The argument has raged on for many years now, “Digital or direct mail? Direct mail or digital?”  Which is more effective? Which generates more response? Which better communicates your brand and value proposition?  Which is drives a better conversion? 

Well, we finally have an answer (or at least some suggestive data points) to this most provocative question thanks to theUK’s Royal Mail.

Recently Royal Mail conducted a research study to investigate how the brain processes physical marketing material, such as direct mail, compared to virtual (or digital) materials presented on a screen.  And their findings are quite interesting.

  • Tangible materials leave a deeper footprint in the brain
  • Physical material involves more emotional processing
  • Physical materials produce more brain responses connected with internal feelings, suggesting greater “internalization” of ads

-Using Neuroscience to Understand the Role of Direct Mail
This study suggests that direct mail leavers a stronger longer lasting impression on the brain.  Great, lets all close down our digital divisions!  Lets change our “Direct Mail is Dead” signs that we printed back in the early 2000s to “Digital is Dead!” HA!

Not so fast.  Both direct mail and digital each have unique benefits and ones that are essential to our marketing environment.  If fact, they often times rely on each other to bring out their individual strengths. Remember the Lexus ad Sports Illustrated ran a few years ago? That ad demonstrated that print and digital actually make one another more memorable for marketing.

Marketing is a balance between multiple channels where you must leverage data to target your current and prospective customers with content and messaging that is relevant.  This research is fascinating and begins to shed some light on how we as humans respond and internalize marketing.  But at the end of the day, testing messaging, offer, list, segmentation and channels will help you identify exactly how your customers’ and prospects’ brains work.