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Commentary & Analysis

Is Heavier Weight Paper Worth It? This Study Says Yes

Last week, I posted a list of links to neuroscience studies showing the power of print over digital in many areas, including content retention, recall, and willingness to buy. One of those resources contains a reference to a 2015 study that is often overlooked. The study looks not just at print vs. digital, but the weight of the paper, as well. If you are not familiar with this study, you should be.

By Heidi Tolliver-Walker
Published: July 17, 2019

Last week, I posted a list of links to neuroscience studies showing the power of print over digital in many areas, including content retention, recall, and willingness to buy. One of those studies (actually, the book The Neuroscience of Touch, sponsored by SAPPI Fine Papers) contains a reference to a 2015 study that is often overlooked. The study looks not just at print vs. digital, but the weight of the paper, as well.

The study was conducted by Eagleman Labs, run by Dr. David Eagleman, a well-known neuroscientist and director of the Baylor College of Medicine's Laboratory for Perception and Action as well as best-selling author and creator of PBS’s series The Brain). In the study, subjects read a brochure for a fictitious company (I assume to prevent bias for/against actual companies from impacting the results of the study) on three different media: high-quality coated paper, lower-grade uncoated paper, and online. Design was similar for all brochures, whether print or digital, and companies were randomly assigned a medium.

The study found that those who read on high-quality paper did four things:

  1. Understood the content best by significant margins.
  2. Remembered the content best by significant margins.
  3. Had the best impressions of the brands they read about.
  4. Were more likely to recommend those brands to friends.

Even one week later, Eagleman Labs found that people still preferred the companies they read about on the high-quality paper, with name recall for those brands highest by a factor of 3:1.

This doesn’t mean that all print campaigns should be run on heavier-weight paper, of course. But for campaigns for which the client is on the fence about making the extra investment, you can pull out this tidbit to help them decide.

This is also a great excuse to do A/B testing. Encourage your clients to try the same campaign using two different substrates, sending people to different 800 numbers or campaign landing pages for tracking. Then let me know the results. I’d love to hear!

Heidi Tolliver-Walker Heidi is an industry analyst specializing in digital, one-to-one, personalized URL, and Web-to-print applications. Her Marketer’s Primer Series, availalbe through Digital Printing Reports, includes “Digital Printing: Transforming Business and Marketing Models,” 1:1 (Personalized) Printing: Boosting Profits Through Relevance,” “Personalized URLs: Beyond the Hype,” and “Web-to-Print: Transforming Document Management and Marketing.”

 

Discussion

By Mark White on Jul 18, 2019

About 15 years ago, U.S. News & World Report ran a test showing that heavier paper led to increased retail sales of magazines. The internal pages for the "newsstand" copies in one printing plant were printed on 38# (about 57 gsm) lightweight coated paper instead of the usual 30#, while the other plant continued to use 30#. Over the course of more than 20 issues, we found that using 38# instead of 30# caused an approximately 8% boost in copy sales. After that, we continued to use heavier-than-normal paper for retail-sales copies when we could.

 

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