Have smartphones killed print media ads?

print media vs digital media adverts

If you like reading as much as I do, you will agree that eBooks and traditional books are not the same thing, even though they are showing the exact same text!

Reading from a book is a completely different experience: turning the pages, taking notes on the side, folding the corners, feeling the texture of the paper, holding it in your hands… You know this feeling, right?

The truth is that our brains process digital and print media differently, and this means that print ads can play an important role in your marketing strategy.

Our brains love experiencing things through touch

So this is what happens: paper messages cause a more emotional processing, and the memories of these messages are likely to be more vivid and associated with emotions; according to a study.

The study was carried out by the branding agency Millward Brown, and they used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans to observe how adverts displayed in different media affect us.

Paper is more “real” to the brain

The conclusion of the study is that physical media leaves a “deeper footprint” on the brain.

From the brain areas activated by the paper ads, the researchers concluded that physical material, like paper, is more “real” to the brain. Since it has a physical place, it engages with the brain’s spatial memory networks.

And because paper is more “real” to our brain, it also helps us retain its content easier and for a longer time.

Use print media to create lasting memories

Have you ever tried studying from your laptop vs from print notes? I’m sure most of you will agree that it’s easier to retain the information from paper (putting aside the multiple distractions and eye fatigue that laptops can produce).

So you can increase the chances of being remembered by your customers by handing over some flyers, brochures or cards, for example.

I know it’s very tempting to digitalise everything — it’s cheaper and environmentally friendly. But think about printing some strategic pieces of your marketing to give a boost to your overall campaign.

Use vivid images for a powerful impression

Also, according to another study, print media ads with vivid images can create the impression of experiencing the product in your customer’s brains and increase positive feelings about it.

So if you have a restaurant or a spa, for example, hire a good photographer and add some enticing pictures to your prints to create more positive feelings.

Now, what about the choice of paper?

Use textures to create emotions

Since tactile sensations so clearly influence our subconscious perceptions, we can make our print ads more powerful by playing with paper’s characteristics:

  • Rigidity
  • Weight
  • Texture
  • Embossing
  • Die cuts
  • Lamination
  • Etc.

A more weighty and rigid paper will create a feeling of importance and quality, for example. So don’t go cheap in your choice of paper.

The more your customers can feel the paper (weight, textures, etc.), the bigger the impact your message will have in their memories and overall perception of your brand.


Who said we should shut down the print mills? As you can see, print media can play a very important role complementing your digital marketing strategy, specially if you want to give a boost to the emotional side of your campaign and bring your products or services closer to consumers’ minds and hearts.

Now it’s your turn: which parts of your marketing would you print?

Note from the author:

I’m an environmentalist and it breaks my heart to see the amount paper that is wasted in marketing. That’s why, if you’re planning to print stuff, make sure you think about whether it’s really worth it and maximise the resources to avoid as much waste as possible. Thanks.

Note: information taken from the book Brainfluence, 100 ways to persuade and convince consumers with neuromarketing, by Roger Dooley.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *