How Direct Mail Can Help Build Brand Awareness | Pel Hughes

When the argument for effectiveness of direct mail comes up it’s undoubtedly compared to its digital counterpart. And for good reason. In our modern technology-driven world, it’s generally assumed that anything coming in digital form is more efficient and more effective. 

Although this is largely true in many facets, ranging from online shopping to digital reading, to how we communicate with friends, family and customers, recent studies show it may not be the case when it comes to building brand awareness. 

This article discusses how science, statistics and appeals to human emotions are proving that direct mail is having a larger impact on brand awareness than its digital equivalents. 

Trust the Brain

Despite the growing popularity of marketing and advertising across online media channels, little research is conducted into the lasting effectiveness these outlets have on the human brain. A recent study by Temple University shows that online ads are actually being outperformed in eight out of nine categories by direct mail. 

Temple’s study used 40 digital (email) ads and direct mail ads, and three monitoring methods with their study participants, including eye-tracking measured visual attention, fingertip sensors measured bio-response to reveal emotional engagement, and MRI scans uncovered deep brain activity. 

“While participants in this project showed no preference between physical and digital advertising when responding to surveys, neuromarketing techniques revealed different subconscious physiological responses among participants,” according to the researchers. 

The study revealed that although digital ads are grabbing consumer attention faster, direct mail marketing holds consumer attention longer, generates stronger emotions, and has a more significant lasting impact of brand recognition. To put it simply, the human brain recognizes and retains information better when it comes in a tangible form, such as direct mail. 

Look at the Numbers 

In addition to scientific research studies such as those at Temple, statisticians are also proving that direct mail has a larger impact on brand awareness that we may have thought. A sample of these statistics show that direct mail is outpacing digital ads in response rates, popularity, and the tangible effect that direct mail has on brand recognition. Below are a few figures that help draw this conclusion:

  • It takes 21% less thought to process direct mail vs. digital ads, and it creates a significantly higher brand recall. 
  • In 2018, direct mail had a response rate of 4.9%, the highest since 2003, and pulls a higher response rate than any digital direct marketing medium. 
  • Direct mail is providing US advertising companies with an average ROI of between 18 and 20% a 1,300% return
  • Direct mail is the second-most used medium at 57%, and a staggering 81% of advertisers plan to maintain or increase usage of direct mail in the next year.  
  • As seen from the Temple study, 76% of consumers trust direct mail when they want to make a purchase decision.
  • US households receive approximately 121.2 billion pieces of mail annually, and across all ages, over 40% of these households look forward to checking their mail each day.

The constant popularity of direct mail, even with the rise of digital platforms, is largely due to the tangibility and activity that direct mail offers. The motivational response that direct mail offers is 20% higher than that of digital media, and it requires 21% less cognitive effort to process.

Establish an Emotional Connection

Now that we’ve tried to make the point by pointing to cold, hard numbers, we can move on to try to appeal to your creative side. Consider the emotional or poignant effect a piece of tangible mail has on you when you open your mailbox vs. receiving a canned email message. Direct mail allows companies to establish a closer connection with their intended audience. 

Although technology (and the internet more specifically) have made a myriad of tasks easier, its simplicity has also lowered our ability to establish any emotional connection. The tangibility of direct mail provides a sensory experience that is lost in the digital world. Companies or organizations seeking to build brand awareness can capitalize on this and establish a connection that just isn’t possible outside of direct mail. 

Moreover, this connection signals to your audience that they are more than just an email address thrown on a bcc. They are a valued part of your organization and direct mail will help not only increase brand recognition, but will also build trust with your customers. In today’s technology-driven world, this trust is exceedingly difficult to gain. Let direct mail help.