Paper Marketing vs. Digital: How Paper Beats Online Ads

Because we get the majority of our data from cell phones, computers, and tablets, digital marketing seems to run the advertising world. However, the advent of digital ads do not mean paper marketing has no power. In fact, paper marketing actually has several advantages over digital.

Here are many of the benefits of paper vs. digital marketing.


Tangibility immediately creates a stronger psychological response in the reviewer than digital can. Paper takes up space and the physical interaction engages more senses than merely sight.

For example: paper rustles, engaging sound, and can carry its own scent to stimulate memory later. Also, touch marketing uses textures and various finishes to engage this sense for a company's benefit. Thus, the brain will automatically interpret paper marketing as more "real" and give it greater meaning. Paper marketing will also be better connected to memory by using these senses.

Memory and Recall

A study performed by neuromarketing firm TrueImpact proved that physical marketing better engages memory. When naming a brand, the participants who had seen the paper marketing for that company had 75% recall rather than 44% from the subjects who had seen a digital ad.

One interesting way marketers can to engage memory is by using scented paper. Our sense of smell is tied very closely to memory recall, making these brands stick more firmly. Until computers and televisions can produce smells during an advertisement, paper marketing has one up on digital.

Another study showed that subjects held onto paper-based memories longer. These participants showed a higher emotional response and memory a week after the initial test.


Paper and physical marketing has a higher review time than digital marketing. Hanging onto a postcard or catalog stimulates the brain, and if the content is engaging, it will be harder for the recipient to pull away. Also, paper has the benefit of not being as obnoxious as many pop-up video or audio ads. These can make a viewer close them down as quickly as they appear on-screen. Handling paper won't make a reader want to put it down just because the colors are too bright.

Another benefit of touch-based marketing is that it causes more brain activity in areas tied to value and desire. More interesting textures such as foil and varnish or type of paper can also heighten a sense of ownership. If the ad doesn't get mistaken for junk mail at any point, the recipient will hang onto it longer. The longer they possess your paper ad and interact with it, the better they'll recall your brand and return to it for a sale.

Digital advantages

Paper does have its limitations. It can't engage viewers with audio or video, and it's not as easy to target to users based on their interests and behavior. Websites, on the other hand, absorb this kind of data to give visitors the best ad experiences possible. Viewers also process digital ads more quickly than paper ads.

Don't pull the plug on your printing press yet, though. Though paper may never entirely overtake digital again, physical marketing is steady, and neuromarketing sciences still continue to prove its effectiveness.

The best of both worlds

Your best bet? Mixing media in your marketing campaign to get your best results. Using print ads effectively for brand marketing and strengthening memory will ramp up your digital sales. Many viewers will hang onto a catalog or card more, but place the order on their computer or mobile phone. They'll also use their devices to search for items or deals not included on the paper marketing. Paper and physical marketing can do more for your brand and business than you might expect, if you only let it.

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1 Response

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