Your Brain Loves Paper


According to a recent study using fMRI brain scans, paper ads caused more emotional processing than digital advertising.  In the case study by Millward Brown entitled Using Neuroscience to Understand the Role of Direct Mail, “Material shown on cards generated more activity within the area of the brain associated with the integration of visual and spatial information.  This suggests that physical material is more “real” to the brain. 

The study also found that the tangible materials involved more emotional processing in the subjects, important from a branding and ad recall standpoint. 

But before this research gets drowned out by cheers from traditional direct mail professionals, these conclusions have limitations.  The most significant is that a head-to-head comparison of similar digital and print ads may not represent most real-world marketing situations.  That’s because digital ads can do things and go places that print ads just can’t do and go.  Creatively, digital ads can be enriched with video, audio and interactivity.  Add to that the potential for laser-sharp targeting that selects audience based on user interests, past behavior and other characteristics, and digital may still eventually win the battle. 

So, digital marketing needs to work harder at stimulating multiple senses.  Interact with your viewer.  Surprise them with a very engaging, very targeted message.

And for those paper impacts in your integrated multi-channel communication, think about the tactile nature of the piece.  How will it feel as the recipient first touches it?  Consider heavier stock or a textured finish.  Load your carrier envelope with enough pieces to make it feel bulky and important.  Emphasize tangibility.

Don’t overlook the fact that tangibility can also be enhanced with how you use words.  Craft a message with emotional impact.  Tie it to your brand through imagery and stories.  If you’re successful, brand recall will be enhanced.     

Rob Zawoysky

Founding Creative Director