Print in financial services marketing: dead or alive?

dead or alive: printing financial services marketing

Chris Monteith

Print Manager

Posted on January 8, 2015

Alive! Print is never going to die.

Of course, print isn’t the dominant marketing medium it used to be. There has been a steady decline over the last decade as digital communication has come into its own and there seems no reason why this trend won’t continue.

But while the volume of print may continue to shrink overall, it will also find new forms and niches. Consequently the likelihood is that print will continue to have a place in financial services marketing for some considerable time yet. Great news for printers and marketeers alike!

Cheers for the tears

The idea that print is dead has been in the ether for some time, and it’s easy to see why when you read summaries like this from PrintWeek.

In 2000, print was the largest advertising medium, accounting for two-thirds of all advertising expenditure, and the most essential (and often primary) means for communication. Today, internet advertising expenditure in Western Europe is equal to the combined spend in newspapers and magazines and digital is now the most used communications medium, especially among younger generations.

But this change isn’t all about the advent of the internet: soaring paper prices and the widespread adoption of company environmental policies, have all played there part in reducing the traditional large print runs associated with financial print.

Even within our own business we have witnessed this transformation as we shifted over 10 years from owning three litho printing presses, to just the one very useful and adaptable digital printing press in-house.

Fortunately this change isn’t all about decline, it has also for some been about growth. Innovation in how printed collateral is manufactured, both in terms of hardware and software, have created fresh opportunities for both users and suppliers of print.

The process of printing

The advent of digital and laser printing now means that one-off small runs of brochures and leaflets are much more affordable (and quicker!), to do. It’s taken considerable market share from the larger pieces of printing kit and created a new market for certain financial sector print items (presentations and pitch books in particular), that in the days of yore were not considered cost effective to print in colour. In addition, many digital printing presses come with built-in data management software, which has put the capability of sophisticated levels of personalised print for direct mail, within the reach of all budgets.

Even the oversupply of increasingly desperate printing outfits across the UK has done more than just push prices down. It has also helped to create an abundance of specialists doing weird and wonderful things in print, to add value to their offering and your print item. Check out the range of special finishes and textures now available from companies such as Reflections – leather texture, soft touch, glow in the dark, 3D printing, latex scratch off, – these are just some of the effects that can add tactile or visual standout to direct mail print pieces.


Proof checking Investec 3D printing proves a little tricky!

And fresh off the blocks (which means of course not yet widely used by the financial sector and therefore really exciting), is the possibility for traditional print to be truly interactive with digital media, using Augmented Reality. Traditional printed marketing material can be designed with certain “trigger” images that, when scanned by an AR enabled smart phone or tablet using image recognition, activate a video version of the promotional material. A major difference between Augmented Reality and straight forward image recognition is that you can overlay multiple media at the same time in the view screen, such as social media share buttons, in-page video even audio and 3D objects.

While the introduction of new print techniques and industry innovation are welcome, it doesn’t mean that traditional corporate 4-colour print is no longer a big part of the financial services marketing picture though. In many situations traditional printed items are still a necessity. They must be built into and integrated with your wider campaigns and designed and printed in line with branding guidelines that span all mediums.

For our financial print clients – Soc Gen, Investec, J.P. Morgan, and Partnership – price is always a key consideration but never at the expense of quality. With still too much spare print capacity in the market there are plenty of what appear to be amazing print bargains to be had. Be careful though. It’s no good placing a one-off print order with a so called print specialist if the resulting printed item bears no relation to the rest of your branding and messaging!

So while print may have lost its marketing dominance and some aspects of the printing process may be less relevant for a financial services marketing campaign, print as a medium definitely still has its place.

Places where print shows promise

The shift in print in financial services marketing will likely lag a little behind other industries because when people deal with large quantities of money, they like tangible paperwork. But it’s not just bureaucracy where paper is booming:

  • Direct mail. As we’ve discussed in a previous blog post, there is huge potential for great return on investment and raising awareness in the use of printed mail and three-dimensional mail.
  • Application forms. The simple fact is for many financial products people still need to (and often want to) sign a real document rather than relying on digital signatures.
  • Key features documents. When someone invests money in a financial product, they want something tangible to take home afterwards that represents and explains the product. They want a quick and easy reference quite literally to hand.
  • Event take-aways. While having iPads and other interactive digital media at events is great for capturing data and getting prospects involved with your product or brand, it can lack the ability to create a legacy from that event. That’s why printed packs are still useful – so people can take something away with them to remind them of who and what they’ve seen.

One man’s PDF is another man’s printed brochure

The other thing worth bearing in mind about the decline and specialisation of print in creative financial services marketing is that while more of your output might be digital, that doesn’t mean it’s not being consumed in print. In other words, clients might be printing out material themselves.

We’ve found in particular with financial advisors that they’re not only willing, but often prefer to print out collateral themselves. In this case, you have to design carefully, making sure content is suitable for print, but still eye-catching on screen.

The place of print in financial services marketing

Almost nothing has to be printed any more. Instead, it’s something you can choose to do when it has a specific purpose or quality that will help your campaign.

That’s a big change, but one that certainly won’t see the death of print any time soon.