Current marketing spheres have seen many (if not most) advertisers making some kind of transition from paper (newspaper, direct mail, etc.) to digital, foregoing glossy brochures and direct mail pieces for web content and email campaigns. This certainly is understandable, as the majority of consumers now get their information from devices like mobile phones and tablets. But while paper may never return to the prime advertising status it once enjoyed, it would be detrimental for businesses to eliminate it from their marketing altogether. And science proves it, with studies showing print advertising having a significant advantage over digital in several key fields.
Better Brand Recall and Recognition with Print Advertising
The Canadian neuromarketing firm TrueImpact recently released the results of a study it had conducted comparing the effects of paper marketing to digital media, using eye-tracking and high-res EEG brain wave measurements, as well as questionnaires. They discovered that when it came to mental processing and brand recall, direct mail tested better than digital, with subjects needing 21% less cognitive effort to process. Direct mail also had a 75% higher brand recall rate, which makes sense, given that people are less likely to read digital context in-depth, or to display sustained attention to it. Print also means people are more likely to remember a call-to-action, such as a phone number to call. And businesses can make it even simpler by implementing tools such as easy-to-remember vanity phone numbers in their ads.
Prints Ads Are More Persuasive
The TrueImpact study also measured how much the subjects’ understanding of the ads motivated them to learn more about and/or purchase the brand or product, with a score higher than 1 meaning a higher indicator of in-market success. Direct mail scored 1.31, while digital media only scored .87. These results have been corroborated by another study done by Temple University earlier this summer, also comparing direct mail to digital media. Using fMRI scans (the technique most commonly used by academic researchers), the study measured things like attention, engagement, stimulation, etc. What they found was that paper advertising was more likely to stimulate the ventral striatum area of the brain. This area is a gauge of desire and valuation, shown to have the highest connection with advertising effectiveness. In other words, the more the ventral striatum is stimulated, the better chance of a purchase.
Heightened Emotional Connection with Print Advertising
The fact that print media is shown to be more compelling than digital can be partly explained by another study from Bangor University and Branding Agency Millward Brown. Also using fMRI scans, this study discovered paper or “physical” materials were deemed more real by people’s brains. They engaged with spatial memory networks, giving them meaning and place. Physical materials also stirred more emotional responses, contributing to memory and brand associations. They also produced higher brain responses joining with internal feelings, suggesting print ads were internalized more than digital ads. Print can also enhance sensory appeal through means such as vivid images and even scent (scented envelopes and dimensional mailers scored particularly well in the TrueImpact study), better than that of the small screen of a smartphone or tablet. When people feel more connected to a product, the more likely it is they will try it.
Of course, digital advertising still offers a wealth of benefits, such as instant access, localization, personalization and targeting, and more. But print ads are scientifically proven to be more memorable. Advertisers must use the value of both print and digital media to their advantage. It is only by having a compelling, well-rounded advertising campaign with a strong call-to action that a business can hope to be successful.