The study 'A Bias for Action' commissioned by Canada Post quantified the relative effectiveness of physical (direct mail) and digital (email, display) advertising media by way of their impacts on the consumer’s brain. According to the study, among 30 different groups, direct mail is more action-oriented than digital media because its physical format stimulates the underlying mental processes that guide behaviour. True Impact Marketing examined the brain imaging metrics that correspond with the two key indicators of media effectiveness – ease of understanding and persuasiveness. To assess the former, they looked at participants’ cognitive load (the mental effort required to understand a stimulus); to assess the latter, they looked at their motivation (the feeling of wanting that drives urges and decision making). The researchers also looked at the relationship between these two metrics (or their motivation-to-cognitive load ratio) to understand the overall effectiveness of each media, with those yielding a ratio of 1 or higher considered the most predictive of behavioural change.
Key findings include:
- Direct Mail is easy to understand and more memorable.
- Direct Mail is far more persuasive than digital media.
- Direct Mail gets the message across faster.
- Direct Mail is more likely to drive consumers to act.