What does direct mail do to your brain?

On January 29, 2018

The dominant narrative in marketing in recent years has been the clear shift from print to digital. Everywhere people are proclaiming that printed media is dead. However, we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss the physical. In fact, several studies have been released that suggest direct mail is much more likely to convert than digital advertising. How do they show this? By using neuroscience. 

Neuroscience and marketing now go hand-in-hand

There are two studies in particular that have compared paper marketing and digital media. They used eye-tracking and high resolution EEG brain wave measurement – as well as conventional questionnaires – to discover how people responded to different marketing mediums. 

Digital and direct mail produce different responses in the brain.
Studies have measured brain responses to find out how people react to digital and direct mail.

A study sponsored by TrueImpact and Canada Post used these technologies to measure the ease at which the reader could understand the piece of marketing, how persuasive it was and how long their attention was held. The report found that direct mail required 21 per cent less cognitive effort to process than digital media, making direct mail much easier to understand mentally.

Participants were also asked to name the brand of the advert they'd just seen. The report found that among those exposed to direct mail, their ability to recall the brand name was 70 per cent higher than those who saw a digital ad. 

A second study performed by Temple University using MRI brain scans found that paper activated the brain's ventral striatum much more than digital media. The ventral striatum is associated with desire and valuation, and activity in this area has the highest correlation with effective advertising. Researchers concluded that direct mail elicited greater emotional reaction and played a more direct role in the final purchase of the product or service.

Direct mail increases people's ability to recall brand names.
People's ability to remember brand names increased dramatically with direct mail.

Marketing pick and mix

Marketers shouldn't forget the sensory stimulation opportunities that come with direct mail

However, the same study also found that email was better at focusing a customer's attention, suggesting we shouldn't let digital completely fall by the wayside. Instead, a mix of direct mail and digital marketing is the best approach to a successful outbound marketing campaign. 

Marketers shouldn't forget the sensory stimulation opportunities that come with direct mail – even scent can be used to increase print's impact. Meanwhile digital's advantages include instant access, easier personalisation, audio and video opportunities, and marketers should remember this when preparing a mixed direct mail and digital marketing campaign. 

For more information on how to make your outbound marketing campaign a success, contact The Prospect Shop today

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