Advertising Science: The Power of Print

Multiple marketing touches close the sale. But are all marketing touches created equal? Not according to Neuroscience.

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Over the past fifteen years, neuroscience research methods have helped many companies, including Google, measure actual, rather than just self-reported consumer response to ads or products.

Neuroscience research uses eye tracking, sensors, and MRI techniques to assess the visual attention, engagement and brain activity of test subjects. A 2015 study by Temple University Fox Center for Neural Decision Making employed neuroscience to gauge how people respond to physical and digital ads.

During the first phase, they exposed respondents to print and digital ads, and administered a survey to gauge preferences and recall of the ads. For the second phase, the respondents were exposed to new and previously seen ads, and asked whether they had seen the ads and if so, what format.

The neuromarketing tools used revealed interesting observations:

  • Respondents spent more time reviewing the print ads
  • Print ads yielded higher levels of recall
  • Print ads caused more activity in brain areas associated with value and desire, key markers of purchase interest

Why Does the Brain Process Ad Formats Differently?

When it comes to print, neuroscience has shown that we recruit different parts of the brain to encode information that we both see and feel. The deeper ways that the brain engages with print is why paper-based reading is associated with stronger transfer to long-term memory, recall, and overall comprehension.

This added depth of engagement is underscored by the findings of the Temple University Neural Decision-Making study, and 2015 research conducted by MillwardBrown Digital, which found that print achieved the highest levels of brand favorability and purchase intent of any measured media.

How readers engage with on-screen or digital content differs from print. In a study assessing, “Changes in Reading Behavior Over the Past Ten Years,” the author, Dr. Ziming Liu, observed a pattern of online reading characterized as, “skimming and scanning.” This reading pattern is why best-in-class online creative is strategically designed and written to communicate quickly and succinctly. This messaging, powered by data-driven tools, can be highly targeted and continually measured and refined.

Print vs. other media:

  • Stronger transfer to long-term memory
  • Better recall & comprehension
  • Highest levels of purchase intent

Given what neuroscience has revealed, adding print to the media mix would complement a digital effort by helping to increase engagement and purchase interest.

A Multiple Marketing Touch World

Both digital and print offer significant advantages to advertisers, from targetability to deep engagement. A recent study by The Online Marketing Institute found that it takes seven to thirteen touches to deliver a qualified sales lead. All the more reason to leverage the unique strengths of a varied media mix to move prospects from familiarity to preference and finally, to action.


Click below to watch the Neuroscience and Storytelling to Get More Conversions webinar. Find out how to develop a more fully integrated advertising initiative with print, digital, and data resources.

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