Neuromarketing and the Direct Mail Advantage

“How many unread emails are in your inbox right now?”

It’s an interesting question, posted by Samantha Owens Pyle in The Business Journals.

And she has a follow-up for those ‘inbox zero’ types (like me), as she asks “how many emails from businesses do you automatically delete without even reading the subject line just to keep your inbox clean?”

Whether your box is completely full or emptied with a vengeance, her point remains the same.

“As a society, we are absolutely inundated with email,” Owens Pyle continues. “If you’re like me, some days you feel like calling ‘email bankruptcy’ to eliminate the madness of trying to manage it all.”

This email saturation is a key reason by Owens Pyle sees many more businesses going back to direct mail. A critical factor plays in direct mail’s favor too; the fact that our brains really are wired for print.

Owens Pyle cites Canada Post and True Impact’s 2015 research that found neuroscientific proof that:

  • Print mail requires 21% less cognitive effort to process, which makes it easier to recall.
  • Print mail elicits a higher motivation response.
  • It’s visually faster to process and comprehend.

    Image source: Canada Post and True Impact Research

It’s important to note that the study didn’t rely on stated consumer preferences to gather information. The data was collected using scientifically via sound neuromarketing techniques that get beyond what a customer says they like, and actually looks at how the brain is responding, in real time, to particular stimuli.

The researchers found conclusive evidence that direct mail outperforms its digital counterpart in the key area of cognitive load (how easy the information is to understand) versus motivation (how persuasive the information is).

“In neuromarketing, we aim for a medium to low cognitive load,” explains True Impact CEO Diana Lucaci. “This matters because when a message enters the mind easily and makes sense right away, you’re much more likely to encode it into memory. That said, we always need to look at cognitive load in the context of motivation. If it’s easy to understand but is not motivating, the stimulus is not likely to drive in-market success.”

What neuromarketers look at is the ratio between the two, or the “motivation to cognitive load ratio.” A ratio higher than 1, Lucaci explains, predicts that the material is likely to trigger the desired behavior in the consumer.

The research found that physical media was had a far higher motivation-to-cognition load; in fact the digital ratio didn’t even reach the critical level of 1.

Image source: Canada Post and True Impact Research

No wonder it’s been called the most direct pipeline to consumers. Beyond the scientific impact, we know that direct mail is picked up, looked at and processed immediately – the “kitchen table factor” — unlike email that can linger in spam folders or your stuffed inbox for days (weeks?).

The more we understand the human brain, the better we can be at our jobs. This research proves that, for better recall and more motivated action, direct advertising and printed mail have a heavy advantage over digital channels. Go print.