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!