Haptically speaking, there's a lot to be said for writing marketing messages for print. For starters, they have a better chance of being read when printed on paper and remembered than those viewed on a screen. (More on this later.)
If you're not familiar with haptics, it's the neuroscience of touch. What we know about haptics is based on extensive research that has produced fascinating findings.
You may wonder why, in today's digital world, marketing communicators should care about haptics. As it turns out, there are plenty of reasons starting with this: According to neuroscientist/haptics hotshot Dr. David Eagleman, "Human touch represents a powerful form of non-verbal communication."
If this sounds interesting, I highly recommend "A Communicator's Guide to the Neuroscience of Touch." It's a joint project of Dr. Eagleman and the paper people at Sappi. Some highlights from the book to pique your interest, followed up with some quick thought from me:
• More than half the brain is devoted to processing sensory experience, and much of that sensory receptivity focuses on touch. (PF: Hmmm. So, my words on paper are likely to get extra attention from my reader's brain. Good to know.)
• When you touch something, it triggers a reaction. You feel differently about what you touch. You begin to feel you own it. And research shows this makes you value it more. (PF: Soooo, this is why I can't throw away greeting cards, catalogs and direct mail pieces I've held onto for 10 or 15 years.)
• Rough. Smooth. Heavy. Light. Hard. Soft. What you touch shapes what you feel, and this influences perceptions —consciously and subconsciously — related to what you read. (PF: Savvy paper companies, printers and designers who understand print are capitalizing on this.)
Here's where it gets really interesting for those of us who write for both digital and print. According to Ferris Jabr, whose article "Why The Brain Prefers Paper" appeared in Scientific American, "People understand and remember what they read on paper better than what they read on screen. Researchers think the physicality of paper explains the discrepancy."
Hmm. Maybe this is why when I read something important on screen, I print it. Then reread and digest it later.
Studies show people read best on paper for three reasons.
- It makes content more intuitively navigable.
- It facilitates better mental mapping of information.
- Reading on paper drains fewer of our cognitive resources, making retention easier. This adds up to better retention and understanding.
According to the guide:
"The main job of communicators is to identify what is unique, and good, about a brand and create a program that reveals it clearly. A communicator's tools are words and ideas, expressed through typefaces, colors, and form, delivered on a medium that further shapes the content it carries."
With so many types of media vying for brand dollars, it's reasonable for communicators to look to science to help weigh the alternatives.
By the way, "A Communicator's Guide to the Neuroscience of Touch" is free for the asking, but I'm told print copies are dwindling. So, ACT NOW!
Closing thought. If you think direct mail and other printed messages are too old-school for emerging markets such as Gen Zers, think again. According to Angie Read, blogger and co-author of the new "Marketing to Gen Z," "Gen Zers love getting things in the mail with their name on them. Since they're so used to digital media, they view print as NON-traditional marketing." What goes around comes around.
Full disclosure: Ink-on-paper is in my DNA. I'm the daughter of a postmaster and I began my career as a catalog and direct mail writer. That said, I fully appreciate the immediacy, brevity and linkability of my words delivered digitally in blogs, tweets and SEO content. But learning about haptics has reinforced why I continue to enjoy writing — and reading — words on paper.