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Physical vs. Digital: What motivates us most?
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Physical vs. Digital: What motivates us most? 

The study, conducted by industry expert Diana Lucaci, was commissioned by Canada Post following a year of changed as the company adjusts to an increase of digital demands.

Focusing on the essential elements of media effectiveness, the research was centered on ease of understanding and persuasiveness.

“In a data-driven world, this study reminds marketers that consumers are, ultimately, humans and their emotions are a driver in their path to purchase,” said Diana Lucaci, the founder and CEO of True Impact. “The effectiveness of tangible pieces on the brain is undeniable and understanding when and how to blend physical and digital throughout marketing can work to create the best customer experience.”

In order to properly test the impact of digital and physical media respectively, researchers developed two integrated mock campaigns in both mediums. The 270 participants then underwent brain imaging and eye-tracking to study their level of interest and involvement. To put the final impact to the test, participants were given memory tests to see just how much information they had retained.

The results bring forth some unexpected findings.

In areas including persuasiveness, motivation and ease of understanding, direct mail consistently bested digital media. Consumers of direct mail are more likely to engage in desired behaviors – be it buying, spending or understanding a message. 

In all age groups, only direct mail passed the threshold of the motivation-to-cognitive load ratio. In other words, direct mail hit the sweet spot between persuasiveness (motivation) and understanding (cognitive load).

The bottom line revealed that physical media requires 21% less effort to understand, creating a 70 per cent increase in brand recall.

Analysts theorize that direct mail’s impact is heightened by its ability to use both the senses of smell and hearing. Perfume samples in magazines, for example, jumpstart memory and result in a 30 per cent higher motivation score.

Whatever the case, the study shows that marketers shouldn’t be so quick to ditch the paper in favour of data. And as for Canada Post – perhaps there is some life left yet.

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