Talk about getting inside the customer’s head. That’s what we did – quite literally – in our most recent research and resulting white paper, Enhancing the Value of Mail: The Human Response. The insights should help companies better understand the effectiveness of physical advertising mail, particularly as compared to digital ad mail.
We partnered with Temple University’s Center for Neural Decision Making to study people’s responses to physical and digital media in the consumer buying process, including memory of products advertised and intent to purchase. But instead of just using surveys, which rely on people’s stated or conscious preferences, we also monitored people’s bodies and brains to understand their subconscious response. Known as neuromarketing, this rigorous scientific method uses technologies like eye tracking, heart-rate measurement, and MRIs to measure a person’s subconscious responses to various stimuli, often revealing preferences people don’t even know they have.
The results could help companies improve their marketing strategies and also help the U.S. Postal Service better understand the effectiveness of ad mail, one of its most profitable products. Ad mail accounted for over $20 billion — or 31 percent of total revenue — in fiscal year 2014.
Our study builds on work done by the U.K.’s Royal Mail that showed physical media generates greater activity in certain parts of the brain than digital media. Our study revealed some distinct neurological and physiological responses to digital and physical media, including:
- People have a stronger emotional response to physical ads and remember them quicker.
- People process digital ad content quicker, suggesting digital ads can deliver a message more efficiently.
- Physical ads take longer to get one’s attention at first, but have a longer lasting impact for easy recall when making a decision to buy.
Each medium has advantages that advertisers could tap for different campaigns. But we see this as the beginning of possible additional neuromarketing research into how companies should use digital and physical advertising together.
Do you think you respond differently to digital ads than you do to physical ads? How can companies improve marketing strategies given how consumers respond to ads in different media formats? What lessons might there be in all this information for the Postal Service?