Does paper speaks to the heart? Science says it just might!

Steve Forbes, a life in review
May 30, 2017
Gary Vaynerchuck – From wine retailer to social-media guru
June 8, 2017

New studies are showing how paper-based content has significant advantages over digital media. Paper it might be speaking to your heart! 

Just as marketers have fully embraced digital neuroscience is uncovering important advantages of paper-based marketing and its ability to speak to our emotions in a way digital ads simply do not.

Is it easier to read on paper?

Canadian neuromarketing company TrueImpact has recently discovered that, when compared against email and display ads, direct mail was easier to process mentally and tested better for brand recall.

The report states:

Direct mail requires 21% less cognitive effort to process than digital media, suggesting that it is both easier to understand and more memorable. Post-exposure memory tests validated what the cognitive load test revealed about direct mail’s memory encoding capabilities. When asked to cite the brand (company name) of an advertisement they had just seen, recall was 70% higher among participants who were exposed to a direct mail piece (75%) than a digital ad (44%).

Do we understand better when we learn from a paper-based medium?

The difference in brand recall between the paper-based medium and the online material identified in this survey is shockingly high. But it is simply building on existing work. For example, a 2012 study in Norway found that we read things in paper format differently than we do digital.

Students who had read a text on paper scored significantly higher on subsequent comprehension tests based on the material than those who read the texts on e-readers.

There is something in the way we connect with paper.

Screen-based reading, on the other hand, is characterized by browsing, scanning, keyword spotting, and non-linear reading, according to a study conducted at San Jose University. This study also noted that sustained attention decreased when reading from a screen.

Why do we connect with print?

Research at Temple University in 2015 and, earlier, at Bangor University in 2009, shed some light as to why what we read in print stays with us much better than what we scan on screen.

The Temple University study found higher rates of activity in the ventral striatum area of the brain when viewing paper advertising than for digital media. This is important, because activity in the ventral striatum is indicative of desire and evaluation.

Its conclusions were akin to those of the Bangor University study. It argued that physical material involves more emotional processing, which is important for memory and brand associations. It also produces more brain responses connected to internal feelings. This suggests greater “internalization” of paper based media.

Suddenly, the 70% higher brand recall on paper than digital identified in the TrueImpact study doesn’t look quite so surprising…

It seems that while print might not be able to offer the individual targeting and tracking that digital media can, if you want to get your message across, paper-based media still touches the heart in a way digital can’t.