With the advent and snowballing of the digital age we are faced with the question: Is print really dead? Is it out with the Ark as the skeptics state? Has print lost its power as an effective means of marketing and communication? Are we on a one-way highway to a truly paperless society where print is no more?

We don’t believe so, and here’s why.

The Neuroscience:  Print vs. Digital

Neuroscience has a great deal to offer when it comes to understanding why this Paperless Society simply isn’t happening in reality. Back in 2015, researchers at Temple University conducted a fascinating study which showed our brains process digital and print media in distinctly different ways. They are not equal, they are not synonymous with each other. In fact, they are distinctly different.

In the study, participants were quizzed on the impact of each type of media. A range of research tools were employed including biometric measurement and eye-tracking along with other neuroscientific methods. Along came the initial evidence.

This was then expanded on when, a week later, the study participants went through an fMRI which measures brain activity in order to evaluate the longer term impact of the different media, and its effects on the stated and subconscious preferences.

The results are fascinating, and help us to address Is Print Really Dead?

  • Digital ads were processed more quickly.
  • Paper ads engaged viewers for more time.
  • Subjects reported no preference for either medium.
  • Subjects absorbed about the same amount of information from both media.
  • A week later, subjects showed greater emotional response and memory for physical media ads.
  • Physical ads caused more activity in brain areas associated with value and desire.

The result? A resounding thumbs-up for print as a long-term effective method of communication and retention of fact. It’s there in the brainwaves.

Marketing Takeaway

This makes insightful reading for marketers, constantly on the lookout to use the most effective and impactful medium. However, we simply are in the digital age, there’s no going back, it is so integrally woven in to our lives of course it must be used for marketing too.

Striking the Print vs. Digital Balance

So we need to strike a balance: print and digital media. Effective print media drives readership as well as appreciation. Digital purchases however are likely to keep on growing. We all love and enjoy the ease of flipping through printed material at our leisure. Conversely, when it comes to ordering a product or service, digital is the place to be. Digital media lends itself up to timely, cost-effective point-of-sale marketing, such as offers or deals.

Where printed media can have the most impact is for products and services of a high value, with marketers keen to engage a select audience. Print allows marketers to provide their customers with an opportunity to review content in a relaxed and paced manner. Hence, the growth in the magazine market. Here we are seeing a growth of niche titles where expert design, quality illustrations and images along with appropriate content will be appreciated.

Research and Root Level Knowledge

This research matches my own experience. When engagement of readership is key, printed media needs to lead the way. If you’re looking for a longer-lasting emotional impact that drives appreciation of high-value items such as fashion, luxury items and distinctive branded goods, then print is your go-to staple.

The market is beginning to catch on. The paperless society is failing to become a reality. We are seeing a return to print for magazines and regular newsletters for a number of our clients who, through their own experience, are coming to understand that digital media simply doesn’t hold the same value as its printed counterpart. Digital media fails to fully engage the reader as much as a physical equivalent, and readership drops significantly. The result is a hard hit for business, profitability, and the bottom line.

The Future of Print

So it looks like print is here to stay, and with good and powerful reason. However, although it provides a better engagement, the digital experience needs to be interwoven in to a holistic approach to media. Let’s find the best of both worlds so that we can generate sales leads that pay.

Adapted from the Roger Dooley’s article about the research done for the Post Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) USA.

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