Using Neuroscience to Direct Your Mail

Neuroscience is the study of the brain and the nervous system, and neuromarketing is the application of this knowledge and understanding to matters of marketing.

Kevin Keane, CEO and Founder of Brainsights, a neuromarketing technology and data company, shares five things neuroscience can teach marketers about direct mail marketing.

The Power of Physical, Interactive Experiences 

1. The experiences like those of physical mail have the benefit of triggering multiple senses – specifically touch, visual and sometimes even audio and olfactory (smell) – in a way that single sense media do not (think audio, or static display). In several neuroscience studies we used eye-tracking and EEG brain wave reading technologies, and found these interactive experiences drive much greater attention, emotional connection and memory encoding than other media channels. This suggests an intrinsic value to physical interactive experiences – the recruitment of more/multiple senses providing a richer opportunity for consumer connection.

2. There’s also an amplification value of physical experiences. We saw in a recent study, for those who had experienced a physical interaction with the brand – mail, events, retail – subsequent exposures to brand video ads resulted in double-digit percentage increases in attention, emotional connection and memory encoding.

Implication: Multi-touch, omni-channel marketing communications can benefit substantially from the inclusion of mail as a means to ‘imprint’ brand impressions more fully on consumers.

The Context of Mail

3. Whether it’s the mail we receive at home, or the ads we view on our social media feeds, quality stands out. For mail marketers, that could be the heavier stock of your mail, or a creative design that stands out. Marketers have a huge opportunity to connect more deeply with consumers by investing in quality. In our studies, on average, messages delivered in quality contexts delivered more than 20% greater emotional connection than versus those same messages in lower-quality environments. Context matters, and quality contexts make messages matter more.

4. Home is where the heart is. Our research consistently reveals that home-based media accentuates emotional storytelling, showing heightened levels of emotional connection versus other media. Despite this, mail tends to be more informational and direct response—it needn’t be. Mail marketers have an opportunity to leverage the comfort of home and the physicality of mail to tell more emotional stories, using the channel as a branding opportunity as well as a response channel.

Implication: Quality and context matters, and leveraging the unique context of mail with quality executions can lead to stronger consumer response and higher value transactions.

In a mail study*, Eastbay, a purveyor of athletic equipment, used a heavier, higher-quality stock for its mailer, and observed startling results**: 

  • 5% greater response rate
  • 30% greater average order value from consumers who’d received the higher quality mailer 
  • 80% increase in the dollar value for each higher-quality mailer. 

These business results suggest the need to rethink of the mail channel as a means to drive higher value, more lucrative customers through higher quality engagements, using textures, weights and ‘touch-innovation’ to tell meaningful brand stories that drive value.

Creativity and Interactivity

5. To fully leverage points 1-4, it requires re-envisioning the mail experience, getting creative with materials and messaging to breakthrough and build strong connections with consumers. In another study we evaluated levels of interactivity of physical mail, the most interactive piece of mail delivered the greatest levels of neural activity when compared to email and static mail pieces. This suggests that mail marketers would benefit from more creativity, innovation and interactivity with the medium to drive deeper resonance with target consumers.

Implication: Innovation in the sector is both encouraged and even incentivized – USPS offers a number of promotional programs for marketers keen on experimenting with interactive and advanced technologies, from Informed Delivery to Augmented Reality. Neuroscience findings indicate a strong upside for those who take the leap and innovate in mail.

Leveraging the Brainsights neuroscience approach, SPC can custom tailor the right mix of formats, finishes, and add-ons to bring your desired experience to life. Contact SPC today to enhance your next campaign.


-Kevin Keane
CEO and founder of Brainsights.

*Verso – The Response Project – Eastbay White Paper
**All results were compared to consumers who’d received the mailer printed on standard paper in a random A/B test.

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