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University Study Shows Direct Mail Has a Greater Purchase Effect Than Digital Ads

Temple University and Postal Service Inspector’s General Office (OIG) recently teamed up and conducted a study on the different neurological effects that direct mail marketing has against those of digital ads. The results were surprisingly one-sided, with direct mail marketing coming out on top in eight out of nine categories. Results showed that while digital ads grabbed the consumers’ attention faster, that direct mail held onto it for a longer period of time, created a more direct emotional reaction and ultimately had a bigger influence on the purchase decision made by the consumer.

OIG sponsored the Temple University’s Center for Neural Decision Making to conduct the study in an attempt to prove that businesses should be using a multifaceted marketing strategy that contains digital ads as well as direct mail marketing. The OIG hoped the results would promote the use of mail in a marketing world that is becoming more and more reliant on digitalization and technology.

The study conducted by Temple included showing various test subjects a mix of direct mail postcards and digital email ads and recorded their reactions in three different ways:

  • Visual Attention was monitored using eye tracking
  • Heart Rate, respiration and sweating (emotions) were recorded using fingertip sensors
  • Deeper neurological activities were measured using MRI scans.

Direct mail ads came out clear winners in 5 of the nine categories:

  • The amount of time spent with the ad
  • Emotional Reaction
  • Remembering ad source and content quickly
  • Subconscious desire for the product
  • The value placed on the product

The two tied in the categories of: engagement, memory retrieval accuracy and how much the participants were willing to pay.

The only category that digital marketing came out on top was how fast the email grabbed the participants’ attention.

The results led the Temple researchers to conclude that physical, direct mail ads have a more profound effect on the emotions of consumers that lasts longer than digital ads, and is more likely to instill a desire to purchase the product.




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