I know the purpose of a blog is to share your thoughts, ideas and feelings. But, today, I’d like to share an article that was emailed to me. It is so well done, based upon research and shows the value of print in the marketing mix. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did!
Brain Science Deems Print a Brainy Choice for Marketers
What instinct tells us about the effectiveness of print has now scientific backing that links it to measurable brain activity, as detailed in a study commissioned by the U.S. Postal Service.
By Patrick Henry Published: February 17, 2016
Print works better than digital: it’s something believers in print know in their bones. The U.S. Postal Service agrees but says it isn’t about bones: it’s about brains.
That’s a non-technical recap of what the USPS and academic researchers learned when they used neuromarketing methods to study the effects of print and digital media in the buying process. The study, published last year, found that although each medium has strengths, physical ads outdo digital ones in terms of time spent, emotional response, ease of recall, and purchasing motivation
Three kinds of scientific testing showed that no matter what people might say in surveys, deep-brain activity and other physiological reactions tell the truth about how they actually respond to advertising impressions.
The study reported that although participants processed digital ad content more quickly, they spent more time with physical ads. They also responded more emotionally to physical ads and remembered them better than digital ads.
According to the study, this is what counts toward generating ROI. Physical ads aren’t as quick to grab attention as digital ads, but they are easier to recall when those who have seen them are making purchasing decisions. At the moment of truth, physical ads trigger activity in the part of the brain that perceives value and desirability. The livelier the response of the ventral striatum, says the study, the greater the intent to purchase.
Although the USPS has an obvious stake in the preservation of physical ads, the study doesn’t attempt to play off one medium against another. It notes, for example, that in situations where consumers have only a short time to view advertisements, digital ads will get the message across more effectively than physical ads. Following up with a physical mailpiece then leads to a purchase.
“This suggests a complementary effect between the two formats that could provide a powerful way for marketers to optimize their media mix, especially as companies look to reach digitally connected customers,” the study says.
The research, conducted by the USPS Office of Inspector General and Temple University’s Fox Center for Neural Decision Making, used survey questionnaires, eye tracking, core biometrics, and neuroimaging to examine physiological and neural activity in subjects looking at physical and digital ads.
The first phase of testing focused on what the subjects looked at and for how long. It also measured physiological response and emotional engagement. The second phase targeted memory and willingness to pay, including a simulated purchase process.
The testing specimens were physical ads printed on postcards and digital ads embedded into e-mail. The ads promoted consumer products and services, and after viewing them in the first phase, the subjects were asked to answer survey questions about them.
Supplying the physiological and neural data were the techniques of eye tracking, using an infrared camera to monitor eye movement; core biometrics with fingertip sensors measuring heart rate, skin conductance, and other bodily reactions; and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a scan that measures deep-brain activity through changes in oxygenated blood flow.
The findings have practical implications for marketers, the study says. Among them:
- Physical ads had a longer-lasting impact than digital ads. A week after the initial viewing, the emotional response and memory of the physical ads remained strong.
- Although participants stated the same willingness to pay for an item whether they were looking at a digital or a physical ad, their brain activity showed a greater subconscious desire for items advertised in a physical format.
- The participants spent more time with physical ads than with digital ads but absorbed the same amount of information from each type.
The study, titled “Enhancing the Value of Mail: The Human Response,” contains analysis and commentary by the USPS as well as the full text of the research report by the team at the Fox Center for Neural Decision Making.
So, if after reading this great article, you want to add or expand the role of print in your marketing strategy, we’d love to put your ideas in motion!