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Print beats out digital for engagement and recall.

EyeW ant people to react to your marketing message? Be able to recall the details later? Use print! Research continues to pile up that the human brain responds differently to the printed word than it does to electronic copy.

A neuroscientific study sponsored by the Postal Service Inspector General’s office (USPS OIG) has found that printed ads are superior to those viewed online in seven out of nine categories. While digital ads seize attention more quickly, the study found that print ads hold attention longer, elicit a stronger emotional reaction, and play a greater role in the ultimate purchase decision.

Researchers used three methods to determine the effects of the ads on the subjects of the study. Eye tracking measured visual attention. Fingertip sensors monitored heart rate, respiration, and perspiration to track emotional engagement. MRIs were used to uncover deep brain activity.

The results? Print came out on top in the following areas:

  • Amount of time spent with the ad
  • Amount of information processed or absorbed from the ad
  • Emotional reaction to the ad
  • Accurate recall of the ad source and content
  • Quick and confident recall of the ad source and content
  • Subconscious desire for the product or service
  • Subconscious value placed on the product or service

These benefits are amplified in the personalized environment, where consumers are already paying more attention, especially to print. Consumers expect email to have a personal component. In print, however, personalization stands out.

Does this mean that you should ditch email in favor of personalized print? Absolutely not. The best marketing results continue to come from campaigns that combine channels.

For example an independent optician’s campaign recently targeted 1500 lapsed clients using print as its base. It segmented the campaign into four groups: men under 40, women under 40, men over 40, and women over 40. Each of the four target groups was sent a personalized postcard inviting them to fill out a survey on their vision needs in exchange for a $75 voucher to be used toward their next visit. The optician followed up with nonresponders using personalized email reminders. All respondents received personalized follow-up emails. The result was 500% ROI.

So if you’re looking for maximum results, keep print the bedrock of your marketing campaigns. Layer in other channels, including digital channels, to support and reinforce the message— and make it personal.