The Persuasive Power of Paper

Why paper still matters in a digital age

 Are you bombarded with messages that paper is a dying medium and you need to go completely digital?  Do you wonder why you should continue to invest in paper returns, reports, and portfolios?  Why would you invest in a luxury presentation folder for your clients?  Isn’t this the end of paper?

Quite emphatically, the answer is no.  If you want to make a long lasting impression in the hearts and mind of your clients, you need to do it in a tangible, physical medium, that can be seen, felt and remembered.  Yes, of course you need to supply your clients with tax returns and financial reports digitally – that’s a no brainer – but multiple studies have linked printed materials to better retention of information compared to digital media.

“Paper enables a certain kind of thinking.”

Malcom Gladwell

The Social Life Of Paper


Recent scientific and consumer market research has proven that paper has a unique persuasive power; put simply, documents and information printed on paper leave a deeper cognitive and emotional footprint in the human brain. 

A study conducted by Bangor University and branding agency Millward Brown revealed that “Physical material involves more emotional processing, which is important for memory and brand associations,” and has a positive effect on the “internalization” of advertising.

If you want an example that applies directly to your experience, think of it this way, which lasts longer and touches your emotions more, a birthday Card or a birthday email? 

Remember that great Christmas email you got from your friend 3 years ago? 

No?  Well, you’re not alone. The same principle applies to digital vs. paper marketing materials. A recent Forbes article found that when it comes to marketing materials, “In addition to exploiting the customer’s senses, paper may also be more effective for communicating detailed information. While most ads are designed to avoid any hint of information overload, sometimes a B2B sales effort may involve important documentation to ensure the customer needs are met. Providing this information in paper format may increase the customer’s comprehension and recall.”

“Paper has persisted, they argue, for very good reasons: when it comes to performing certain kinds of cognitive tasks, paper has many advantages over computers.”

Malcom Gladwell

The Social Life Of Paper

So while digital media is an inherent part of doing business now, and allows businesses greater reach, printed materials are in some cases more effective at enticing prospects to take action, enhancing recall of a brand, or conveying the idea of value.

In 2016, researchers from the University of Maryland published their findings on this topic in The Journal of Experimental Education. “Neuroscience suggests that printed marketing materials tend to outperform digital when it comes to reading comprehension, recall, emotional impact and persuasiveness.”

The same study noted that print ads may result in better engagement and follow through. Functional MRIs (fMRIs) have shown that paper advertising activated the ventral striatum area of the brain, an “indicator of desire and valuation,” to a greater extent than digital ads.


The problem that paper solves, by contrast, is the problem that most concerns us today, which is how to support knowledge work.

Malcom Gladwell

The Social Life Of Paper

Takeaway: You Need A Great Digital Service – And A Memorable Paper Keepsake 

The truth is, you need both digital and paper, and you need them both very different reasons; because paper and digital are completely different mediums, they each serve very specific uses, and touch different parts of the human brain. Your clients need physical archives for a myriad of reasons.

In a recent Forbes article, behavioral scientist Roger Dooley stated, “Rather than an all-digital world, it appears that a multi-channel approach that leverages the unique benefits of paper with the convenience and accessibility of digital will perform best.”

From a Branding perspective, you need to consider this question: what keepsake of my inimitable service is left behind when my work has been delivered?  Or better, how have I touched my clients hearts and minds, so that they understand the real and lasting value of my contribution to their health, wealth and long-term satisfaction with my service? Have I left them with an impression that says “my work is more than another commodity?”

Lockhart can help you leave behind a lasting memory of your valuable work. The elegant look, tangible feel, and enduring, archival quality of Lockhart’s legendary presentation folders enhance the perceived value of your work and help ensure long-term client retention and satisfaction. Count on Lockhart to help you brand your image of excellence today.

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