Leaving Footprints on the Brain

Leaving Footprints on the Brain


It might be the digital age, but people still like to hold actual pamphlets in their hands. Are at least, their brains do. A marketing experiment conducted by leading global research agency Millward Brown reveals that — according to neuroscience — physical material facilitates greater emotional processing.

Commissioned by the British Royal Mail, the study sought to understand the differences in how online and print media communicate a message – and which is more effective.

The findings were fascinating. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), it was discovered that physical material facilitates greater emotional processing, seen as more brain activity in the area associated with the integration of visual and spatial information. This suggests it is more real to the subject.

The benefits for advertisers are multi-fold. Greater emotional involvement leads to more positive brand associations, along with easier brand recall. This more tangible experience is also more readily internalised by the viewer, which means the ads should have a more personal effect that in turn positively influences motivation.

How does this work?

The study showed that tangible materials leave a deeper footprint in the brain, not just because the physical materials stimulate both sight and touch, but because physical material is more ‘real’ to the brain. It has a meaning, and a place. It’s also better connected to memory because it engages with its spatial memory networks.

The findings ultimately helped Royal Mail’s media planners alter their preconceptions about direct mail and convinced them of the benefits of using both print and online creative to achieve a multi-layered and effective media campaign.

Nadine Todd
Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.