How Neuromarketing is Being Used to Show the Positive ROI of Combining Print and Digital Marketing


Consumers’ “willingness to pay” is significantly higher when media is delivered across both digital and physical channels rather than a single channel.

Neuromarketing is the application of neuroscience to marketing. It is cutting-edge science that uses neuroscience tools, like brain imaging, to measure how consumers’ brains respond to marketing. And it’s revealing how our brains process physical marketing in ways that make it clear that print advertising and direct mail marketing are highly effective, especially when combined with digital media.

For example, a 2017 study by Temple University and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Office of Inspector General–Tuned In: The Brain’s Response to Ad Sequencing–used a combination of neurophysiological and traditional methods to explore which medium–physical direct mail marketing or digital advertising–is most effective when used in cross-media marketing campaigns.

One of the most significant results from the study was that consumers’ “willingness to pay” is significantly higher when media is delivered across both digital and physical channels rather than a single channel.

Another example is from a study conducted in 2015 by the Canada Post Corporation and leading neuromarketing research and strategy firm True Impact Marketing–A Bias of Action, The neuroscience behind the response-driving power of direct mail. The hypothesis of the study: direct mail is more action-oriented than digital media because its physical format stimulates the underlying mental processes that guide consumer behavior.

The study focused on the two key indicators of media effectiveness: ease of understanding and persuasiveness. It examined the brain imaging metrics that correspond with each–cognitive load for ease of understanding and motivation for persuasiveness. They also looked at participants’ visual attention to the media presented to gauge how quickly messages were absorbed in each format.

As hypothesized by the researchers, direct mail is more action-oriented than digital media, surpassing its response across measures:

  • Direct mail is easier to understand and more memorable than digital media. It requires 21% less cognitive effort to process and elicits a much higher brand recall.
  • Direct mail is far more persuasive than digital media. Its motivation response is 20% higher – even more so if it appeals to more senses beyond touch.
  • Direct mail is visually processed quicker than digital media. When considered in concert with its higher motivation and lower cognitive load, this suggests it gets the message across faster.
  • Direct mail is more likely to drive behavior than digital media.
  • Surpassing the important motivation-to-cognitive load ratio threshold of 1.

Read the complete study and results to learn more about how print and direct mail is more effective at driving consumer action than digital advertising alone.

And finally, in this quick 6-minute video interview with Elissa Moses, the CEO of Ipsos Neuro and Behavioral Science Centre of Excellence, the science of neuromarketing and how the brain engages with physical and digital channels is discussed.

Some of the highlights:

  • “…the non-conscious is every bit as important as the conscious” in building brand associations. (0:56)
  • How physical things like print affect our brains. (starting at 2:30)
  • “…the [aspect] of direct mail is that it’s tactile and the more that you can stimulate the senses, the more you’re going to make a lasting impact on perception.” (3:14)
  • The one thing brands can do today to transform the way they engage with people. (starting at 4:22)

All of these studies indicate that while digital media provide essential channels for reaching customers and engaging interaction, physical media is better suited to close the marketing-to-sales loop.

The key takeaway is that combining physical experiences, print advertising, and direct mail with digital media harnesses the best of each medium to close the gap between interaction and action.