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Category: Retail, Sales & Marketing

Enhancing the Value of Mail: The Human Response

Maintaining and enhancing the value of advertising mail is of strategic importance to the Postal Service. The category provides a significant revenue stream for the Postal Service, accounting for over $20 billion — 31 percent of its total revenue — in fiscal year 2014. With an increasing number of choices of media available to marketers, it is imperative that the Postal Service understand the comparative effectiveness of mail using new powerful tools like neuroscience. Such an understanding, based on scientific evidence, would enable the Postal Service to identify growth opportunities.

The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) worked with Temple University’s Center for Neural Decision Making to conduct a neuromarketing study focused on the differing response to physical and digital media in the consumer buying process, including intent to purchase. Neuromarketing is a rigorous scientific method that explores the consumer’s subconscious response — beyond stated preference. In other words, neuromarketing methods reveal actual activity deep in the brain and other physiological responses as opposed to stated answers to survey questions.

The study linked consumers’ subconscious responses to three buying process phases:

■ Exposure. The body’s response to an ad;

■ Memory. How quickly and accurately the brain remembers the ad;

■ Action. Value and desire for the advertised products — a predictor of purchase.

The results of the study showed that participants processed digital ad content quicker. However, participants spent more time with physical ads. When viewing physical ads, participants had a stronger emotional response and remembered them better. Physical ads, though slower to get one’s attention at first exposure, leave a longer lasting impact for easy recall when making a purchase decision. Most importantly, physical ads triggered activity in the area of the brain (ventral striatum) that is responsible for value and desirability for featured products, which can signal a greater intent to purchase.

These findings have practical implications for marketers. If short on time, the digital format captures attention quicker. However, for longer lasting impact and easy recollection, a physical mailpiece is the superior option that could lead to a purchase. This suggests a complementary effect between the two formats that could provide a powerful way for marketers to optimize their media mix, especially as companies look to reach digitally connected customers.