Activating Millennials to Process Your Message

In our two most recent blogs, we highlighted research showing that millennials respond to direct mail more than digital advertising alone (shocking, I know, check it out here).  And, we also showed how direct mail can be more persuasive for this cohort. (Millennials as a cohort is really not just one, more like a dozen, which we’ll dig into in another post.) Now, we’re looking at how direct mail is actually cognitively processed and what that means for millennials’ affinity for a brand … perhaps your brand.

The Canada Post study we’ve previously referenced, downloadable here, states that direct mail is visually processed faster than digital media. That’s because direct mail has a lower cognitive load (easier to absorb and understand) and higher motivation scores than digital media it was tested against. Why does this matter? Because the combination of the factors observed through the research demonstrates that direct mail has a more ideal cognitive impact to ensure understanding and recall of a message – key precursors to activating response!

The bombardment of digital media in most millennials’ daily lives has created an inattention to and compartmentalization of, that media messaging.  It has gone beyond ‘banner blindness’ into the next phase of ‘I don’t see or hear anything I’m not actively choosing to see or hear.” And when the subjects did choose digital media to pay attention to, it took longer to process cognitively and did not generate the same strength of impression (cognitive response).

Some might think a faster processing time with direct mail is a negative but that’s not the case, if you consider the short (or entirely absent) attention span of millennials (and the rest of us). If your message takes too long to process, consumers are likely to move on – why should they have to put in work to understand your message?

Further, though the processing time is faster, millennials actually spend more time with direct mail than they do with digital ads. Consider this research from whattheythink.com;

“Beyond engagement frequency, the duration of engagement says a lot about the value and meaningfulness of a communication. Our research confirms that the overall engagement duration is longer for direct mail pieces than it is for email marketing messages, even among millennials. Consumers across the board – including millennials – respond most commonly spending a few minutes reviewing each direct mail message that they received. On the other hand, millennials typically reviewed each email marketing message for less than a minute.”

The same rings true from a study done by the United States Postal Service highlighted in our last blog.  That research showed that parts of the brain associated with desirability are activated by direct mail and make millennials want to spend time with it.

It’s safe to say that to millennials, paper-based messaging (direct mail!) has become a novelty. If someone has taken the time to design something, print it, and mail it directly to them, the millennial perception may be that it must be more important than the literal millions of messages that bombard them online daily. It sends a message that your brand or cause cares about their experience, which ultimately drives response.

Here’s the big but!: you better be as relevant, interesting and as smart as you can possibly be with your direct mail offer and creative for millennials to ‘reach back’.  It all starts with the data so use it well and very wisely with this and every other segment, too!

We’ll look at how direct mail drives behaviour in our next blog, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about how we can help you cut through the noise, just contact us any time. 

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