Print Touches our Hearts

In this fourth article in my Power of Print series, we are going to explore the importance of tactility in an increasingly digital world.  Touch is the first sense we develop as human beings – from the beating of our mothers’ heart in the womb, reassuring hugs in childhood to expressions of affection and intimacy in our adult lives, these cues are necessary to our very wellbeing.

Yet the ubiquitous nature of digital technology is dramatically reducing our experience of touch, with damaging outcomes.  Martin Lindstrom, expert in the power of sensory stimulation in branding, explained its impact in a recent Print Power interview*:

“Because society today is so digitally obsessed, we have reduced the amount of tactile interactions we have with humans in a way which is starting to be pretty dangerous…The only thing that people touch is a screen.”

Indeed, seemingly every day, another study is published lamenting the role of social media and technology in worsening mental health and isolation.

Moreover, compounding the isolation we feel from this lack of human touch, reducing interaction with other everyday objects is further impacting our day-to-day lives.

In this Guardian article†, Gaby Hinsliff cites a study of American students, in which half were asked to take lecture notes on their laptop and half by hand.   They found that the former group recorded more information; however, it was the handwritten note-takers who had the strongest conceptual understanding of what they had been told, and could most easily apply that information.  So, the physical act of shaping the letters – a task students found more time-consuming than tapping a screen – caused them to take more notice of what they actually recorded.

Lindstrom further explains why consumption of digital media is fundamentally different to a tangible page:

“Take an airport departure screen which is flicking from page to page; as you look at it your eye has to flick over all these different things before you get to the information you need. It is inherently built into our brains that you have to read things in a superficial way when it’s on a screen, but studies are showing now that when you read things on paper, you actually recall the information and you are more emotionally engaged.”

And emotion matters – neuroscience studies proves that upwards of 85% decisions are subconscious‡.  So, if you want the customer to remember your brand, they must be engaged and impassioned by their interaction with you.

Print clearly ticks some fundamental commercial boxes here; how then can we leverage this powerful medium to create meaningful and valuable brand experiences?

A Royal Mail MarketReach study delved into this topic with exciting results§.  A range of promotional print versions were tested with respondents across a handful of fictitious brands, each version more tactile than the previous.  More tactile versions were heavier, more interestingly shaped and generally more appealing creatively.  Both respondents’ emotional response and their likelihood to take commercial action increased with this enhanced tactility.

Further, as discussed in my last blog, combining print with digital media can significantly enhance return on investment.  Add marketing automation to seamlessly integrate these complementary media and you will be leaving the competition standing.

So, let’s embrace the power of print to touch customers and create powerful, meaningful and lasting relationships.


Tactility – adding another dimension to mail campaigns, Royal Mail MarketReach, July 2013