Can brochures survive digital age?

With the rise and subsequent ubiquity of the Web, many firms now view printed promotional media as distinctly outdated – even though at one time you would be hard-pushed to find a business which didn’t possess a lovingly crafted print brochure as part of its marketing and sales collateral.
So has the brochure been consigned to the dustbin of history? Now it may be rather ironic to make this argument online, but I don’t think it has.
I believe that a well-executed, compelling and targeted brochure can play an effective part in selling a product or service, by helping a brand to stand out from its competitors and reassure customers that they are making the right choice, through e-brochure or print. In the digital era, print collateral still helps you stand out from the crowd. The power of real-world marketing materials, ones that can’t be instantly deleted, should not be underestimated.

Long shelf-life
In the first instance, a brochure has a long shelf-life – a smartly created brochure can be lasting and memorable. Readers can feel physically more connected to the product.
They can pick the brochure up, feel it – and perhaps even more than that, ‘they own it’. It can be returned to, checked over, consulted, and highlighted. A lot of brands have mistakenly supposed that online marketing is the answer to all their marketing and promotion needs because it’s quick, easy to access and in some ways cheaper.
However, what is often forgotten is that the cost of brochure production can be minimised by creating multi-channel assets, such as shared ‘BTL’ content across media. More important is the power of the physical reminder sitting patiently next to your desk, waiting for the next time you will hold it and admire its rich pages.
While many brands have abandoned just about all physical elements of marketing; for some industries, particularly fashion, consumer tech and automotive, brochures still hold great value. Here there is often still an expectation to receive a brochure, especially for larger value items.

Tangible and visual representation
Their place in the marketing and sales process is still vital because they provide tangible and visual representation of a product. In this respect, online can only allow you to connect with a brand, or allow you to get closer to a product or service to a certain extent. The Internet can often feel like a public domain we browse and pass through. Brochures help us to cut through this impersonal approach by providing the most tactile and physical representation of the brand.
QR codes and augmented reality on our phones and tablets can help to bridge the gap between digital and print, bringing a more interactive experience to the reader, but there remains a lot of value in a company or business having a print brochure with images and facts to pass on to prospective clients. This will act as a visible and accessible reminder of your pitch and what you offer.
Rather than a digital brochure which requires potential business prospects to take several extra steps to engage with, the printed brochure is easily accessible and within arm’s reach, acting as a reassurance tool, a reminder of an experience a consumer had when they visited a brand previously.
Where appropriate, a brochure can be a very influential part of a brand’s marketing effort and should be treated with the same importance and strategic thought as any other marketing collateral. A brochure should always answer the question: ‘what will engage my customer?’ Brands and agencies alike should develop new and thought-provoking materials, whilst ensuring that this is a clear reflection of the brand identity and the product or service positioning.

Grabbing the reader’s attention
A successful brochure, be it an e-brochure or print, needs to grab the reader’s attention, immediately differentiate a brand’s product or service and deliver a consistent brand message, directing the reader on why and how to buy.
It should reassure the reader that they are making the right choice and ultimately drive them to make a purchase or request further information. A brochure should sell not tell: people don’t like to be ‘told’ what to do; instead it gives them the tools to make an informed decision.
Consumers and prospects aren’t interested in you, your company or your product; they are interested in themselves. Your brochure needs to focus on the benefits consumers will gain from making a purchase as well as give them a reason to act before they move on to the next thing which catches their attention.

Complementary to marketing
The rise of digital should not alter this and could actually help the brochure move into a new realm. While there are an estimated 6 million tablet owners in the UK, the technological evolution of the brochure hasn’t rendered it any less useful or informative. In the right context the brochure can be a vital marketing tool, and tablets provide flexibility and immediacy to consumers, offering target consumers a whole new way to interact with brands, providing rich experiences in a close and personal way.
Like the print brochure, they can be easily transported, you carry them with you, and you’re able to physically, rather than electronically, share them with people.
Its traditional role may have altered, but it has evolved into a new role, which doesn’t make it any less complementary to marketing campaigns or any less important to brands and businesses and indeed customers. By harnessing the readers’ senses through the very look and feel of the brochure, long may its new, modern reign continue.

Mike Adey is client services director at Mundocom

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