Direct mail beats digital advertising in driving consumers to act: neuromarketing study

Largest study of its kind examines the impact of print and digital campaigns on customer motivation

Posted on Aug. 27, 2015 by in News Releases

Largest study of its kind examines the impact of print and digital campaigns on customer motivation

OTTAWA – A groundbreaking neuromarketing study shows that direct mail continues to play an important role in the marketing mix, stimulating 70% higher brand recall and driving consumers to act.

Commissioned by Canada Post and conducted by leading neuromarketing expert Diana Lucaci, the study used research-grade technology to measure the emotional responses of people interacting with digital and physical ad campaigns. The study is the largest of its kind ever conducted and focused on the essential elements of media effectiveness, including ease of understanding and persuasiveness.

“In a data-driven world, this study reminds marketers that consumers are, ultimately, humans and their emotions are a driver in their path to purchase,” said Diana Lucaci, the founder and CEO of True Impact. “The effectiveness of tangible pieces on the brain is undeniable and understanding when and how to blend physical and digital throughout marketing can work to create the best customer experience.”

Key findings

  • Direct Mail is easy to understand and more memorable. Physical media requires 21% less effort to understand, and creates a 70 per cent higher brand recall.
  • Direct Mail is far more persuasive than digital media. Where a 2% to 5% positive difference in motivation between two stimuli is considered a predictive indicator that consumers are more likely to act, direct mail generates a 20% higher motivation score than digital. This means it is factually better positioned to persuade. This dramatically exceeds the threshold researchers see as an indicator of future behavioural change.
  • Direct Mail gets the message across faster. The context in which it is processed is optimal: quick glance, low cognitive effort and high motivation.
  • Direct Mail is more likely to drive consumers to act. Researchers determine this by examining the relationship between persuasiveness (motivation) and understanding (cognitive load). This is known as the motivation-to-cognitive load ratio. In this study, only direct mail passed the crucial threshold necessary to trigger the desired action from the consumer. This is true across all age groups.

To further enhance the effect of physical media, the study was also the first of its kind to examine it with the senses of smell and hearing. It found that direct mail’s motivation score jumped when scent (perfume) or sound was included in the creative material. ‘Sensory’ direct mail outperformed standard direct mail and had a 30 per cent higher motivation score than digital media.


The researchers developed two integrated campaigns featuring mock brands, applying the same creative and messaging consistently across each campaign’s physical and digital media formats. The 270 participants underwent brain imaging and eye-tracking to test for the campaigns’ ease of understanding, motivation and visual attention. Participants were later given memory tests to assess their recall of branded material.

For a full copy of the study:

B-Roll available upon request.

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