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Touching is believing



























Touching is believing investigates the power of touch and why touch matters to advertisers and brands in an increasingly virtual world.

Science shows us that touch is a critical sense for human and animal development. It is the first sense developed in the womb and through touch babies learn about the world around them.

The importance of touch goes beyond our early years. It is the catalyst to our emotional world and the way we connect with others: we use a touch word to describe our emotions –  feelings.

Experiments show how touch affects behaviour, even subconsciously. In France, when a waiter touched the bill payer when lowering the tip tray they were 128% more likely to receive tips.

In media and advertising, however, touch is often overlooked. We discuss and measure opportunities to see but not opportunities to touch. An earlier experiment conducted by UCL and PHD demonstrated some of the effects of touch on advertising.

Touching is believing specifically looks at the effect of touch on newspaper and tablet advertising and the impact of different creative.

The research found that touch improves brand perceptions and increases purchase consideration.

Key findings:

  • The touchable format of newspapers and tablets increases reader confidence, satisfaction, reliability and trust in advertised brands
  • This results in an increased willingness to try, purchase and recommend the brands to others
  • Creative that encourages people to touch a print ad produces even stronger brand impressions. Touching print ads increases people's belief that the brand is honest and sincere by 41%, quality perceptions by 20% and purchase intent by 24%
  • Life-size pictures in tablet ads convey tangibility and trigger more interaction and a stronger response across all brand measures. Spontaneous awareness is 33% higher than for a non-touch platform, perceptions that the brand is high quality go up by 16% and purchase intent increases by 25%

The implication for brands and agencies is that touch is a vital sense – it creates tangibility for messages while at the same time being a catalyst for emotional connections…

We are bombarded with messages but touch can create a hiatus, give us time to connect, let us get back in contact with reality. Touch shapes our understanding and emotional response to communications. Touch is literally and emotionally engaging. Touch is truly experiential. Planning for tactility can take advantage of this most powerful of our senses.

The research method and sample

Dr Dimitrios Tsivrikos, consumer and business psychologist at UCL, conducted the experiment among 272 adults, who were split into three groups: paper, tablet and computer. The newspaper and tablet groups naturally touched the paper or tablet screen as they completed a reading task. The computer group used a mouse. Each read the newspaper 'as normal'. Each respondent was exposed to four test ads and one control ad, which were placed in the same editorial. None were aware before or during reading that the research involved advertising. A total of nine ads were shown to the total sample. Four ads were "tactile" – they included images that were life-size (the hypothesis was that this would affect responses as it activated the sense of touch). Four ads were for the same brands, but were non-tactile. One ad was placed in all editions as a control. Behaviour while reading was monitored by camera, to see whether people actually touched the ads when reading print (ads were automatically touched in reading the tablet edition, no ads were touched in pc sample group).

It is the first language we learn and remains our richest means of emotional expression throughout life.

Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology, University of California, Berkeley

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