Mind-Reading Consumers

Mind-Reading Consumers

This article is an extract from the Winter Edition of MER Magazine published in August 2018. You can read the full article as well as other articles from MER for free by visiting digital.mailandexpressreview.com.

John Althen, Public Policy Analyst at USPS Office of Inspector General writes about the OIG’s body of work in the area of neuromarketing and ad mail effectiveness.

What comes to mind when you think of your favorite coffee, your preferred chocolate, or your ideal car? There’s a good chance you’re thinking of distinct companies or corporate logos. A strong corporate brand is essential to compete in today’s marketplace and it’s no surprise, therefore, that companies devote enormous amounts of money and attention to cultivating unique
identities in the minds of consumers. Brand-focused ads show an idealised lifestyle that people can relate with, or to which they aspire. When successful, these campaigns influence our thoughts and feelings when we see or hear the company’s name.

Over the years, brand marketing campaigns have evolved and become more complex. They include glossy magazine spreads, outdoor billboards, radio, films and television, and nowadays the Internet. Indeed, the rise of digital advertising and social media is disrupting the traditional brand marketing paradigm, and branding is now, more than ever, an omnichannel endeavor. But
one traditional channel is frequently overlooked when it comes to branding: advertising mail.

Neuromarketing methods measure brain activity as people interact with and respond to questions about ads.

Marketers often consider mail only for direct response advertising, which asks the consumer to take a specific action, like apply for a credit card. But does mail influence consumers’ impressions of a brand, and can it play a role in branding efforts? To investigate these questions, the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently partnered with Temple University’s Center for Neural Decision Making to conduct a study comparing print with digital media for branding effectiveness.

The study used traditional self-reported and behavioral response measures, but also incorporated recently developed neuromarketing techniques to measure consumers’ subconscious responses to advertising media. Neuromarketing methods measure brain activity as people interact with and respond to questions about ads. By tracking neurological activity using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) technology, researchers measure the extent to which advertising stimuli are effective on a deeper level, beyond the traditional questionnaires used to test consumers’ memory of ads and desirability for products.

The OIG – In addition to conducting audits and investigations of America’s postal system, the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) also conducts in-depth research and analysis on postal issues to identify opportunities for revenue growth and increased operational efficiencies. OIG white papers explore strategic ideas for ways to enhance the viability and efficiency of the Postal Service.

Participants in the OIG’s study viewed 60 brand-focused advertisements that were in either the digital format (a Microsoft Surface tablet) or physical format (a large postcard). Soon after viewing the ads, researchers quizzed participants on their recall of brands from the ads and their ability to discriminate between those brands and brands of competitors. Then, approximately 1 week later, the same participants returned to perform more tests about the ads they had seen during the prior session. The study was designed specifically to test the effectiveness of the ads for brand building. This second week of testing is when the researchers also tracked the neurological activity of the participant.ts.

Physical Media’s Unique Value

The study found that the physical ads outperformed digital ads in several brand marketing measures. Participants recognised a greater proportion of ads and brands from the physical format than the digital format. Beyond the traditional metrics, physical ads elicited higher activation in the hippocampal region of the brain, which is an area associated with memory retrieval. There was also revealed greater activation in the frontal and insular regions for physical ads, which could indicate better retrieval of contextual information related to the ads, such as the brand names, the products featured in the ad, or other ad messages…

This article is an extract from the Winter Edition of MER Magazine published in August 2018. You can read the full article as well as other articles from MER for free by visiting digital.mailandexpressreview.com.

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