Let's Get Real

Does touch stimulate memory? How do our brains process color and light to form images? What does a tactile experience deliver to the recipient? I’m fascinated by cognitive neuroscience and how humans—as biological organisms—comprehend the world around us. As a creative professional, I’m particularly interested in understanding how we interact with art as well as marketing materials. Recently, I re-read a case study presented by Millward Brown in the UK, based on a research project they performed for The Royal Mail—Using Neuroscience to Understand the Role of Direct Mail. The research delved into how our brains process physical marketing materials vs. digitally-based marketing assets. What Millward Brown surfaced about how our brains process each format is not only informative, it is also an affirmation of Sappi’s work and commitment to the art and craft of printing.

Millward Brown used fMRI brain scans to “see” the different effects of two types of marketing approaches on the recipient’s brain. They researched the impact of physical marketing materials compared to that of online digital assets. The physical materials were presented as things you could read or as mixed up images which were illegible but still allowed the recipient to interact with the materials. The results indicated that physical media leaves a “deeper footprint” in the brain than digitally-based marketing assets. Key points that this study surfaced:

  • The research strongly suggests that greater emotional processing is facilitated by real, physical material than by the virtual materials.
  • Tangible materials leave a deeper footprint on the brain.
  • Physical materials involve more emotional processing which is important for memory and brand associations.
  • Physical materials produced more brain responses connected with internal feelings, suggesting “greater” internalization of the ads.

As advertisers move toward marketing more online instead of in print, this research suggests we consider a different balance in order to really make a mark on a potential customer. We know that it’s smart to use multiple channels in marketing campaigns. But, as we strive for greater engagement with customers and clients, we can’t forget that print is a vital part of the mix. No other channel stimulates our synapses and makes a mark on our memory like print. Although this counters many current marketing beliefs, maybe paper and print are the next big marketing push for the early adopters! If you love paper and print like I do, this might seem intuitive. After all, it isn’t rocket-science…but, it is neuroscience! Does that make sense? Download Sappi's Print & publication to read more about these topics.

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