4 ways to overcome the digital “emotion deficit”

I think a lot of us have suspected that email carries less emotional weight than messages delivered on paper.

The Neuromarketing reports on a study that shows this to be true: Paper Beats Digital For Emotion. Get the study itself here: Using Neuroscience to Understand the Role of Direct Mail (PDF).

Key findings:


  • More processing is taking place in the right retrosplenial cortex when physical material is presented. This is involved in the processing of emotionally powerful stimuli and memory, which would suggest that the physical presentation may be generating more emotionally vivid memories.
  • Physical activity generates increased activity in the cerebellum, which is associated with spatial and emotional processing (as well as motor activity) and is likely to be further evidence of enhanced emotional processing.

This may help explain why e-appeals get such lower response rates the direct mail appeals. (Along with the overwhelming presence of spam crowding us out of many mailboxes.)

But the fact that digital communication evokes less emotion shouldn’t defeat you. The other side of the coin is that digital messaging can do a lot of things paper can’t do. We can use those capabilities to at least partially make up for the emotion deficit. Things like:


  1. Timeliness. Online, you aren’t stuck with the long production schedules and delivery times. You can get a message out in just a few hours. This is why most giving to last January’s Haiti Quake happened online.
  2. Rich media. Video and audio can go a long way to overcome the emotion deficit. Even something as simple as an animated GIF image can add action that’s just not possible on paper.
  3. Choice. With paper, you can’t offer more than a small handful of choices before you have a cumbersome mess. Online, you can give donors an almost endless number of options, and it can stay uncomplicated.
  4. Social proof. On paper you can say “Other people are doing this too” — which provides that important social proof that motivates so much giving. Online, you can show it.


Comments

2 responses to “4 ways to overcome the digital “emotion deficit””

  1. Good Morning…
    Just a brief “counterpoint” to Jeff’s post:
    1. Thank heavens, disasters like Haiti do not happen every month. The reality is that much like any other media, print is carefully scheduled, scripted and designed to deliver. Print on demand gives a client the opportunity to retool on the fly, as was the case in our response to the BP oil spill that was in the mail mere hours after the disaster and raised solid six-figures for the client.
    2. Valid point on rich media…which is why in many cases we embed pURLS in direct mail when we are dealing with closed communities. In both email and snail mail, delivery remains a challenge.
    3. Choice…Most respectfully, I can tell you that our clients have many thousands of variants in their letters…based upon the individual recipient. All content (including images) can vary from letter to letter…and often does.
    4. Social proof is the most differentiated purpose…and provides the most benefit…as a follow-up to direct mail.
    Last I looked, variable direct mail still outperforms all other resources…but the pairing of VDM and online messaging is powerful…
    Best wishes…
    Brian Weiner, President
    The One to One Group

  2. Good Morning…
    Just a brief “counterpoint” to Jeff’s post:
    1. Thank heavens, disasters like Haiti do not happen every month. The reality is that much like any other media, print is carefully scheduled, scripted and designed to deliver. Print on demand gives a client the opportunity to retool on the fly, as was the case in our response to the BP oil spill that was in the mail mere hours after the disaster and raised solid six-figures for the client.
    2. Valid point on rich media…which is why in many cases we embed pURLS in direct mail when we are dealing with closed communities. In both email and snail mail, delivery remains a challenge.
    3. Choice…Most respectfully, I can tell you that our clients have many thousands of variants in their letters…based upon the individual recipient. All content (including images) can vary from letter to letter…and often does.
    4. Social proof is the most differentiated purpose…and provides the most benefit…as a follow-up to direct mail.
    Last I looked, variable direct mail still outperforms all other resources…but the pairing of VDM and online messaging is powerful…
    Best wishes…
    Brian Weiner, President
    The One to One Group

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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