Print Marketing Is Better for the Brain

In an era where digital marketing seems to dominate the advertising landscape, one might be tempted to overlook the power of print. However, recent research suggests that print media commands a unique staying power in the minds of consumers, often outperforming its digital counterparts. From fostering emotional connections to driving customer action, print marketing can get the job done.

Print's Staying Power

According to research by the Go Inspire Group, print ads, particularly those in direct mail, have an average lifespan of 17 days. In contrast, emails typically last for about 1.5 hours, while social media posts only survive for mere minutes. This enhanced longevity implies a stronger likelihood of recall among consumers, lending printed ads an inherent advantage over their digital equivalents.

In a study conducted by Canada Post, participants were shown both print and digital ads. A substantial 75% could recall the brand names from the print mail pieces, whereas only 44% could remember the digital ads. The researchers attributed this disparity to the lower cognitive load required to process print ads, making them less taxing on the brain and thus easier to remember.

Emotional Connection

Print ads do not just win at recall; they also excel at eliciting emotional responses. In a study by Milward Brown, fMRI technology was used to analyze brain responses to physical and digital ads. The findings revealed that physical mail pieces activated the right retrosplenial cortex, a region of the brain associated with processing emotionally powerful stimuli and memory. This suggests that the tactile experience of handling a physical ad can generate more emotionally vivid memories compared to viewing digital ads.

Moreover, the act of picking up a printed piece activates the cerebellum, which is linked to spatial and emotional processing. These findings present further evidence that print ads trigger increased emotional engagement. Marketers can amplify this effect by experimenting with various colors, textures, and shapes in their print campaigns.

Driving Action

Of course, the ultimate goal of any ad is to spur consumer action. Here again, studies indicate that print outperforms digital. Researchers at Canada Post examined the motivation-to-cognitive-load ratio, a measure of an ad’s effectiveness based on its persuasiveness (motivation) and ease of understanding (cognitive load).

Using eye-tracking and biometrics, they discovered that direct mail had a motivation-to-cognitive-load ratio of 1.31, while digital media only managed a ratio of 0.87. Beyond the lab, this finding was confirmed by a study conducted by the media-neutral group Go Inspire, which found that physical mail was more effective at encouraging people to return to abandoned carts, with conversion rates exceeding those of email by 113.5%.


As marketers, we strive for recall, emotional connection, and action in our advertising efforts. Despite the noise and clutter in digital channels, research indicates that print remains an effective tool for engaging consumers and standing out from the crowd. So next time you are drafting your marketing strategy, remember do not underestimate the power of print.

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