Print or Digital Marketing: Which Is More Useful for Hotel Marketing?

When it comes to hospitality marketing, reaping the rewards and ROI of each campaign is the name of the game. While that may be obvious, the path to achieving the biggest ROI is less clear, especially in the digital age.

The fast pace of the internet and social media development has many marketers chewing on a quintessential twenty-first-century debate: Is print or digital marketing more valuable?

Choosing where to put marketing dollars is a big decision. Some businesses have made the choice to put all their eggs in the digital basket because it’s cheap and convenient, with a wide audience reach. But there are several factors that make print a uniquely valuable and worthwhile investment. Let’s break down the factors that make consumers tick from the perspective of both digital and print, and maybe even crack the code to this ongoing debate.

The Case for Digital

At the beginning of the travel buyer’s journey, during which a potential customer is researching where to go on vacation and where to stay, digital is king. An MDG Advertising study of travel consumers found that 71% plan, 79% shop, and 83% book online. Needless to say, a solid digital presence has the best chance of reaching a consumer in this stage.

There is a myriad of digital marketing options available to you to reach the greatest number of potential customers most open to your messaging, including search engine optimization (SEO), organic and paid social media, blogs and websites, video marketing online ads, and many more. Any of these digital options can generate hundreds of thousands of impressions for a relatively modest investment.

Online campaigns enable you to test, modify, and stop campaigns in the blink of an eye. When something big and newsworthy happens in your destination, for example, you can jump on social media with timely posts that leverage the news. Got great ideas for some packages to offer travelers but not sure which are going to appeal the most? Digital enables you to test some ads and landing pages, see what you get, and tweak your campaigns from there. The speed and flexibility of the digital realm, combined with the ability to easily measure ROI through tracked responses, make online marketing a deservedly popular choice.

The Case for Print

All that said, with the hospitality industry serving up in-the-flesh experiences, print still has its place. From print ads that plant a seed in the dreaming stage and ultimately draw guests to your property to in-room magazines that engage them once they’re there, print can connect in ways that digital cannot.

In general, consumers still value and have positive associations with print media. A survey by IPSOS of 4,500 consumers shows that a resounding 80% prefer reading print media to reading on a screen. IPSOS cites several factors that contribute to that consumer preference:
  • People have a certain level of comfort with print media. They enjoy physical print collateral for esthetic purposes.
  • Familiarity with print materials enables consumers to intuitively navigate to the information they are looking for. The deference to print also stems from the evolution of the modern professional world. If you stare at a computer for 8 hours a day, is that what you want to do for leisure reading?
On a more scientific level, results from a study by Millard Brown show that handling tangible materials such as newspapers, magazines, or brochures prompts increased emotional processing, which encourages better brand and advertisement recall. And there are also studies that illustrate an inherent consumer trust with print media ­–­ something that is severely lacking in the digital world of “fake news” and clickbait. According to a study by Gesellschaft Public Relations Agenturen, 54% of respondents said they trust print ads, compared to a dubious 16% who trust ads appearing on the web.

You may be thinking: “That’s all well and good, but print is still vastly more expensive to produce than its digital counterpart.” You are 100% correct, but there are ways to offset the difference while building relationships with complementary brands, whether it be selling advertisements in your print materials to area businesses or using your print materials to cross-sell your on-site services – or both!
Why Not Both?

Some things are better together: peanut butter and jelly, summertime and sunshine, print and digital marketing – they’re all great on their own, but they have a little extra something when working in tandem. An effective hospitality marketing plan has both strong digital and print elements. In addition, on average, ROI is increased by three times when a print element is added to a marketing campaign. Use them together and you will connect with consumers early in the buyers’ journey and increase brand trust with them.

About Jessica Kaiser Jess single-handedly launched the full-service hospitality marketing agency, Hawthorn Creative, in 2001 and serves as their CEO and head coach to this day. She has a proven track record of rolling up her sleeves and helping resorts, event venues, and destinations spark connections with their guests through forward-thinking design, content, and strategy. From industry giants like Four Seasons and Fairmont to boutique hotels and independent venues, Jess is best known for educating, supporting, and inspiring brands to market smarter and drive more business. For more articles like this, be sure to check out the Hawthorn Blog.alert-info
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