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Print Marketing: A Millennial’s Perspective

Digital native is a term used to describe Generation Y, Millennials, and younger generations. We’re called such because we grew up with digital technology and especially the internet, and it’s been a mainstay of our lives from an early age. Computers, tablets, and smartphones are as ubiquitous in our lives as television and radio are to our parents. Given that, it makes sense to target this tech-savvy generation with digital ads. Print marketing can’t possibly reach the eyeballs of the screen-obsessed, can it? 

Surprisingly, print marketing can reach Gen Y and Z in a big way. According to a USPS study, marketers who don’t target Gen Y with printed media are missing out. Researchers found that millennials engage more with direct mail than other generations. In fact, 50% of digital natives pay no attention to digital marketing, while only 15% ignore print. The reason, it’s all down to neuroscience.

We millennials have $1.4 trillion in disposable income. It’s why appealing to Gen Y has become an obsession for modern advertisers. Thus, switched-on midsize and small businesses target Gen Y with omnichannel marketing campaigns that include plenty of print marketing. And those who focus solely on digital channels are being left behind.

Know Your Audience – Who Are the Millennials?

The core to any successful marketing and advertising effort is identifying and understanding the target audience. So millennials, who are we? Millennials were born between 1981–1996 and have an age range of 25–40 in 2021. There are 72 million in the US alone, making up 20% of the total population. As digital natives, this generational cohort has spent most of their life with digital technology, the internet, and social media [1].

Millennial Markers: Gen Y trust influence, are budget-friendly, value choice, speed, and convenience. They care about sustainability, search for recognition, and pursue instant gratification.

The average millennial is social, educated, tech-savvy, socially connected, and loves to shop. Successful small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) understand this market, their wants, needs, and desires. The table below highlights some millennial stats that every marketer should know.

Take time to read direct mail or print media [2]88%
Millennials open and respond to ads in direct mail [3]66%
Contact by personal mail makes millennials feel special [4]75%
More than half visit real-world stores based on postal mail marketing [5]62%
Welcome paper discount coupons for retail and restaurants [6]65%–69%
Take part in loyalty reward programs [7]77%
Prefer direct print communication to email [8]64%

At 20% of the US population, we represent a significant consumer segment of the US and global population. We’re a valuable target for marketing print and digital media campaigns, especially the former. Just as many people tune out ads on radio or television, or change the station, we millennials are often tuned to recognize digital advertising as noise and ignore it. Or, if digitals advertisements are too intrusive, we will bounce off a web page, video, or social media scroll. 

In the most aggravating situations, Millennials are more likely to employ ad-blocking technology to consume online content in peace.

Print Media Is Not Dead

Why should SMBs bother with print when they have instant access to all things digital? A 2016 study conducted by Marketing Sherpa sums it up nicely. It asked participants which advertising channels they trusted the most when making purchase decisions. 

The results in the chart below—from most to least trusted—surprised many.


This study confirms that digital natives often prefer and trust traditional media advertising over digital ads. The design, layout, and easy-to-read print format play a part, but there are also factors like credibility. We’ll explore the reasons behind this phenomenon next.

How Generation Y Consume Print

Millennials are now the driving force behind modern culture and commerce. Understanding why we value traditional advertising, particularly print advertising despite being digital natives, is fundamental to taking advantage of a print marketing campaign targeting millennials.
For millennials, print media comes down to two primary factors:

  1. Paper equals trust
  2. Print is emotive

As long as it’s relevant to the target audience and the media placement, print will continue to capture millennial readers without being lost in digital advertising noise.

Generation Y Trust Print

It’s true; millennials, and all the other demographics, trust print media more than any other medium. As online scams, phishing, misleading ads, and fake news continue to fill the digital landscape, the trust in print media becomes ever stronger. Digital natives trust paper advertisers are far less likely to trick or steal personal data for malicious gain.

Offline-Online Connection: Printed media positively affects millennials’ internet buying decisions. Around 53% buy online based on hard-copy ads.

The Two Sides Survey

Two Sides North America is an independent non-profit organization. It deals with factual information about print, paper’s versatility, sustainability, and appeal. In 2017, it commissioned a 10,700-consumer survey across ten countries.

The study confirmed people everywhere still trust print marketing over digital marketing, but that’s not all. Consumers also enjoy it more and find printed ads easier to understand. Moreover, the participants spoke of digital fatigue, online privacy, and personal data collection concerns [9].

These are the reasons why genuine marketers are returning to print.

Print Is Emotive and Engaging


Successful advertising campaigns are a combination of neuroscience and market research. Print marketing works when it checks three essential boxes for success:

  1. Captures reader attention
  2. Stirs an emotional response
  3. It is memorable, in a positive way

The print format is better at grabbing attention, evoking human feelings, and memory recall. Even the tactile sensation and pleasant smell of new paper play a part in print marketing’s success.

Print Grabs Attention!

It captures and holds attention much better than digital media. Print is bigger, bolder, and most importantly, it’s static. Digital advertising is fleeting; an online ad has a small window of opportunity that often lasts less than a second before it’s gone. In contrast, print marketing is in attendance so long as the person keeps it around. The fleeting nature of digital advertising is compounded by adblocking technology that keeps your target audience from never seeing your advertisements.

Adblocking: According to Statista, around 27% of Americans use adblocking software when connected to the internet. That means one-quarter of online ads never reach their target audience[10].

The Power of Touch

It’s the tangible element that makes print so powerful. Digital tactics—no matter how creative—can’t offer smell, texture, weight, and real-world experiences. Print media is multi-sensorial—the reader experiences with more senses than just their eyes. The physical properties of print trigger the reader’s neural networks, linking touch, smell, even the sound of pages rustling and being turned with memory.

People have access to printed ads for as long as they need them. No one can save a digital ad, though, or pin it somewhere as a reminder. Many millennials have lost interest in virtual promotions. We’ve come to appreciate the physical aspect of print, not least because it’s more impressionable, trustworthy, and personable.

Letterbox Drop Return on Investment: The ROI for direct mail is highly profitable. For every $100 spent on letterboxing, consumers spend an average of $1250, a 1,300% ROI.[11].

Print Impacts Memory

A 2021 US scientific study tracked reactions to digital and printed media. The results found people looked at printed ads longer. Their pupils were more dilated, and the biometric measurements signified greater interest. In addition, increased brain activity in memory regions indicated better memory recall [12].

The conclusion is print affects the brain at a deeper level, embedding memories. It seems that the brain remembers best when a thing is real, tangible, and paper is definitely that. The absence of moving images, flashing, and audio clutter also help to leave a lasting impression.

Is Print Marketing for You?

Because we know that print marketing can be successful for any generation, consider print marketing opportunities if your digital marketing campaigns aren’t producing the desired results. The continued trust in print now resonates more with millennials and other digital natives who are becoming blind to digital advertising. Research shows that printed ads can make the transition to the internet to drive online purchases, but you still need a well-crafted campaign for them to work successfully.

Below are some of the positive and negative marketing points for the most common forms of print media.

Pros and Cons of Print Newspaper Ads

Newspaper readership among millennials is low. Just as television and radio before it, the internet provides a faster, more up-to-date perspective of news worldwide as it happens. As a source of breaking news, newspapers have long since failed to compete.

Even so, newspapers offer a captive audience if their wants and needs match the offering you’re selling. Despite decreased subscription volume over generations, the Millennials who do read the newspaper show increased engagement to newspaper ads. Responsiveness to newspaper print marketing remains strong, especially with in-ad coupons. We can personally attest to Millennials picking up a newspaper specifically to review the ads, coupons, and sale specials inside.

Newspaper Ads Attract Millennial Eyeballs: According to a 2016 US News Media Alliance study, 68% of younger millennials who read newspapers respond to ads.

Pros: reaches a diverse audience, message repetition with regular advertising, choice of ad sizes, and prices. Ads may also get seen by others on subsequent read-throughs.

Cons: limited readership, no sound, poor print/image reproduction, placement restrictions. 

Pros and Cons of Print Magazine Ads

Like newspaper subscriptions, consumer magazine subscriptions have been on a downtrend for many years now. Again the speed of coverage is often the culprit. Online blogs and websites that follow hobbies and interests can provide faster information cycles than the standard monthly print magazine.

Still, a study published by Quad Graphics revealed some interesting results about magazine readers. It shows 62% of Millennials favor printed magazines over digital editions. What’s more, 58% spend time looking at ads, and 49% make a purchase after seeing and advertisements in a print magazine [13].

Pros: reaches a highly-targeted audience, loyal readership, high-quality print/images (especially glossy publications). Quality magazines also have a long shelf life. Trade publications for B2B marketing have proved more resilient to declining readership over their B2C partners.

Cons: targeted yet limited reach; high advertisement-to-content ratios can frustrate readers.

Pros and Cons of Direct Mail

Like the rest of print media, direct mail’s tangible format gives it an edge over its digital equivalent. These print campaigns also enjoy higher visibility and better response rates than online ads. Where an outbound email marketing piece often comes off as low-effort and cheap (comparatively it is) to Millennials, physical direct mail requires more cost and effort to produce. 

Often as marketers, we see SMBs fail in direct mail when there is dissonance between the value of the SMB’s offering and their marketing deliverables. The more personalized care and attention you put into the direct mail aspect of your print marketing, the more likely it is to pay off. Follow the three checkboxes from above. Your direct mail needs to capture attention (stick out from other direct mail pieces), create an instant connection with the reader (pique interest or evoke emotion), and make it memorable enough they want to keep it, not trash it.

Pros: highly targeted, personalized, range of formats available. The letterbox drop is an easy-to-measure marketing model with a proven track record for those willing to do it right.

Cons: costs can quickly add up; early campaigns can take a lot of trial and error to dial in on what resonates with the audience

Print Marketing & Millennials, Closing Comments

As millennials, we prefer to get content from our internet-connected devices, but we know the difference between print media and a broken iPad. There’s growing evidence that a high percentage of digital natives now pay closer attention to print media than ever before.

Digital marketing remains the best choice for promoting many brands, products, and services. But the trend is that Millennials are quickly becoming blind to digital advertising, even as digital marketers are getting better at making it succeed. 

So consider if traditional advertising, especially print marketing, has an opportunity to successfully target and convert your Millennial target audience. Contact Bold Entity if you are interested in investigating how print marketing can work for you. 

We’re primarily a digital marketing agency, but part of digital marketing expertise is knowing when it doesn’t make sense for a client and their audience and recognizing it’s time to investigate alternatives. Bold Entity has plenty of traditional marketing practice under our belts, but even if we can’t help you directly, we can help find you someone who can.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2018 and has been updated with new information.


  1. https://www.statista.com/statistics/797321/us-population-by-generation/ 
  2. https://www.uspsdelivers.com/millennials-respond-to-direct-mail/
  3. https://www.printingnews.com/respond-to-direct-mail/ 
  4. https://www.uspsdelivers.com/mail-makes-them-feel-special/   
  5. https://www.uspsdelivers.com/visited-a-store/ 
  6. https://www.uspsdelivers.com/millennials-like-coupons/
  7. https://www.oracle.com/a/ocom/in-loyalty-reward-programs/ 
  8. https://www.linkedin.com/prefer-direct-mail-to-email/ 
  9. https://twosidesna.org/survey 
  10. https://www.statista.com/statistics/804008/ad-blocking-reach-usage-us/ 
  11. https://www.conquestgraphics.com/print-marketing-ROI/ 
  12. https://journals.sagepub.com/print-ads-and-memory/
  13. https://www.qg.com/~/media/Sites/QG-printed-magazine-ads/ 
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