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Direct Mail Has a Greater Effect on Purchase Than Digital Ads

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This is a great article, originally posted at

A Temple University neuromarketing study finds that direct mail tops digital media for engagement time, recall, and ultimate purchase.


An in-depth neuroscientific study sponsored by the Postal Service Inspector General’s office (OIG) found direct mail ads to be superior to those viewed online in eight out of nine categories. Digital ads seized the attention of consumers quicker, but physical ads held that attention longer, elicited a greater emotional reaction, and played a more direct role in ultimate purchase decisions.

Noting that advertising mail accounts for 31% of USPS revenues—some $20 billion last year—the OIG’s office partnered with Temple University’s Center for Neural Decision Making to provide the Postal Service with ammunition to promote use of the mails in multichannel marketing strategies along with digital methods. The results OIG received could end up making a reasonable case for marketers to consider anchoring their multichannel strategies around mail.

Temple showed a mix of 40 email ads and postcards to laboratory study subjects, using three monitoring methods to gauge the effects the ads had on them. Eye tracking measured visual attention; fingertip sensors monitored heart rate, respiration, and sweating to reveal emotional engagement; and MRIs performed scans to uncover deep brain activity.


Postcards were judged superior to email ads in four of nine ad attributes measured: engagement time, emotional reaction, recall, and building subconscious desire for a product or service. Email ads led in just one attribute: focusing a customer’s attention. The two methods tied in three areas (see box).

The MRI scans found that the postcards triggered the ventral striatum of the brain, the center of desirability and value. On that evidence, Temple researchers concluded that physical ads have a deeper and longer-lasting effect than digital ads on instilling desire for products and services.

Based on study results, the OIG offered these suggestions in making better use of direct mail in the marketing mix:

Test the piece for maximum reaction. Take neuromarketing a step further by doing your own studies to determine how specific elements of a direct mail piece—whether color, shape, or use of white space—elicits the best reaction from consumers.

Explore sequencing options. Neuroscience could also be used, says OIG, to determine the most effective sequence of media elements in a campaign. Does email followed by direct mail work best, or vice versa? Should other media such as television be included?

Consider digital print technology. Test whether using augmented reality or QR codes in mail pieces ramps up conversion rates in multichannel campaigns. A previous OIG study found that such methods resonated well with younger digital natives.

Similar results were handed down in a neuromarketing study undertaken in 2009 by Royal Mail in the U.K. It, too, found that physical media generated deeper brain activity than digital media.

A Living but Not a Life?

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Our CEO, Doug Grant was recently featured in an article by American Printer.  Check out what they had to say below:

“By Sid Chadwick, Chadwick Consulting, Inc.

“The paradox of our time…is that we’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life, but not life to years…We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor…We’ve conquered outer-space, but not inner space… “…George Carlin

Someone once wrote, “America is unquestionably — the most generous country in the world”.

Perhaps, what and how we give back, reflects how we are personally, privately reminded… fortunate we are…for what we’ve been provided…’been the recipients of sacrifices…by those who went before us — here…


July 4th …seems to bring all that out.

And our systems of communications — occasionally tell us — there are individuals in our midst, who must…make a difference in how our world operates, in the space and resources they are provided — while they are here.  (And… I’m not talking about a “Donald Trump”!)

The difference they seem to make, in how our world operates — as we understand it — tends to focus on — “improving the quality of life”, “improving opportunities for others less fortunate” — without looking for, “What’s in it for me?”.

Doug Grant, president of West America Communications (located in Lake Forest), was (and is….) passionate about mountain biking. On a return trip home with some friends after a weekend ride, in October 2006 — coming home from Noble Canyon (just outside San Diego), he and some friends came up with the idea, “to do a 50 mile birthday celebration ride”. Doug’s 50th birthday was coming-up, and a “50 Miler”— to raise money for a good cause — converged.”

Want to read more?  Check it out here.

2015 DMA Response Rate Report: Direct Mail Outperforms All Digital Channels Combined By Nearly 600%

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Reblogged from

2015 DMA Response Rate Report: Direct Mail Outperforms All Digital Channels Combined By Nearly 600%

Data on current direct mail response rates is one of the most popular topics on our blog, and for good reason, as companies look to get the most out of their marketing dollar. We’re happy to report the Direct Marketing Association recently made its 2015 DMA Response Rate Report available (fees apply), and it shows the response rate of direct mail outperforms all digital channels.

This year’s report includes a lot of positive information regarding direct mail, including high response rates, its value in integrated campaigns and an attractive cost per acquisition. It wasn’t all good news for direct mail, however, as overall usage was down. But even that wasn’t all bad as 82% of respondents expect to use the same amount of direct mail, or more, in the coming year. Let’s jump into some of the key takeaways for direct mail (the good, not-so-good or otherwise) from the 2015 DMA Response Rate Report:

The Good News
  • Direct mail response rates outperform digital channels by a long shot. Direct mail achieves a 3.7% response rate with a house list, and a 1.0% response rate with a prospect list. All digital channels combined only achieve a 0.62% response rate (Mobile 0.2%; Email 0.1%; Social Media 0.1%; Paid Search 0.1%; Display Advertising 0.02%). Telephone had the highest response rate at 9-10%.
  • Cost-per-acquisition for direct mail is very competitive. Direct mail stands at $19, which fares favorably with Mobile and Social Media (both at $16-18), Paid Search ($21-30), Internet Display ($41-50) and even email ($11-15).
  • 82% of respondents expect to use the same amount of direct mail, or more, in the coming year.
  • Formats are playing a role. According to the study, oversized envelopes have the best response rate at 5.0%, followed by postcards at 4.25%, dimensional 4.0%, catalogs 3.9% and letter-sized envelopes 3.5%.
  • Marketers continue to embrace multi-channel marketing, with 44% of the respondents using three or more channels for their marketing efforts. In these instances, the most popular channels tend to be email, direct mail and social media.
  • Direct mail offers strong return on marketing investment. It returns the same ROI as social media (15-17%).
The Not-So-Good News
  • According to the study, the main challenges with direct mail are the cost, the effort to deploy it and the difficulty of tracking it. We’ve written extensively about the need for the Postal Service to keep postage affordable, most recently in our thoughts for the new Postmaster General, Megan Brennan. We hope they are listening, as keeping the price of direct mail competitive is crucial to marketers, service providers and consumers alike.
  • Direct mail usage is down, with just half of respondents reporting they use the channel.
The Not-So-Good News That is Actually Good News
  • The feedback on the difficulty with tracking direct mail was painful and puzzling to read. We’ve written at length about ways to track direct mail ROMI. If you’re having trouble tracking the results of your direct mail campaign, this suggests there may be flaws in the strategy or analysis. If you’re experiencing these difficulties, the good news is we can help. Get in touch with us. We’d be happy to get your campaign strategy and analysis on track.
  • While fewer companies reported using direct mail, that can be very good news for those who do, as there is less competition in the mailbox for your prospects’ attention.

The 2015 DMA Response Rate report includes a lot of information that can be hard to wrap your mind around. But to summarize, the key findings are that direct mail continues to be a very strong and successful channel, both in terms of response rates and cost-per-acquisition. It may be more expensive on a “per piece” basis than digital channels, but it packs a punch that cannot be replicated with a digital channel alone. However we’re not advocating an either-or approach. We know that direct mail powers integrated direct marketing campaigns and using direct mail strategically will provide the return on marketing investment (ROMI) you are looking for. That’s why full-service marketing that incorporates everything from data to analysis is so crucial to the success of any direct marketing campaign, and that’s why we created our Proprietary Intelligence model.

Corporate Social Responsibility: A new guy’s perspective

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What follows is a Linkedin post by Adam Olson, Business Development Associate at Westamercia Communications:

Companies like to talk a lot about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or as Investopedia defines it, “Corporate initiative to assess and take responsibility for the company’s effects on the environment and impact on social welfare. Corporate social responsibility may also be referred to as “corporate citizenship” and can involve incurring short-term costs that do not provide an immediate financial benefit to the company, but instead promote positive social and environmental change.”

But what does this actually look like in practice?

Recently, I took a new position with a company by the name of Westamerica Communications in Lake Forest, CA and I want to share my experience of integrating into a company that does corporate social responsibility well.

The corporate entity Westamerica Communications is the result of a merger of two companies, PSB Integrated Marketing and Westamerica Graphics, producing a fully integrated marketing agency with quite a robust printing capability. Following the merger Westamerica shifted their business model and grew to the tune of 40%, which, as you can imagine, is not typical in the printing world. This is the point where I signed on, almost a year after the merger.

First, focus on doing good.

Businesses so often focus on community outreach programs that they think will convey a public image that is likely to attract the clientele that they desire. This thought process is backwards. Businesses should empower the people within the organization to give back to the community in ways that they are passionate about – and leaders should set this tone.

Westamerica has such a leader in Doug Grant, the CEO and president of the company. Doug is sort of leader that you hope for when you sign on to a new organization – happy, passionate, a bit of an adrenaline junkie, and focused on doing good. Nine years ago, while on a mission trip to Rwanda with his church, Doug was touched by his experience and wanted to do something that had real impact for Rwandans. This spawned the event known as the 50 Mile Ride for Rwanda. Since its inception, the 50 Mile Ride has raised over a half-million dollars to support World Bicycle Relief and Team Africa Rising. These charities supply bikes to the local farmers and merchants allowing them to bring more goods to market and fund the Rwandan National Cycling Team respectively. Here is a recent interview that Doug gave to Locale Magazine.

This example of leadership can be found echoing throughout the organization as other employees from C-Suite Executives on down also pony up and give back in areas that they feel passionate about. Mark DeBellis, President of PSB Integrated Marketing, a division of Westamerica Communications, spends his free time sharing his passion for music with the community by playing guitar at numerous retirement homes in the local area.

Westamerica is also committed to eco-friendly business practices printing with soy-based inks on paper from responsible sources, recycling whenever possible and maintains an FSC certification.

On top of all this, Westamerica also does regular work with local charities including: Second Harvest Food Bank, City of Hope, Toys for Tots, and Stop SAM.

But it is not atypical for companies to do charity work, so what is it about this company that compelled me to write this article and what actionable steps can you take to achieve the similar results?

First, stop viewing Corporate Social Responsibility as a PR opportunity and instead focus being a force for good.

Focus on your people.

As a business, the first and most intimate interaction with your community is with your employees. As I made my rounds during the initial weeks at Westamerica, I was able to get a thorough feel for the overall morale of the organization. It was astoundingly positive. Couple this with the fact that this organization just went through a merger and did not lose a single employee as a direct result. This begs the question, what are they doing right?

  • Make wise investments in your people
    • Monetarily and otherwise. Since we live in the digital age and employees have free access to information, companies that focus on their employees will reap the benefits of a happy and productive workforce and are less likely to lose talent to competitors.
  • Foster a positive culture, rewarding high-performing employees for team and individual contributions.
    • Reward high performers. This does not always equate to financial compensation. Form real relationships with your employees and find out what makes them tick. Feed those motivations and you will build a workforce that is unbeatable.

Focus on your Clients.

From the beginning, it was readily apparent that clients were, are, and will continue to be the main focus for Westamerica. One of the first documents I received during the on-boarding process had the words in bold on the top, “why do we exist.” The answer to this question, I believe, should be your answer as well.

“To help our clients grow.“

Clients are your lifeblood as an organization and every company would do well to remember this.

Focus on your products.

Greg Glassman, The founder of CrossFit Inc. once said, “I can tell you what it is that makes you successful in business… It is the blind and relentless, constant pursuit of excellence.” I think this holds true in practice and I have seen it lived out here at Westamerica. Employees at all levels of the organization take a personal pride in their jobs and make the utmost effort to deliver excellence in their daily tasks. Again, why is this? I think the individual reasons are as varied as the individuals who hold them, but I am willing to bet that in the aggregate sense, they are well paid, proud of the organization that they are a part of, and feel that their voices are heard.


  • Position your organization to effectively be a force for good in the world
  • Focus on helping your clients achieve their goals
  • Focus on empowering your employees
  • Focus on constantly improving your product or service and deliver excellence to the market. You just might find that in free markets, excellence is rewarded with capital.

It’s Spring Break this week at Westamerica!

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It’s Spring Break this week at Westamerica!  Here is what we are up to:

Monday: Fresh Fruit – all day

Tuesday: Sweet Treats – all day

Wednesday: Breakfast Burritos, hosted by Xpedx Paper:  7:00 – 10:00am

Thursday: It’s a Fiesta! Chips, Salsa, and Guacamole, hosted by Spicers Paper:  11:00am

Friday: We will be having lunch outside of our Shipping area.  The HulaDog food truck will be providing hot dogs, chips, and shave ice –at 12:00pm NOON.  Wear your best Hawaiian Shirt and don’t forget your sunglasses!  We will be Hula Hooping & having Bean Bag Toss contests!  Also, we will finally name the winner of the Baby Photo Contest!

Thank you to Xpedx Paper, Spicers Paper, and HulaDog for being a part of our Spring Break celebration this week.  And a huge thank you to our amazingly talented team for all of your hard work.

Critical Mass Interview with Doug Grant

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Thank you to Richard (Ric) Franzi from Critical Mass Radio Show for the great interview with our CEO, Doug Grant.


“Founder of the 50 Mile Ride for RwandaDoug Grant joins Critical Mass Radio show for our special non-profit segment to talk about how he chose a bike ride as a fund-raising method. The upcoming 50 Mile Ride for Rwanda in April supports two non-profit organizations: Team Africa Rising and World Bicycle Relief. Doug also talks about how his firm West America Communications helps non-profit organizations get their message across through marketing and branding, fund-raising methods and budgeting and planning annual reports.”

Top 4 Marketing Considerations for 2015

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With the ever-changing landscape of communication media, marketers have new challenges and opportunities for 2015. Your business’ ability to adapt to what some would call an upheaval in marketing best practices will be vital to your overall success.

So what’s the focus for 2015?

1. Prove your worth. We know marketing is effective, but now more than ever the marketing department is being asked to carry the burden of proof. Heading into 2015, be prepared to answer, “What’s the ROI on that?” With the heightened transparency provided by PPC ads, e-mail campaigns, and PURLs, response rates will be called upon to justify marketing dollar spend.

2. Engage in a conversation. We’ll need to move away from the campaign mentality into an approach embracing a constant engagement with your audience. Rather than a campaign, which has a beginning and an end, we will need to see our relationship with our prospects and clients as an ongoing conversation. With communication channels offered by social media, companies have the opportunity and perhaps, obligation, to develop a corporate language, a tone of voice, and a conversation. Marketing will become more about rapport and less about pushing a message out in a campaign.

3. Bring emotional value. Having developed a corporate voice, using it ought to lend itself to this primary purpose: building trust. Our challenge as marketers is not only to be consistent across all media with our tone of voice, but to be prepared to respond to our audience should they engage us. That means publicly saying sorry if we don’t live up to expectations somehow or even directing a prospect to a competitor if they would be better served somewhere else. The individual sale may be lost, but a reputation of trustworthiness – and emotional value – will be remembered in the long haul.

4. Implement technology.  Successful marketing will involve implementing technology as a marketing tool. Using it not only to measure one’s effectiveness, but we will see the need to embrace technology as a tool to integrate sales, marketing, and even customer service efforts. With vast amounts of data available, we can draw on trends occurring throughout the company and with our audience to optimize our marketing efforts.

The future of successful marketing will involve the ability to effectively humanize the business experience for our audience across all channels and using technology to optimize our efforts.

-Ideas originally discussed in Target Marketing magazine, Nov/Dec 2014

Christmas Lunch and Service Awards

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The Westamerica team enjoyed a very Merry Christmas lunch!




And in keeping with Westamerica tradition, length of service awards!:

5 Years:


And don’t forget Hien!:


10 Years:


15 Years:

20 Years:

25 Years: