But we’re not done yet.
There has been non-stop discussion within our industry and across marketing departments in other industries about direct mail that there has been a flood of research and case studies to understand the actual science behind a brain’s response mechanisms to printed media versus digital media. One such study that we stumbled upon was a 2009 case study by branding agency Millward Brown called Using Neuroscience to Understand the Role of Direct Mail.
Sounds legit, right?
Researchers used MRI brain scans to exemplify that the brain functions differently when processing print marketing than when it processes digital marketing. The key finding that stroke a cord with us−and gives us more fuel for the fire− is that paper ads cause more emotional processing than their digital counterparts.
According to the study, physical media left a “deeper footprint” in the brain:
- Material shown on cards generated more activity within the brain associated with the integration of visual and spatial information (the left and right parietal). This suggests that physical material is more “real” to the brain; it has a meaning and a place. It is better connected to memory because it engages with its spatial memory networks.
- Tangible materials elicit more emotional processing in the subjects; this is important from a branding and ad recall standpoint.
- More processing takes place in the right retrosplenial cortex when physical material is presented. This area is involved in the processing of emotionally powerful stimuli and memory, which suggests that the physical presentation generates more emotionally vivid memories.
- Physical activity generates increased activity in the cerebellum, which is associated with spatial and emotional processing and is likely to be further evidence of enhanced emotional processing.
Shew, that was a load of brain terminology! Though a bit more scientific than what we are used to, it is important to remember that this study actually mapped brain movements. Just like our reaction to amazing photography, direct mail has an actual, visceral impact.
See how you react next time you look at and feel a direct mail piece. Did you feel just a bit more connected to this messaging than you did to a similar email promotion? Maybe it’s because we love direct mail, but we certainly feel our brains moving just a bit more when we receive mail!