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The neuroscience of paper emotions

Jul. 4, 2017 - This June, the results of a unique survey to determine the preference for the use of paper over digital communications were released after a yearlong process that involved the input of more than 7,000 consumers across 10 countries.

July 5, 2017  By P&PC Staff

Produced by Toluna, The Attractiveness and Sustainability of Print and Paper survey was commissioned by Two Sides, a global advocacy organization for the use of paper communications.

The survey, according to Two Sides, concludes that there is a clear preference for print on paper across all countries and regions analyzed. It found that 85 to 89 per cent of respondents agree, that when forests are responsibly managed, it is environmentally acceptable to use trees to produce products such as wood for construction and paper for printing. In the same vein, 88 to 91 per cent of respondents agreed that, when responsibly produced, used and recycled, print and paper can be a sustainable way to communicate.

“These findings may also be partially explained by neuroscientific studies that have shown that our brains have a much more emotional and meaningful connection when we read on paper versus screens,” wrote Two Sides’ Phil Riebel. Another neuroscience study was recently commissioned by Canada Post to illustrate the attractiveness of direct mail over online and email advertising.


A Bias For Action, produced by True Impact Marketing, used brain imaging and eye-tracking technologies to see into the brains of people interacting with physical (direct mail) and digital (email, display) advertising media. The researchers developed two integrated campaigns featuring mock brands, applying the same creative and messaging across both physical and digital media formats. The 270 participants were later given memory tests to assess their recall of branded material.

True Impact Marketing found that it takes 21 per cent less thought to process direct mail over digital messaging, and that the paper product creates a 70 per cent higher brand recall. Researchers found the motivation response created by direct mail is 20 per cent higher and even better if it appeals to senses beyond touch, such as smell and hearing. They also found direct mail gets the message across faster, explaining that
our brains process paper media quicker than digital media.

“Physical fills a much-needed, and very human, sensory deficit in the virtual world, where we spend most of our time these days…The most important renaissance in advertising has gone largely unnoticed,” wrote Deepak Chopra, Canada Post president and CEO in a guest editorial column for The Globe and Mail. “In their race to find the next big breakthrough, marketers didn’t stop to realize that paper catalogues and marketing mail are emerging as an effective tool, even to engage digital natives. If there is one thing Steve Jobs taught us well, it is that customers don’t always know what they
really want. You have to figure it out for them.”

This column was originally published in the Summer 2017 issue of Pulp & Paper Canada.

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