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Direct mail leaves a deeper footprint in your brain

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In a sea of online advertisements, direct mail remains a powerful, long-lasting tool for getting a message across. Much of this is owing to the tangibility of physical mail. In order to better understand the influence of physical mail compared to digital advertisements, researchers at the Centre for Experimental Consumer Psychology at Bangor University used fMRI scanning technology to see how the brain reacts to these different types of media.
To conduct the experiment, participants were shown ads on a computer screen (representing exposure to online advertisements) as well as ads printed on cards (representing exposure to physical, direct mail). Researchers then scanned the brains of participants using the fMRI machine to see when oxygenated blood flow increased to certain areas, representing heightened brain stimulation. Here are three significant takeaway results from the study:

Physical advertisements leave a deeper footprint in your brain

Not only does printed direct mail stimulate both sight and touch but it also causes more brain activity in the area associated with integrating visual and spatial information. This suggests that print advertisements seem more “real” to the brain and are better ingrained in memory.

Physical advertisements require more emotional processing

When participants were presented with print advertisements, the right retrosplenial cortex was activated more compared to when digital ads were viewed. This part of the brain is responsible for processing emotionally powerful stimuli and the memory of those events. This suggests that print advertisements leave more vivid and emotionally-connected memories.

Physical advertisements are more deeply internalized

Print advertisements created a greater activation of the medial PFC and cingulate which process emotional engagement. This suggests that physical ads produce heightened connections with internal feelings and that participants could more easily relate to information presented.

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