Print is not dead – offline communications still have power to drive sales!.

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Whilst digital marketing is fundamental in the modern age, offline marketing still plays a huge part in many businesses’ marketing strategies. Online marketing has of course led to a decrease in the volume of print – especially DM, but in an effective marketing strategy, offline still has a role to play.

If we take London as an example, there are hundreds of new posters, billboards and adverts being put up on a daily basis. The London business and commercial website offers businesses 274 Tube stations, 55 London overground stations, 50 bus stations, 71 car parks, 40 DLR stops, more than 1,000 shops and many other properties as locations to advertise. With 150,000 commuters entering the Tube network every hour there is a huge opportunity to reach a big audience and get your products and services seen.

The future of offline marketing

‘In an average day, someone will make eye contact with around 27 roadside posters and 14 bus advertisements, according to outdoor advertising research body Route, so the ability to capture the attention of the target audience is becoming increasingly important.’ ( With their online marketing, businesses have to ensure that their websites are smart, sleek and easy to use otherwise consumers become irritated and look elsewhere. This theory also applies to offline marketing, if your poster is dull and generic people aren’t going to notice it. This has led to businesses investing in new ways to market offline to attract consumers’ attention. A well-placed poster on the tube network with targeted messaging to suit the core demographic commuter at that station will achieve cut through in a unique way.

Last year the company IBM produced ‘three billboards which functioned as a bench, a shelter and a ramp over stairs, these were small improvements to the cityscape that served as a metaphor for IBM's larger effort to make cities smarter through technology’ ( Another example from last year was from the company Hertz who put up screens across London with live Wimbledon scores on. These included their logo and tagline across the bottom. These are great examples of businesses going that extra mile to grab consumers’ attention.

Targeting the consumer

With online marketing, great attention has to be paid to tailoring the user experience to each segment of the target audience and a brand has to have a robust digital marketing strategy underpinning all their activity – generally comprising a social strategy, online content strategy and possibly PPC/ advertising. Offline marketing needs the same attention to detail. A lux and bespoke direct mail piece created with a specific audience segment in mind has a key part to play in a marketing campaign for a luxury brand for example. It does not preclude the purchase of that brand’s products from their website, but it can be a great way of achieving cut through to primary target customers and supporting the online offering in a noteworthy way.

Last year the property company Right Move set up a new marketing campaign where a direct mail pack was sent to agents who had yet to subscribe to the company, with each pack personalised to the agent's particular city or town by featuring a map of their area. The caption ‘how much of the city are you missing out on?’ was included in the packs. The campaign resulted in the company gaining 502 new customers worth £2,576,280 per year; a sign-up rate of 15.37% ( This is a great example of a business tailoring their marketing strategy and using offline to fantastic effect.

Similarly - a poster for fishing rods in Milton Keynes, which is one of the furthest points inland in the UK, won’t be as effective as the same poster in an area such as Cornwall, which is on the coast. Where you market and how you tailor the marketing is always crucial.

The relationship between on and offline marketing

With todays ‘digital noise’ dominating, the average person spends 37 minutes a day doing social, 29 minutes on email, 23 minutes online video, 23 minutes searching… Over 3 hours online! Businesses have now found new and exciting ways to market themselves offline, often using the relationship between offline and online marketing to their advantage. It is now very rare to see a piece of offline marketing, whether it be a flyer, poster or billboard, without a link to a website or a social media page. Consumers can now engage with products and services that they are interested in rather than just walking past them and forgetting them a few minutes later. Research carried out by the Outdoor Media Centre of 1,507 GB adults found that of adverts seen/heard in the last month, 87% were television, 74% were out of home, 58% were online and 52% were newspapers. This relationship is one of the most vital ways in which a business can cross platform market to their consumers in order to broaden their audience and get people talking about their products and services.

With the popularity of the Smartphone it is now even easier to market to your consumers. QR codes and augmented reality apps such as Blippar enable consumers to scan posters or ambient items such as tent cards or shelf barkers with their phones and link directly to specific offers.

The birth of integrated on/offline strategies has brought its own challenges. For example, ‘show rooming’. This is the practice of looking at something offline, usually an item in a shop and then going online to see if it can be found any cheaper. With plenty of price comparison websites and apps easily available, it is very easy for consumers to compare prices. There are ways to tackle this problem and there have been a lot of innovative ideas, from charging people a try on fee for clothes, which is refundable if the item is bought in store to stores offering to match prices found on large online retailers without the delivery fee.

Offline marketing doesn’t look like it is set to go anywhere any time soon and businesses need to realise that it is now more important than ever to use both off and online marketing techniques in order to create a successful marketing strategy.

Paul Stephen
Paul Stephen
Co-Founder & Executive Director
With over 25 years in marketing, Paul is one of the UK's leading experts on digital marketing. He oversees the agency and often lectures and consults within the industry on digital and marketing related subjects and has a particular interest and skills in the travel and tourism sectors.

Paul operates nationally and internationally, helping brands to think outside the traditional horizontal and vertical channels and transform their business with creative multi-channel marketing and digital re-invention.
Paul Stephen

Paul Stephen

29 Jul 2014 - 5 minute read
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