New research about why printed marketing materials cut through better against the noise of social media and other marketing platforms concentrates on the neuroscience behind an individual’s response.

The study used neuroscience research to measure subconscious brain responses using steady state topography. It compared the participants’ responses to three different types of advertising: branded mail, email and social media advertising.

Participants were fitted with visors and headsets containing sensors that picked up electrical responses in the brain. This allowed researchers to identify the parts of the brain that were active and the speed at which different signals passed to different parts of the brain in response to stimulus.

The key metric in the neuroscience study was long-term memory encoding. This made the strength of what is stored into memory as participants experienced a stimulus a key focus.
In this case, the stimulus was real brand campaigns across the three media formats.

Results showed mail having a 35 percent stronger response in the areas associated with long-term memory encoding than social media. When compared with email, this figure rose to 49 percent.

Clearly, printed marketing materials elicit a stronger response in the areas of the brain associated with long-term memory encoding. This is important because memory encoding is both an enabler and a predictor of likely future action.

The researchers concluded mail can play a pivotal role within the media mix to boost memorability and can – potentially – increase purchase intent.

What is more startling, perhaps, is the evidence the researchers identified about how mail interacts with social media advertising.

Printed direct mail plays a “priming” role – thereby enhancing the impact of social media advertising so it garners a better response.

The study found that for those who saw mail first, the brain response to social media advertising was very different to those who saw social media first.

When mail preceded social media advertising, much lower visual stimulation was recorded. However, much higher memory encoding was seen. In fact, long-term memory encoding was 44 percent stronger when participants had seen direct mail marketing first.

This has important implications for the planning of multi-channel campaigns. Investment can be optimised by “front loading” the campaign with direct mail pieces which enhance the effectiveness of subsequent social media communications and help to make consumer action and purchase more likely.

Read the full report here: