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Monday, 21 September 2015 | By Gerry Mulvaney


By Gerry Mulvaney, European Sales Manager, Landa Digital Printing

In a typical case of “well they would say that wouldn’t they” the US Postal service has just published a study that suggests direct mail is much more effective than digital advertising. Since nearly a third of their annual revenues depend on direct marketing, it’s hardly surprising that they sought to prove the effectiveness of the method of marketing. But the figures that they highlight are very interesting to view.

The Postal Service Inspector General’s office commissioned Temple University in Philadelphia to look at the impact on decision making by direct mail advertising as opposed to online marketing. The university team showed a mix of email ads and postcards to a group of people under laboratory conditions and monitored the responses such as eye movement, heart and respiration rates. They also performed an MRI scan on the subject as they were presented with the materials.

The results were categorised into nine headings – attention, review time, engagement, stimulation, memory retrieval accuracy, memory speed and confidence, purchase and willingness to pay, desirability and valuation. Perhaps remarkably in this digital age with marketing messages coming out of smartphones, laptops and tablets, the direct mail piece was more effective in five of the areas! It tied with digital in three others, with only the category of focusing the subjects’ attention being judged more effective. The conclusion of research was that physical advertising has a deeper and longer lasting effect in instilling a desire for products and services on potential customers than digital advertising. As I said at the start, “well, they would say that wouldn’t they“!

Personalised direct mailer

Use of personalisation in a direct mailer

A study by the Royal Mail in the UK a few years ago bore similar results. But the evidence of the effectiveness and physical advertising is dropping through my letter box pretty much every day. I realise that this is somewhat anecdotal evidence, but while the volume of direct mail has certainly fallen, the quality in terms of personalisation, innovation, substrates and image quality has certainly risen and has on several occasions caused either me or Mrs Mulvaney to purchase a product or service on offer.

What seems to be happening, whether we agree with the process or not, is that the quality of data that is being collected by the marketers is improving enormously and the items that drop through the letterbox are certainly much more tailored to the recipient’s interests and needs.

Like Physical Books, Direct Mail Print is not Going Away Any Time Soon

I suppose that in an echo of the change of fortunes in the publishing industry, where e-book sales have plateaued and quality printed books are still in demand, the advertising and marketing industry is learning the same lessons. The physical product with a look, touch and feel that is very different to the e-version has still got a lot of life left in it.

New technologies in print, such as Benny Landa’s Nanography® process, are going to continue to push the boundaries of what is possible. So the sound of the letter box rattling is here for the foreseeable future.

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