Studies Highlight Value of Direct Mail as Production Shifts to Color Inkjet

Posted on by Dave Erlandson | No Comments »

US Mail VolumesIn North America the trend for Direct Mail print volume (primarily Standard Mail) has been flat for the last several years. Data from the USPS for the first half of 2016 shows the trend continuing.  Direct mail volumes have been holding steady while first class mail and periodicals continue to decline.

It is becoming well accepted that, although advertising spending is trending towards mobile and online, direct mail remains a key part of the media mix. There are numerous studies and examples that bear this trend out. A few of them are presented here.

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 mail piece 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.

In another study conducted in July 2015 by Canada Post in concert with True Impact Marketing, researchers split a sample of 270 participants into nine groups of 30 to test the impact of printed direct mail versus digital marketing techniques. Some of the key findings are as follows:

  • Direct mail drives action: Direct mail is more persuasive than digital media because it generates a motivation score that is 20% higher. This is even more the case when the direct mail creative appeals to senses beyond just touch. 
  • Direct mail is easier to understand: Direct mail requires 21% less cognitive effort to process than digital media.
  • Direct mail builds brands: Brand recall was 70% higher among participants who were exposed to direct mail ads as opposed to digital ads.

And finally my colleague Tony Hodgson, who manages PODi Europe recently wrote an article (The Secret Life of Direct Mail) about a study done by the UK’s Royal Mail on how direct mail is handled once it arrives at its destination. Some of the key findings include

  • 40% of all mail received by the average household is still hanging around 4 weeks later. It might be filed away, pinned to the noticeboard, in a heap on the sideboard, or just generally lying around. But it’s still there.
  • Only 4% of mail is trashed without opening it, whereas 72% is immediately opened, looked at and even read. The rest is saved for later.
  • 36% of marketing mail is looked at by at least two people. The average item of mail is looked at or talked about 7 times.

Production Shifts to Color Inkjet

In both W. Europe and North America, the economics have shifted from offset preprinting with monochrome laser overprinting to high speed color continuous forms inkjet printing. This, combined with increased response rates for color image personalization, is driving good growth in color digital printing with a corresponding decline in monochrome printing. While primarily an application for continuous feed inkjet to date, the new cutsheet inkjet products on the market will enable the model to be extended to similar, but lower volume cutsheet applications.

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