Why Our Brains Respond to Print… and Direct Mail
Your donors and audience respond to different messages and different styles of marketing — not everyone will open your direct mail and not everyone will read your posts on Facebook.
The interesting new tactics and approaches in marketing are changing the habits of consumers. And as habits respond to tactics, tactics change. Everything is adapting. New generations of donors ebb and flow, the Gen Z’s coming up are a completely new kind of target audience, the Baby Boomers are slower to evolve, etc. So many challenges!
But, one constant remains across all the tactics, habits and generations: the biology of the brain.
The brain hasn’t changed in size and basic construction for about 500,000+ years. While the technology is forcing us to adapt more rapidly now and will undoubtedly impact the newest generations, the brain itself hasn’t biologically shifted to keep pace in the last 20+ years. It’s just not possible.
And for nonprofit marketers, that’s good news. Because the brain — and its composition — is on your side when it comes to print and direct mail marketing.
The brain is vast and complex, but for marketers, there are two basic parts of the magical brain where you can think about messaging your audience: the cerebral cortex and the pairing of the amygdala and hippocampus.
The last part of our brain to evolve — the cerebral cortex — is the place where our reasoning, words and planning live. This is where we process information, think about messaging and language, and comb through ideas that make rational sense. It’s where we weigh the pros and cons, and consider the features and benefits of any decision. When you’re considering a car and evaluating which has a better warranty and lower price, you’re engaging your cerebral cortex.
Print is a great marketing channel to engage the cerebral cortex. This is where you can write to benefits, rational thought and the objective reasons why your nonprofit is the best choice of the donor’s dollars. Pour into your features, advantages and, most importantly, the benefits. Recognize that people who lean toward listening to their cerebral cortex will read your content.
The A-H Combo
The (arguably) most powerful — and influential — part of the brain is tucked into the pairing of the amygdala and hippocampus (I’ll refer to this as the A-H). This is where our long-term memory and emotions live. Isn’t that amazing? Our biology placed these key components of our experience right next to each other.
I guarantee that you remember your first kiss. There’s a memory-emotional link in that moment that is tied together. That’s your A-H combination. When considering a car, it’s where you think of how Subaru likes dogs, the feel of the engine on a GTO and if a BMW makes you simply feel more successful. Those are the influences that automakers are targeting… it’s the head/heart, gut, emotional punch, etc.
Thankfully, it’s this part of the brain — the amygdala and hippocampus — that is your best friend for print and direct mail.
Studies have shown that reading print material engages your long-term memory and emotional centers — the A-H — much better than digital media! In fact, for impacting long-term memory encoding, direct mail is 35% stronger than social media and 49% stronger than email.
And, engagement — as measured in neuroscience — helps drive memory encoding. And guess what? Print and direct mail is 33% stronger than email and social media in engagement.
Print and direct mail engages the amygdala and hippocampus better than any other marketing media. And, it’s the part of the brain that influences emotional appeal, memory and decisions. When I wrote about how stories enhance emotional engagement, it’s all coming from the A-H part of your brain. Using Print and direct mail to tap into that part of your audience’s brains naturally increases your chance of engaging with them. Our biology is on your side.
So go for emotion, go for memory, go for the ways you can tap into our natural, biological, inclination to engage with print.
As always, I welcome your feedback.