September 5, 2018 (RARC-WP-18-013)

  • The rise of digital advertising is disrupting the traditional brand marketing paradigm.
  • Physical ads outperformed digital ads in many brand marketing measures such as brand recall and brand association.
  • The study found that ads designed to elicit an emotional response or that used metaphorical symbols of the brand’s value were generally more effective for branding than ads that described a product’s function.

A strong corporate brand is essential to compete in today’s marketplace, and companies devote enormous amounts of money and attention to crafting a distinctive corporate personality in the minds of consumers. At the same time, the rise of digital advertising and social media is disrupting the traditional brand marketing paradigm, and branding is now, more than ever, an omnichannel endeavor.

Two previous studies by the OIG pointed to physical advertising’s strength in leaving a lasting impression and its ability to make an emotional connection with consumers. This time, we extended our research to examine how physical advertising compares with digital advertising for branding purposes.

Partnering with the Center for Neural Decision Making at Temple University, we found that physical ads outperformed digital ads in several brand marketing measures, such as brand name recall and brand association. Digital ads, on the other hand, were processed faster than physical ads — a potential advantage if audience attention is limited. We also found both physical and digital ads that were designed to elicit an emotional response or that used metaphorical symbols of the brand’s value were generally a more effective branding tool than ads that described a product’s function.

Taken together, these findings demonstrate the power of physical ads for many brand advertising objectives and can help the Postal Service guide advertisers in designing mailpieces that support their brand.

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Contributors

  • John Althen, Christine Lyons, and Amanda Stafford contributed to this report.

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For questions, media inquiries, or to obtain more information regarding this report, please contact Agapi Doulaveris at 703-248-2286 or by email