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June 28, 2015

Brands Should Come To Our Senses

At This Is Folly, we have often talk about how best to reach our clients' audiences, how best to really engage them. We know that if we deliver real ROA—return on attention—for that end user or customer, it is more likely that person will deliver real ROI for our client.

But it is getting harder and harder to even capture an audience's attention. Media channels have increased exponentially. Each ad or message has fewer eyeballs on it. There is more demand for someone's attention than ever before. And each message is having less and less effect on someone when they do see it. Consumers are far less likely to recall an ad or a message today than in years past. At a time when marketers want a deeper, more meaningful engagement with consumers, consumers are more distant than ever. How do you make that equation work?

Sensory Spending Gap

It turns out that there is a remarkable gap between how people experience things and what marketers typically spend their money on. Martin Lindstrom, brand futurist and author of Brand Sense: Sensory Secrets Behind The Stuff We Buy, points out that we experience life with all five of our senses—sight, sound, touch, smell and taste—but that marketers spend most of their marketing dollars on sight alone (1).

Senses Versus Spending
Source: Brand Sense: Sensory Secrets Behind The Stuff We Buy

Sensing An Opportunity

While visual is still the primary medium, sound, smell, touch and taste are still of very high importance to the consumer, but receive almost no attention by the marketers. This presents an opportunity to the savvy marketer.

The average US adult spends 11 hours a day with electronic media, including TV and radio (2). So, at first glance, one might think that marketing electronically would be the best way to reach an audience. But that might not necessarily be the case. Without going so far as to label it a "backlash", we can see that consumers are starting to push back against the screen. People crave real, human experiences, not just virtual ones. They are looking for authenticity, craftsmanship, substance. Consider the rise of the maker movement or artisanal foods. The Twin Cities Business magazine recently wrote about the iconic Minneapolis record store, The Electric Fetus, and the resurrection of vinyl records. Last year, Americans bought 9.2 million vinyl records, 50% more than the year before. Compare that to the 1 million sold in 2007. The new Star Wars film is returning to the use of more practical effects in part due to fan demands. Spoiler Alert: see photos from the desert sets on TMZ. One study suggests that direct mail is the preferred channel for the 18-34-year-old demographic (3). That certainly blows any assumptions you may have about how to appeal to young millennials!

Consider that human beings evolved for eons in a physical space. Our lives were rich, filled with sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures. We moved around, made things with our hands, encountered things physically. Smells protected us and guided us. Sounds warned us of danger and soothed us. To reduce all that richness to an endless stream of flat images is to leave huge areas of our brain out of the equation. A consumer may have a deeper, more lasting impression if you appeal to more of their senses. Interestingly, layering sensual appeals actually multiplies the effects rather than just adding to them. So appealing to more than one sense will give you the deepest connection (1).

Lasting Impressions

Expand Your Tool Set

So what are we really talking about here? We're not necessarily just thinking about gimmicks like Smell-O-Vision (an early attempt to bring scent into the movie-going experience), though it could be a viable possibility for the right application. For example, you can buy a DVD for Polyester by director John Waters with a "Odorama" scratch-and-sniff card that you can smell to add to your viewing experience when corresponding numbers popped up on the screen. Beyond "Smell-O-Vision", food brands like Cinnabon use pumped-in smells to create appetite appeal. Car makers add "new car smell" to the insides of new automobiles.

Get physical. A pop-up shop or a booth allows a brand to reach consumers in a tangible way that they can't easily skip past. And it gives people a chance to be a viral brand advocate when they share about it on social media. It is virtual advertising with the personal touch. Branded environments can deliver a 360-degree brand experience.

Direct mail and printed brochures have the ability to be high touch, as well as deliver on the other senses. It is a chance to use textures, dimension, form, folds and other techniques to draw the consumer into spending at least several minutes discovering and exploring what you've sent them. Contrast that with the second or two you have to catch someone's eye in a digital ad. Using low tech/high tech hybrids like printed QR codes can also bring a dimension of the digital to the printed piece.

We're continuously surprised by how sound is not more heavily used by brands as part of their core identity. Intel has its well-known sound signature and Nokia tunes showed up in the Love Actually movie, but consider how few other brands take advantage of this technique. And, beyond simple sound signatures, there are other ways to use sound and music, including in trade show booths, retail environments, and lobbies, in TV and radio and as part of digital user experiences. This Coke partnership with Dolby sound creates an soundscape to capture the experience of pouring an ice-cold Coke. Or, imagine the reaction you would get if real human voice answered the phone instead of a machine? For the right brand, this could be a strategy that separates a company from the competition.

And we can take more advantage of sight by adding motion, animation and other visual techniques to attract attention. Motion could be used more on websites and in advertising to attract attention. More identities could be developed with an animated sequence to bring them to life and better express their mission. We use motion and animation in our company email signatures, which frequently sparks comments about the originality our email sign offs.

Click on these email signatures to animate.
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Here are some examples from our own work history that leverage sensory attributes:

Currents Letterpress
Currents Letterpressed Business Cards

Currents - A Personal Touch

The concept of craftsmanship and quality are strongly communicated with the hand-crafted feel of the letterpress card, which helped communicate the brand values of quality and personalized service that the property management company espoused. It also separated the property from the competition by creating a lasting impression in the minds of prospective tenants.

Neenah Paper Cosmos Ad
Neenah Paper Environment Ad

Neenah Paper - A Product Experience

Neenah needed a series of print ads to highlight their new Environment® black paper. In one ad, the user handles the paper for five to ten minutes while perfing out, folding and building the Cosmos Black viewer. The user first has an experience and then has an object they can keep indefinitely on their desk, thereby keeping the brand in view. In the other ad, the environmental and performance properties of the paper are made clear with the tactile, embossed leaf. The user now has intimate knowledge of the product and had an experience.

Rebranding Properites - Currents Monument Sign

ODO Pea Pod Card - Not Just A Card

This business card folds up to create an envelope effect with a surprise inside: objects, mini-brochures, etc. There were also hidden messages printed inside. The card created an experience far beyond an ordinary business card.

Rebranding Properites - Currents Monument Sign

This Is Folly Lolly - Tasty Business Cards

One of our This Is Folly business cards is a series of suckers in various shapes with witty flavor descriptions and a QR code tag that, when scanned with a smart phone, puts This Is Folly right into the prospects' contacts.

Our senses convey a lot of information to our brains. We're not suggesting that brands should abandon TV, radio, banner ads and websites. But we do think, for the right brand and the right message, physical media may well be more effective at creating the level of engagement you need to make an impression on the consumer.

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1. Lindstrom, Martin. Brand Sense: Sensory Secrets Behind the Stuff We Buy. New York: Free Press, 2005.

2. Matt Petronzio, "U.S. Adults Spend 11 Hours Per Day With Digital Media." Mashable, March 5, 2014. http://mashable.com/2014/03/05/american-digital-media-hours/

3. 2011 Channel Preference Study: The Formula For Success: Preference and Trust. Epilson Targeting, 2011.


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