How Effective is Print & Direct Mail Marketing?

What’s one of the most effective ways to reach customers, and better yet, convince them to buy?

Is it email marketing? Paid search? Social media marketing? Online display ads?

How about, “None of the above.”

It’s actually direct mail.

That’s right. Print and direct mail marketing boasts a 9% customer response rate compared to other digital marketing channels, which hover around 1% … or less.

(Table 1. Guttman, 2019)

Direct Mail Marketing Research

Research by the Direct Marketing Association found an average ROI of 15% to 17% from direct mail marketing, far outpacing digital channels (Haskel, 2015). For non-profits, donors are more than three times likelier to give online in response to a direct mail appeal than an emailed appeal (Keller, Fay, 2012).

Direct mail marketing is often overlooked as an effective marketing channel in favor of digital channels. However, most of the time, print marketing wins because it offers a physical solution in the fast-click forgetfulness of the digital age, and it entices customers to consider each offer presented to them in ways that digital doesn’t.

If you’re not utilizing print and direct mail marketing, you might just be one click away from losing that next great opportunity.

Are you ready to learn why print is still a powerhouse marketing channel?

Stunning Results

Multiple studies have proven the effectiveness of direct mail and print marketing. For example, a sweeping study conducted by Canada Post Corporation compared the power of print to digital and uncovered some stunning results.

(Table 2. Canada Post Corporation, 2015)

Direct Mail Is...

  • More likely to drive behavior than digital media
  • Easier to understand and more memorable than digital media
  • Requires 21% less cognitive effort to process
  • Elicits a much higher brand recall
  • Far more persuasive than digital media
  • Generates a 20% higher motivation response—even more so if it appeals to more senses beyond touch.
  • Visually processed more quickly than digital media
  • Gets the message across faster

Another landmark study produced stunning results as well.

Temple University’s Center for Neural Decision Making and the United States Postal Service of Inspector General joined forces to explore the effectiveness of print and digital marketing. What makes this research stand out is how it used neuromarketing to study the effects of advertisements on consumer decision-making processes, and their willingness to pay

The first part of the study, conducted in 2015, observed the power of print and digital ads.

The second part of the study, conducted in 2019, focused on how different generations reacted to print and digital ads consciously and subconsciously.

Using a variety of scientific techniques such as eye-tracking, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning, core biometrics, neuroimaging, and survey questionnaires, researchers were able to determine how and why print marketing usually wins when compared to digital marketing (United States Postal Service, 2019).

Stunning Results, Take 2

Physical advertisements have more influence than digital ads:

  • Print materials (postcards, catalogs, magazine ads, etc.) have a greater emotional impact on consumers.
  • Participants spent more time with physical ads
  • Physical ads elicited a stronger emotional response
  • Showed greater long-lasting impact
  • Participants showed greater subconscious value and desire for products and services in physical formats

The results of this research proved that physical ads “are particularly effective in two stages of the consumer journey: exposure to information and retrieval of information” (United States Postal Service, 2019).

Digital ads outperformed physical ads in only one area—focused attention—but participants gained the same amount of information from both types of ads. It makes sense now why the study by Canada Post Corporation found unaided brand recall was so much higher from print when compared to digital—75% to just 44% respectively.

The bottom line is that “for marketers who want advertising with long-lasting impact and easy recollection, a physical ad simply has more psychological influence” (United States Postal Service, 2019).

Direct mail and print marketing can and should be a pillar of your business’ marketing efforts. However, it is important to note that both digital and print mediums have their advantages and that multi-channel integration is a key factor in the success of virtually any marketing mix. More on that in Chapter 6Integration: Maximize Your Direct Mail ROI.

For now, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why print outperforms digital.

Become a Marketing HERO With These Other Resources From Our Blog

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Measure and improve the success of your campaigns by tapping into one or more of these response channels! Read more


Barr, C. (2016). The Power of Direct Mail in the Digital Age. Neilpatel.com. Retrieved from https://neilpatel.com/blog/direct-mail-in-the-digital-age/

Canada Post Corporation. (2015). A Bias for Action. The Neuroscience behind the response-driving power of direct mail. Retrieved from https://www.canadapost.ca/assets/pdf/blogs/CPC_Neuroscience_EN_150717.pdf

COX. (2018). Consumer Pulse Fast Facts 2018 Survey. Retrieved from http://newsroom.cox.com/download/COX+Consumer+Pulse+Fast+Facts+2018.pdf

Haskel, D. (2015). 2015 DMA Response Rate Report: Direct Mail Outperforms All Digital Channels Combined By Nearly 600%. Retrieved from https://www.iwco.com/blog/2015/04/14/dma-response-rate-report-and-direct-mail/

Keller, E. Fay, B. (2012). Face-to-face conversations about brands communicate higher credibility than online conversations, brand experts say. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from https://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2012/05/14/why-most-successful-branding-and-sales-talk-happens-offline/

MacDonald, S. (2020). The Science Behind Email Open Rates (And How to Get More People to Read Your Emails. Retrieved from https://www.superoffice.com/blog/email-open-rates/

MailChimp. (2019). Email Marketing Benchmarks by Industry. Retrieved from https://mailchimp.com/resources/email-marketing-benchmarks/

Myers, C. (2020). New GroupM Research Examines Consumer Trust in Digital Marketing. GroupM. Retrieved from https://www.groupm.com/new-groupm-research-examines-consumer-trust-digital-marketing/

Simpson, J. (2017). Finding Brand Success In The Digital World. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2017/08/25/finding-brand-success-in-the-digital-world/#676620a626e2

The Radcati Group. (2015). Email Statistics Report, 2015-2019. Retrieved from https://www.radicati.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Email-Statistics-Report-2015-2019-Executive-Summary.pdf),

United States Postal Service. (2019). Is Direct Mail Advertising Effective? A Research Study. Temple University and the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General explore the power of print vs. digital marketing. Retrieved from https://www.uspsdelivers.com/why-direct-mail-is-more-memorable/


Table 1.

Guttman, A. (2019). Digital marketing channels response rate in the U.S. 2018. Retrieved from Statista: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1030527/us-response-rate-select-media-digital-marketing/

Table 2.

Canada Post Corporation. (2015). A Bias for Action: The neuroscience behind the response-driven power of direct mail. Retrieved from: https://www.canadapost.ca/assets/pdf/blogs/CPC_Neuroscience_EN_150717.pdf

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