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5 Reasons Why Consumers Trust Direct Mail

“The people when rightly trusted, will return the trust” – Abraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln Trust

Trust is the basis for all relationships, including those commercial bonds that businesses value so highly. It is the underlying foundation for the exchange of goods & services. People, and organizations that build trust have a tremendous asset.

Trust Is In Decline

Unfortunately for marketers, trust in institutions, including those that spend money on marketing and advertising, is in decline.

Global communications marketing firm Edelman has been publishing their annual “Edelman TRUST BAROMETER™” since 2001. The 2017 report is a sophisticated global survey that reports “that trust is in crisis around the world. The general population’s trust in all four key institutions — business, government, NGOs, and media — has declined broadly, a phenomenon not reported since Edelman began tracking trust among this segment”. (Check out Edelman’s Slideshare)

Consumers And Marketing Channel Trust

Consumers are increasingly skeptical of everything. (Note that business and media are specifically called out in the Edelman Barometer).

So when the folks at Marketing Sherpa recently asked 2400 consumers which type of advertising channels they trust for purchase decision information, we sat up and paid attention.

Consumers Trust Print - Marketing Sherpa

The results are pretty stunning. 76% of the consumers trust direct mail when it comes to purchasing decisions. It turns out that the top 5 most trusted marketing channels are older, offline and generally regarded as either in decline or flat-lining by many marketers.

“Online pop-ups” had the lowest trust rating. If the scale measured consumer annoyance, surely pop-ups would have won! (See Ad Blocking Happens For A Reason).

5 Reasons Why Consumers Trust Direct Mail02_nancyharhut_largecircle

Of the top 5 most trusted advertising channels, direct mail marketing shows signs of the early stages of a renaissance. In survey after survey, consumers have indicated a preference for direct mail over email and other digital channels.

What are the reasons why consumers trust direct mail marketing? Since Boingnet’s goal is to help marketers, agencies and printers develop the best possible multi-channel campaigns, we needed to understand why. We asked Wilde Agency Chief Creative Officer Nancy Harhut to dig in and help us gain a better perspective.

1.) Brain Science Says So

Neuromarketing – the application of neuroscience to marketing, is a hot new field. There’s a growing body of evidence that suggests that consumers trust direct mail because of the unique way that paper based advertising connects with the parts of the brain that control how we feel and remember things.

According to Nancy “Brain imaging and eye tracking studies show our brains actually process paper-based advertising differently than digital advertising. These studies show that paper-based advertising, like direct mail, requires less effort to understand, seems more “real,” and generates more emotion.”

In fact, a 2015 study by Canada Post showed that direct mail marketing “requires 21% less cognitive effort to process and elicits a much higher brand recall” than digital media.

2.) Direct Mail Is PersonalWhy Consumers Trust Direct Mail - Mailbox

While the digital world is scrambling to embrace personalization, direct mailers have been deploying “mass customization” via variable data printing for many years. Why? Because consumers want personalized experiences. According to a recent study “63% of Millennial and 58% of Generation X consumers are willing to share data with companies in exchange for personalized offers and discounts.” It makes perfect sense. Why would impatient consumers want to waste time with offers they don’t care about?

Smart direct marketers are now extending the personalized nature of direct mail advertising to online extensions of their campaigns. By including Personal URLs as primary calls to action on mail pieces, they’re combining consumers trust in direct mail with the tracking and automation of digital.

Try A Free PURL Campaign

3.) Direct Mail Is Targeted

As the cost of mailing has increased, the relative value of each piece sent has increased along with it. It no longer makes sense to “batch and blast” offers indiscriminately.

Modern database marketing and segmentation techniques enable direct marketers to put offers in front of people who are likely purchasers. Want to target a specific zip code with new homeowners over a certain income range? No problem. How about a B2B list of executives at companies in a particular industry and size range? Easy.

When brands put relevant offers in front of consumers, they build trust. Even if they don’t act on the offer, the brand is building recognition in the mind of a likely customer. Nancy’s colleague at Wilde Agency, VP of Customer Insight Lianne Wade, points out “direct mail today is highly targeted based on consumers’ needs, behaviors and insights, which makes it more relevant and in turn, more trustworthy.”

4.) Direct Mail Is TactileWhy Consumers Trust Direct Mail - Tactile

Consumers trust direct mail because they can touch it and feel it.

The fact that direct mail ads are physical has a big impact on how consumers perceive the messages contained within it. Harhut states “Being able to touch and feel direct mail means we experience it differently, more profoundly, than text and image on a screen. And science has shown that the things we touch influence our thoughts and feelings about them.”

The neuromarketing experts in the Canada Post study explain that the physical tactile nature of direct mail has a direct, positive correlation to the ability of our brains to recall the messages. “Cognitive Load” is “a measure of the mental effort required to understand a stimulus”. In a test that compared the impact of similar direct mail and digital media campaigns, “participants recall was 70% higher if they were exposed to a direct mail piece (75%) than a digital ad (44%).”

5.) Direct Mail Isn’t IntrusiveWhy Consumers Trust Direct Mail - Less Intrusive

Consider 2 experiences:

A.) You come home from work. Walk to your mailbox, grab the mail, put it down. Sit down to eat with your family. Grab the mail again, sort through items addressed to each member of the household. Take your mail, sit down and watch TV. During commercials, you open your mail and decide what to do with it. You review your credit card transactions between sips of a cold beverage. Maybe hop online to respond to an offer (that online experience better match the direct creative!).


B.) You log on to your email, and see that there are 50 new messages in your inbox. You don’t feel right until your mailbox is empty. You need to pay your bills, so you’re looking to see if you’ve gotten an emailed credit card statement. You delete messages from unknown wealthy relatives stuck in jail in Kenya. You find what you think is your credit card statement – while looking hard at the “from address”  – is it a phishing scheme at play? You click on a link to look at the transaction history of your credit card. A pop up ad is screaming at you to sign up for the exact credit card that you’ve been using for the past 8 years. You need to find your user name and password. Wait, you wrote it down somewhere….

Direct mail doesn’t stop you from doing what you need to do. You deal with it when you want to. At the pace that you want to. If you don’t have time, you deal with it tomorrow.

Consumers Trust Direct Mail – Does Your Marketing Team?

Experts at Marketing Sherpa, Wilde Agency and the neuromarketing researchers in the Canada Post study believe that consumers trust direct mail for clear and important reasons. Science and common sense combine to make a strong argument. That being said, digital marketing has incredible leverage for many organizations, and is commanding a larger and larger portion of marketing budgets.

For marketers then, the question is what to make of it? Have you tried direct mail recently? Have you thought about integrating direct mail with your digital initiatives to get the best of both worlds?

The evidence is pretty overwhelming that you should.

Especially if you hope to build trust with your audience.

Learn More. Download A Whitepaper

Boingnet helps direct marketers think through the right strategies to integrate direct mail with digital infrastructure like CRM and Marketing Automation. If you’d like to learn more about how direct marketers are deploying digital to complement their campaigns – check out this whitepaper:

Direct Bridge To Digital Whitepaper

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