Is there any point in print in this digital age? Your brain thinks there is.


It’s tempting to believe that books, newspapers, posters, leaflets… all forms of print… are gradually disappearing or becoming irrelevant as digital takes over.

But beware, people also thought that the arrival of TV would close all the cinemas and make radio obsolete. As Macclesfield-based masters of colour printing we at Spiral believe that print in all its forms has a brilliant future. In fact, our sister company Banner Printing Android specialises in online banner printing, so we are a perfect example of how print and digital will work in synergy in the future.

“Print works” says science

People will continue to use print media to promote their businesses because it can work alongside digital media to produce results that digital alone cannot match. You are probably thinking “they’re printers, they would say that wouldn’t they”, but in fact there’s plenty of scientific evidence to support our case.

Google agrees

A recent study by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) showed that cross-channel campaigns (those using a range of media) produce better results if print is included. Even the digital champions at Google agree, because they enable advertisers to factor print into Google Analytics when developing a campaign. They know that in the real world sophisticated advertisers need to use both.

In another piece of research, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) found that 15-24 year old “digital natives” are a whopping 93 per cent more likely than adults to agree with this proposition: “I’ve often recommended things seen advertised on posters”.

Your brain knows the difference

The reason why print and digital complement each other seems to be that the human brain responds to them in different ways. In a study at Temple University in the USA, fMRI brain scans were used to compare brain activity when consuming digital and print. The neuroscientists found that printed material activated the ventral striatum area of the brain more than digital media. Activity in this part of the brain is associated with desire and valuation. It isn’t the mythical “buy button”, nothing in the brain is ever that simple, but it is the part of the brain promotional messages need to reach.

More real

Another study using fMRI scans was conducted at Bangor University to compare the difference in brain activity when consuming paper and digital media. It concluded that physical items, as opposed to those appearing on a screen, are perceived as more “real” by the brain. As a result they engage more fully with the spatial memory networks, and involve more emotional processing.

In less scientific terms, you could say that print reaches the parts that digital alone can’t reach.

How’s your ventral striatum at the moment? If it hasn’t completely switched off while reading this on a screen, why not contact the Spiral team. We’re here to help you find the most cost effective ways to use the awesome power of print, whether you need a quick leaflet, an exhibition stand or a complete integrated cross-channel campaign.