Print vs Digital: A guide to marketing your event better than your competitors

To print or to upload - it’s the question everyone’s asking. As event marketers, we’re currently in the midst of an interesting period...Digital marketing has secured itself firmly in the fabric of how we promote our events, but digitals older stepsister is refusing to disappear, with big businesses still spending millions per year on traditional print advertising.

When you’re dealing with a set budget and are responsible for deciding on your marketing strategy things can very quickly start to feel a little overwhelming. Where should you spend your marketing dollar? Should you double down on your online advertising or spread your reach out evenly across multiple different platforms? For this event tech tribe guide, we’re breaking down the difference between the different advertising platforms and share some tips and tricks that will help you navigate the busy world of event marketing.

Breaking it down

Unfortunately for you, the decision is not as simple as ‘print’ or ‘digital’. Underneath each of those categories are hundreds of different delivery mechanisms, each come with their own Pros, Cons and use cases.

print vs digital marketing

If it helps, think of print and digital as separate umbrellas. Underneath each of those umbrellas is an enormous tool box of platforms that you can pick and choose from when it comes time to plan your event marketing really are spoilt for choice!

Print: a brief history

Certainly the more established of the two, print advertising has been around in some shape or form since the 1200’s, when political campaigns and posters advertising family businesses were carved into rocks and bronze plates.

Print surged in the 19th century with newspaper advertising becoming the dominant form of marketing during the times. Fast forward to the 21st century and print advertising is still extremely popular, with industries built of print advertising such as the magazine industry remaining consistently strong with a cool $10+ billion revenue for the industry in the US alone.

The big problem with print is that its impact is extremely difficult to measure. If you dedicate your entire marketing budget to print advertising you’re going to have a tough time showing a return on that investment, and an even trickier time figuring out which of your print platforms was the most impactful.

Navigating the world of digital

Digital is young, fresh and exciting. Up until recently, it was the ‘novelty’ in advertising, but many businesses nowadays will tell you that the majority (if not all) of their marketing budget is spent on digital. It fills the gap that print simply can’t: it’s extremely measurable and targetable.

Digital can quickly turn into a beast that’s extremely difficult to wrangle, especially when you’ve got the looming deadline that is your event! Arguably the most important thing to nail is your point of sale - in your case, this is where your attendees will come to learn more about your event and ultimately purchase their tickets. A good event website is effectively your version of a shop window, so make sure you’re taking time when it comes to picking your supplier here (pro tip: If you don’t want to go through the rollercoaster of searching for good options only to be disappointed, check out can thank us later)

What YOU should do

Although there is no ‘one solution to rule them all’, we do have a few tips and tricks up our sleeves, along with some advice that we think should help set you in the right direction when planning your next event:

1. Print should be supplementary

There is still a place for print advertising in many of your events, however, try to avoid putting all of your eggs into the print basket. Instead, try thinking of print as your supplementary marketing to your digital campaign. Your digital presence is going to be how you reach the bulk of people and provide them with the most information. Think of ways your print marketing can back up the information they’ve seen and keep your event branding top of mind.

2. Fish where the fish are

When navigating the world of digital marketing, it’s important to always keep in mind the segments that you are targeting. Which social media platforms are they more likely to be using? Do they prefer short snippets of information online, or are they more in-depth readers? Are there any celebrity or social media influencers that your target market responds well to? What time of day are they most likely to be browsing and open to receiving your content?

All of these questions are ones you should be asking yourself when it comes time to decide which digital platforms you’re going to focus on.

3. Take note of circulation

If you do decide to invest in print advertising inside a magazine, publication, or a digital mailer provided by another party other than yourself it’s important to take note of the circulation. Circulation is the number of people who receive the publication every time it’s sent - essentially you want to know the size of the database that is going to receive your advertisement.

To give yourself even more assurance we recommend finding out the ‘readership’ rates. It’s all very well having your advert in a E-mailer than goes out to 10,000 people, but if the mailers average open rate is only 0.3% it might be worth reconsidering just how impactful the investment will be...after all, you want to get as much bang for your buck as possible.

4. Be bold

On average we are exposed to over 5,000 advertisements every day, which means it’s especially important that you put extra thought into the impact your advertisement will have. Grabbing the attention of the right people is equally as important - so whether it’s a bold use of color or some smart wording, have a think about some creative ways your adverts can get noticed.

5. Get to know your space

Once you’ve decided which platforms you’re planning on using, spend some time exploring what’s currently happening in those spaces. It’s always a good idea to know who is currently dominating those platforms, how they’re doing it and then adjusting your campaign accordingly.

6. Subliminal advertising can work wonders

5,000 advertisements a day is obviously too much for one person to take in, which means as people we typically only take notice of the adverts that appeal to us above and beyond the rest. Subliminal marketing is marketing designed to pass below the normal limits of perception - essentially making your ads feel not like adverts at all. David Ogilvy once said, “A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself,” and that’s exactly the attitude we think you should harness when designing your marketing campaign.

Some creative ways to do this could involve partnering with other industry organizations to cross promote, or arranging for a key influencer to host a meet up at your event, meaning they’ll advertise the event on their social media platforms. Thinking outside the square is key here.

So that’s it for now, we hope these tips and tricks will put you in good stead to nail your next event.

Further reading:

Email marketing 101: How to get your emails into the inbox

How to effectively measure the ROI of your event marketing

20+ event marketing hacks to get more butts on seats