Why We Print: What Neuroscience Can Show Us About the Power of Print Media

Part I: Direct Mail

Every year, consumers are accessing more forms of digital media. While digital is an important part of marketing and communications, print plays an important role in the way people remember and receive information. Neuroscience is proving that our brains are wired to respond positively to print media like direct mail. 

“Print and digital communications both have their strengths,” says Heidi Tolliver-Walker, a print industry analyst, in her What They Think article “Neuroscience and Print: Compiled List of Links”. “But when it comes to comprehension and recall, studies consistently show that information communicated in print is more deeply embedded, recalled with more detail, and creates a more powerful emotional engagement than digital. 

In part I of this two-part blog series, we share some insights about the power of print from neuroscience research on direct mail. Here are a few take-aways: 

  • In a UK Royal Mail study conducted by Millward Brown, “Using Neuroscience to Understand the Role of Direct Mail”:
    • Consumers’ brain responses to direct mail were examined and the results uncovered that physical materials leave a deeper footprint in the brain.
  • A Canada Post study used electroencephalography (EEG), a brain imaging method, with participants. They found: 
    • Direct mail is easier to understand and more memorable than digital media. It takes 21% less thought to process and creates much higher brand recall.
    • Direct mail is far more persuasive than digital media. Its motivation response is 20% higher — and even better if it appeals to senses beyond touches, such as smell and hearing.
  • Research by Market Reach studied the impact of media choice and how brand messages are remembered. The results showed:
    • Mail has a 35% stronger response in the areas associated with long-term memory encoding than social media. When compared with email, the figure rose to 49%!
  • The U.S. Postal Service Office and Temple University researchers studied responses to physical and digital media in the consumer buying process and found:
    • Participants processed digital ad content faster, but they spent more time with physical ads. When viewing physical ads, participants had a stronger emotional response and remembered them better. 

For more links to the neuroscience research, check out Heidi Tolliver-Walker’s article (@htollvr):Neuroscience and Print: Compiled List of Links.” Stay tuned for a Part II for more on the neuroscience research.

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