- Direct mail is a tactile form of communication that can appeal to multiple senses, including touch, sight, and even smell.
- According to Keypoint Intelligence’s research, 15% of consumers believed that providers who sent printed communications were more serious about winning and keeping their business.
- Coatings or textures can create a unique look and feel that the recipient can’t help but notice.
By Eve Padula
Electronic messaging has become increasingly prevalent over time, to the point that it now substantially outnumbers printed communications. Email spam messages are considerably more numerous than printed “junk mail,” and direct mail is clearly the less cluttered channel. In addition, direct mail is a tactile form of communication that can appeal to multiple senses, including touch, sight, and even smell. Despite their popularity, electronic communications fall short of well-designed printed direct mail in terms of tactile impact. Marketers of printed communications can and should incorporate the sensory elements of direct mail to create messages that stand out and prompt engagement even in today’s digital world.
Cutting Through the Clutter
Savvy marketers understand that targeted and relevant direct mail can stand out and attract attention. When used correctly, direct mail communications can also be more impactful than electronic messaging. The statistics tell the story:
- According to a report from Data & Marketing Association (DMA), up to 90% of direct mail gets opened, compared to only 20% to 30% of emails.
- Data from Canada Post suggests that direct mail requires 21% less cognitive effort to process than email.
- Based on direct mail statistics from Marketing Profs, three-quarters of consumers can recall a brand after viewing a piece of direct mail. Meanwhile, only 44% can do the same after seeing a digital ad.
Because many consumers have become overwhelmed with digital communications, printed direct mail is considered a trustworthy marketing channel. When consumer respondents to Keypoint Intelligence’s most recent marketing communications research were asked to specify their reasons for reading direct mail rather than digital marketing communications, 15% believed that providers who sent printed communications were more serious about winning and keeping their business. It is now more important than ever for marketers to be smart and strategic in their use of printed communications.
Appealing to the Senses
Whereas most digital communications primarily appeal to the sense of sight, printed direct mail offers a tactile experience that electronic messaging simply can’t match. Thanks to ongoing technological innovations, today’s digital inkjet devices can now produce printed communications that deliver eye-catching special effects and embellishments. Images as well as text can be enhanced with attention-grabbing neon colors, an embossed finish for a 3D effect, metallic inks, or glitter effects that will really shine when exposed to light, or foil stamping for an elegant appearance. Because of the way it changes in certain lighting conditions, a direct mail piece with metallic ink, glitter, or foil stamping delivers a more interactive visual experience than an email.
Unlike electronic communications, printed direct mail pieces literally land in the consumer’s hands and therefore engage the sense of touch. Direct mail that is treated with a velvety coating will feature a highly appealing soft touch, but these communications can also be produced with a rougher coating for a different effect. Printed communications can also incorporate special textures to make certain elements stand out. Some examples might include a furry coating on an image of an animal or a dimpled rubber feel to enhance a picture of a basketball. Coatings or textures can create a unique look and feel that the recipient can’t help but notice.
Direct mail can also engage the sense of smell. Although many of us print geeks might say that we simply like the smell of paper itself, there’s really no reason to stop there as direct mail can be infused with all sorts of scents. For a personal example, I’ll admit to having a minor obsession with shower gels. I often wonder why the large bath care chains don’t send more direct mail pieces that highlight their newest scents. Think about it… emailing me about new fragrance has undertones of cinnamon and vanilla is a start, but even with that description, I still won’t know if I’ll truly enjoy the scent. If you send me a postcard that smells like the real thing, I’ll be able to tell in about five seconds if it’s something I’m interested in purchasing…and all the better if I can order said product online and have it delivered to my home!
The Bottom Line
With so many improvements to digital print technology over the past few years, marketers of printed communications are limited only by their imaginations as they seek ways to make their direct mail stand out. In today’s electronic age, we’re overloaded with images from computer screens and smartphones. This level of distraction means that we’re not always paying attention to what’s in front of us, but special effects in print can capture our attention. Tactile elements like textures, foiling, or scents are different and unexpected, and this can make people more likely to engage with the messaging. Competition is fierce, but the good news is that brand owners can create printed pieces that surprise recipients with unexpected elements and truly stand out as a result.
Eve Padula is a Senior Consulting Editor for Keypoint Intelligence’s Production Services with a focus on Business Development Strategies, Customer Communications, and Wide Format. She is responsible for creating many types of content, including forecasts, industry analyses, and research/multi-client studies. She also manages the writing, editing, and distribution cycles for many types of deliverables.