties.
  • Stay attuned to the opportunities new technology provides. QR codes are one example of this. But 3D printing makes the production of items on demand a possibility that promises some interesting innovations.

The big takeaway for fulfillment is clear: Don't turn your back on the tangible. In an environment where nostalgia and the desire for physical connection are rising, suddenly the old is new again.

Do you have questions about fulfillment service ? Read additional Knowledge Center stories on this subject, or contact Iron Mountain's Fulfillment Services team. You'll be connected with a knowledgeable product and services specialist who can address your specific challenges.


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