September 15, 2017

Direct Mail Beats Email – Neuroscience Confirms It

Written by Nilda Cerna, Marketing Manager at Romax.

“I worry that the overwhelming rapidity of information is affecting cognition and deeper thinking”

Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Googles’ parent company Alphabet Inc.


Have you heard about the recent re-birth of Direct Mail Marketing? This revival is based on several reasons: on one hand, the increased number of emails received – how many emails did you receive last Black Friday? Digital news, social media advertising and notifications create an overwhelming sense of overload from the amount of digital information that bombards us daily. On the other hand, there is clear evidence that paper-based content is more impactful and engaging than digital alone, you may be surprised by the latest neuroscience research.


Latest Neuroscience Research

“The smart reading device of the future may be paper” 

Brandon Keim, science writer for Wired Magazine.

A neurological study by Millward Brown found that printed material left a deeper footprint on the brain, involved more emotional processing (brands associations) and produces more responses connected with our internal feelings. These suggest that consumers internalise printed adverts, giving them greater resonance.

It also found that printed communications, in all their forms, produce more brain activity in the parts associated with emotional engagement: medial prefrontal cortex and cingulate cortex.

The study concludes that:

  • Physical material is more “real” to the brain. It is better connected to memory because it engages with its special memory networks
  • Paper involves more emotional processing, which is important for brand associations.
  • Printing material produces more brain responses connected with internal feelings suggesting greater “internalisation” of the ads.

When you touch something, your hands act as transducers, converting mechanical energy so it can be sent as an impulse to fire the neurons in your brain. A study suggests that print benefits from the “endowment effect”: our tendency to value things more because we own them. “It works even if you don’t own the object. It can be triggered just by physical contact” Sebastian Haupt, an expert on sensory marketing.

Direct Mail Requires Less Cognitive Effort than email

“Direct Mail was easier to process mentally and tested better for brand recall” 

True Impact & Canada Post study.

A paper-based marketing study from the neuromarketing firm TrueImpact sponsored by Canada Post compared the effects of printing (direct mail) with digital media (email and displays ads) via eye tracking and high-resolution EEG brain wave measurement. The three key metrics in the study were: cognitive load, motivation and attention.

The results showed that:

  • Direct mail requires 21% less cognitive effort than digital media
  • Direct mail is easier to understand and more memorable
  • Brand recall is 70% higher with Direct mail.


TrueImpact and Canada Post Marketing study.


Recommendations for Marketers

70% of people say “I feel that I receive too many emails” 

Royal Mail MarketReach, Mail and Digital Study, 2013


The research shows that printing communications has a higher impact on the brand recall, enhance and memory. Moreover, according to Royal Mail MarketReach, mail beats email in grabbing the attention, time spent on reading it, giving a better impression and how valued the audience feels.


With a large amount of evidence, marketers should take advantage of printing, it’s not necessarily reinventing the wheel, at Romax we have used evidence-based case studies from clients who have grown their campaign ROI with just a simple but relevant personalised A4 letter (See Fantastic Services Case Study) and others who for example, have included personalised images (see Emma Bridgewater Case Study).


There is a wide range of printing communications to incorporate in a campaign: letters, postcards, leaflets, catalogues, magazines among others, which help to increase your response and brand recognition.

Resources: Forbes, ScienceDirect, 3Bet Media MarketingNeurociencemarketing, Millward Brown and Print Power Spring 2017 magazine.




romax_logo_tag_blueRomax Marketing & Distribution, a Greenwich-London based company, provides a wide range of services in Direct Marketing for B2B and B2CDirect Mail, Data Management, Printing, Discount Postage and Membership Communication Services and Consultancy. 

Contact us: +44 (0) 20 8293 8550

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