The Science of Direct Mail Marketing and Digital Marketing

Direct Mail Marketing or Digital Marketing?

One of the questions I often see debated in Fitness Marketing is:

Each side of the issue has its fervent supporters. Many of the fitness marketing industries most successful operators built their thriving health club membership base on the back of direct mail marketing, and for good reason they stand by its merits. Then there is the breed of owner/operator that solely puts their trust in digital marketing, drawn to it for its real time manageability and flexible budgets.

At Members Today Health Club Marketing, we have been creating and executing some of the fitness industries most successful direct mail and digital promotions for thousands of clients in the US and Canada and we are always actively studying and comparing the response data of each media channel.

Our data supports the fact that direct mail and digital advertising both have their advantages in different areas, but they also share some common strengths. Definitively, the data reflects the fact that both digital marketing and direct mail marketing can a have a complimentary effect on each other, allowing marketers to optimize their digital mix and reach new prospects in all channels.

fitness direct marketing

Trust the Science

A neuromarketing study performed by The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) with Temple University’s Center for Neural Decision Making focused on the differing response to physical, direct mail marketing and digital marketing in the consumer buying process, including intent to purchase.

The study linked consumers’ subconscious responses to three buying process phases:

  1. The body’s response to an ad;
  2. How quickly and accurately the brain remembers the ad;
  3. Value and desire for the advertised products — a predictor of purchase.
health club direct mail

The Research Findings

The results of the study showed that participants processed digital ad content quicker. However, participants spent more time with physical ads.

  • When viewing physical ads, participants had a stronger emotional response and remembered them better.
  • Physical ads, though slower to get one’s attention at first exposure, leave a longer lasting impact for easy recall when making a purchase decision.
  • Most importantly, physical ads triggered activity in the area of the brain (ventral striatum) that is responsible for value and desirability for featured products, which can signal a greater intent to purchase.

These findings have practical implications for marketers. If short on time, the digital format captures attention quicker. However, for longer lasting impact and easy recollection, a physical mail piece is the superior option that could lead to a purchase. This suggests a complementary effect between the two formats that could provide a powerful way for marketers to optimize their media mix, especially as companies look to reach digitally connected customers.

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Tools Used in the Marketing Study

  1. Eye Tracking – A camera and infrared technology monitor eye movements, in terms of speed and duration of attention
  2. Core Biometrics – Sensors placed on fingertips measure heart rate, skin conductance (sweat), motion, and respiration
  3. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) – Brain scanner measures change in oxygenated blood flow to reveal regional activation during a task or experience
personal trainer

Summary of Results based on Advertising Goals

direct mail chart

More information about the USPS and Temple University Direct Mail and Digital Marketing report can be found here.


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