The Strength of Direct Mail

Posted by Dave Olesen on Mar 26, 2019 10:09:44 AM

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The Strength of Direct Mail

Scientific research continues to demonstrate that the most effective advertising is omnichannel.  Why?  Because different tools have different strengths that work together to more effectively build brands.  Simply put, people react differently to digital advertising and direct mail.  A growing body of evidence is proving that direct mail has unique strengths that make it worth the investment in the near and long term.  Over the past six months, the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) has released three studies that have called attention to the importance of omnichannel marketing and the unique role direct mail advertising plays in building brands.  As it has stated"...branding is now, more than ever, an omnichannel endeavor."  While digital advertising is processed more quickly, direct mail advertising plays a unique role "particularly because of its lasting impression and ability to make an emotional connection with consumers."

Citing one of its recent studies where people looked at digital and direct mail advertising, digital ads were processed faster than direct mail ads but  direct mail ads outperformed digital ads in brand name recall and brand association. 

"Participants recognized a greater proportion of ads and brands from the physical format than the digital format. Soon after initial exposure to the ads in Phase 1, participants were better able to recall more brands from physical ads than digital ads. During Phase 2, participants recognized a greater proportion of snippets and accurately identified a greater proportion of brand names from physical ads than from digital ads. These results indicate print is powerful for remembering both ads and brands associated with the ads."

The results were statistically significant.  Not only that, the self-reported memory advantage of the direct mail ads was supported by functional magnetic resonance imaging.  This aspect of the study showed that interaction with the physical, direct mail ads created a stronger association network and better memory to retrieve information from the ads. 

As the Inspector General's Office concluded: "Taken together, these findings demonstrate the power of physical ads for many brand advertising objectives."  Moreover, "A strong corporate identity attracts and retains customers, and a positive brand perception translates into big bucks. Customer loyalty to a brand can lead to repeat purchases, inspire word-of-mouth advertising, and foster resilience in an era where social media allows news — particularly bad news — to travel quickly."

Interestingly, the study also noted that "ads designed to elicit an emotional response or those that used metaphorical symbols of the brand’s value were generally a more effective branding tool than ads that described a product’s function."

For more information, see "RARC Report Using Mail to Build Brands."

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Topics: Marketing Strategy, Direct Mail Marketing, Automated Direct Mail