Ownership starts with perception

Influence your customer’s behavior with the touch of paper.
This story is part of our series about how haptics—the science of touch—can enhance your marketing. View other stories in the series or subscribe to Pop from Sappi today to receive an email when we post more.

Have you ever heard of cognitive surrogacy? It’s science speak for something primal.

Touching something, like a paper catalog, tips the psyche toward “ownership imagery.” Scientific studies show that merely touching an object—or imagining touching it—can make people exhibit a sense of ownership of that object. When customers touch your product, even when it’s just in a printed magazine, they could be one step closer to actually buying it.

“If I own something, I think it’s more valuable than if you own it.”
Neuroscientist Dr. David Eagleman

Enter: the endowment effect.

We assign more value to the things we feel we own and, according to scientific study, this is hardwired into mammalian brain architecture. It’s a cross-species phenomenon: A monkey will take his banana over your oats, even if oats are his favorite food.

Even something as simple as a direct mail piece with your customer’s name on it could start turning the wheels toward valuing your brand or product more.

The coffee mug’s value if it’s mine.
The coffee mug’s value if it’s yours.

People also associate touch with trait.

Touching things with distinct physical qualities—heavy or light, hard or soft, rough or smooth—can also lead people to assign those same characteristics to other people and things. In a recent study, an object’s feel influenced a person’s interpretation of something else they were looking at. Subjects who held a heavier clipboard, for example, rated a job candidate as more qualified than those who didn’t, assigning more weight to that individual.

Perceived ownership through touch
Dr. David Eagleman examines the ability touch has to influence people's purchases. View full series.


What we touch shapes what we think. Paper has the power to influence perceptions of your brand.