Why physical media makes a more lasting impression than digital

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Business cards are unnecessary for most professionals. Most have a website and at least one social media account. Most of us have a smartphone to store and share contact information, making it quick and easy to exchange details. The market is gradually moving away from owning tangible objects. No more DVDs, CDs or books. Who keeps a collection of business cards they received?

And yet, companies like Moo and Vista Print are thriving. In the case of Moo, they’re thriving on premium products like the luxe business card. Not only are these ‘obsolete’ items still in circulation, but people are actually paying a premium to hand out cards containing the same information as any other card they could hand out, only slightly thicker.

Tangible materials leave a deeper footprint

Millward Brown ran an investigation in 2009 to identify how the brain reacts to digital media compared to physical media. Participants were shown a series of ads on screen and printed on cards. The fMRI scan revealed that tangible materials ‘left a deeper footprint’ on the brain.

The touch of the cards activated an area of the brain associated with the integration of spatial and physical material. This means that the physical media is more ‘real’ to the brain, and because it engages with spatial memory networks, it’s better connected to memory. Physical media is essentially easier to remember.

Impressions stick with real objects 

Moo offer free sample packs containing their full range of cards and literature. These sample packs are expensive to produce, assemble and distribute on scale. But, digital representation of their product doesn’t portray the true quality of what their cards and paper feel like. 

Moo want to get the product into your hands because they know that when they do, you’ll appreciate their cards feel like no other and you’ll remember this feeling. Chances are they’ll convert you because their product is like nothing else on the market based purely on how it feels.

That feeling earns them customers, and in turn helps you make an impression that sticks when you distribute postcards to your clients. Does that impression bring in customers? The cynics often question this, but the answer is yes. If a physical campaign has a greater conversion rate than a digital one, then it actually does bring in additional profit and customers.

It certainly worked for me when I first experienced the silky touch of a can of BrewDog which is sprayed with a soft touch varnish to leave a premium impression when you hold their product. That memory stays with me because it feels like no other can that I’ve picked up before.

Integrate digital and physical into your marketing

There is something extra that you achieve with the tangible. The benefits of digital media are obvious. The costs and scale of distribution are transformed when you publish your book on Kindle. But, digital lacks the impact that a physical object has on the reader. When you touch, feel or see a ‘real’ book that you love, flashes of moments and memories rush through your mind of the places you were and things you felt when you read that book for the first time.

You don’t drop digital media and marketing. It should form the majority of your marketing. But, throw in elements of the physical. Even if you run an online business, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t introduce physical marketing too. If you run an ecommerce business, you can do that within shipments. It doesn’t cost you extra on P&P.

It could be a blogger selling copies of favourite posts in beautiful hardback. Perhaps this is with the view to earn a profit, or maybe simply at a price to cover cost with the view to create a better connection with her audience. Author and Podcaster James Altucher does this regularly with competitions and giveaways of his own book to earn subscribers.

This isn’t a choice of digital or physical. Consider the action or feeling that you want to generate at any given interaction with a customer and which format is best suited to produce that result. When you want to make an impression and it’s critical it sticks, the first interaction point perhaps, physical media might be the best method.

By Liam Curley

Are you looking for ways to find more sales leads? This site is for you!

Liam CurleyHi I’m Liam. I created this site to help businesses in B2B make the initial breakthrough with prospective customers that are otherwise unaware of what you can do for them –  You can read more about my background here.

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