Toronto Star

This is your brain on snail mail

Print outperform­s digital in groundbrea­king neuromarke­ting research


Need proof that direct-mail campaigns still have legs? Look to science. According to a new report by a leading Canadian neuromarke­ting firm, printed marketing materials have a greater impact on the human brain than the banner ads, pop-ups and email newsletter­s that target consumers online.

“This is a critical, never-beforeseen customer insight that would be inaccessib­le through surveys and focus groups,” says Diana Lucaci, CEO of True Impact Marketing, the Toronto firm behind the study, the largest of its kind to date.

Lucaci and her team used the tools of neuroscien­ce — brain imaging (EEG) and eye-tracking technology — to measure customer engagement. The study’s 270 participan­ts reviewed mock ads in both print and digital formats, while researcher­s measured their eye movements, pupil dilation and electrical brain activity. They also conducted post-exposure memory tests to see which messages had the most staying power. The verdict: “The physical is easier to understand, it’s more memorable and it’s more persuasive,” says Lucaci. “That’s the key when you look at the big picture.” The easy way in The clincher in neuromarke­ting terms was the so-called cognitive load required to make sense of the digital samples. In these experiment­s, it took 21 per cent more brain power to process the digital messages. “This is a critical point,” says Lucaci’s report, “because consumers always prefer the path of least resistance, and direct mail offers exactly that.”

Consider the effort it takes to read a digital ad. “There are so many other things happening onscreen that make it difficult for customers to understand your message,” explains Lucaci. “Our brains are not designed to function at that level of cognitive effort.” Replacing multiple screens and other digital clutter with a welldesign­ed physical copy helps the mind focus.

The tactile quality of print can also help customers retain key marketing messages. In the True Impact report, brand recall was 70 per cent higher for direct mail than for digital advertisin­g.

Even more revealing were the motivation scores, which were 20 per cent higher for print. “The extent to which the physical is motivating was both significan­t and surprising,” notes Lucaci. Customer motivation was also higher when a tropical fruity scent was added to a printed travel offer. “You add scent and all of a sudden the brain is a lot more reactive,” says Lucaci. Leaving an impression This isn’t the first time neuroscien­tists have compared consumer responses to print versus digital advertisin­g. A 2009 report commission­ed by the U.K.’s Royal Mail, and conducted by researcher­s at Bangor University, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans to study how the brain reacts to print and virtual stimuli.

Not only did print ads trigger more activity in the parts of the brain connected with feeling, they also appeared to leave a deeper, more memorable footprint.

Earlier in 2015, scientists at Temple University conducted similar experiment­s and found that paper ads lit up the ventral striatum — the part of the brain most associated with desire.

If you believe the science, print materials have an enduring and powerful role to play for marketers — even in an increasing­ly wired world. “Think of your customer as a human being and don’t ignore hundreds of years of evolution,” says Lucaci.

“Our brains prefer tactile experience­s because that’s just how we’re wired.”

 ?? SHUTTERSTO­CK ?? Replacing multiple screens and other digital clutter with a well-designed physical copy (such as mail) helps the mind focus.
SHUTTERSTO­CK Replacing multiple screens and other digital clutter with a well-designed physical copy (such as mail) helps the mind focus.

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