The Emotional Effects of Print vs Digital Marketing Materials

With everything going digital, printed materials offer some distinct advantages. A number of studies have been conducted over the past few years showing that when it comes to emotional impact and memorability, print beats digital. 

Here’s why: 

A study conducted in 2015 by TrueImpact, a Canadian neuromarketing firm, compared the effects of direct mail marketing with email and display ads. According to the report:

"Direct mail requires 21% less cognitive effort to process than digital media (5.15 vs. 6.37), suggesting that it is both easier to understand and more memorable. […] When asked to cite the brand (company name) of an advertisement they had just seen, recall was 70% higher among participants who were exposed to a direct mail piece (75%) than a digital ad (44%)."

Another revealing study was conducted by Bagnor University and Millward Brown, a branding agency, in 2009. They used fMRI to study the effects of paper and digital media. Some key takeaways, according to Forbes, included:

  • "Physical material is more “real” to the brain.  It has a meaning, and a place. It is better connected to memory because it engages with its spatial memory networks.
  • Physical material involves 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."

So what does this mean for your business? 

Your branding efforts should include a mix of digital and printed materials. Digital should not replace print; they should work together. Put together some well-designed print materials that leave an impact of your brand, such as business cards, letterhead, brochures, envelopes or direct-mail postcards.


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