• May 1, 2008
  • By Jessica Tsai, Assistant Editor, CRM magazine

Sense-sational Marketing

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All eyes and ears -- and noses, mouths, and fingers -- were alert at the Direct Marketing Association's B-to-B Marketing Conference recently in Orlando. With a grand display of intriguing pieces before him, Mike Maguire, chief executive officer of Structural Graphics, conveyed the impact of a well-designed, interactive piece of direct mail. We may be the efficiency-driven, Web 2.0 generation but when it comes to business we can play with, we'll slow down for the kid in us. Emails come and go, Maguire said, but some things last forever, and a three-dimensional, car-shaped brochure that has a magnetic closure simulating the feel of closing a car door is one of those things.

The average consumer is hit with 1,600 commercial impressions a day, according to Maguire, and yet a recent study by IPC Media reported that 59 percent of adults actively avoid advertisements. Consumers are being bombarded by excess rather than quality pitches simply because advertisers blindly believe quantity is called for. In his presentation "Scent, Taste, Lights, Sound, and Touch: It's Not Your Father's Marketing!" Maguire emphasized how an ad must promote attention, interaction, and involvement. "If there is no emotional experience," he said, "then nothing will happen."

Communicating through advertising requires companies to do more than just show a pretty picture. The first step is the stop-them-in-their-tracks attention-grabber. "It's what determines what goes in the 'keep pile' versus the 'toss pile,' " Maguire said. Next, high-impact ads should have a means of interaction: Whether it's a "pull here" flap or a pop-out taste strip, this is where consumers will be inclined to take a closer look. Finally, the ad must be conducive to an ongoing relationship, such as a link to a related Web site. "This is where the response happens," he said.

With ample research to back him up, Maguire argued that stimulating the senses is a strategy that works best when more than one sensory outlet is engaged. A study by Baylor University found that response rates for dimensional packaging were 75 percent higher than advertisements with flat packaging. Moreover, the average magazine reader normally spends 1.5 seconds on a magazine ad whereas a dimensional ad can keep a reader intrigued for 10 seconds or more.

At the root of it all, our senses determine how we interact with the world. Only because of them, in fact, are we able to understand the world at all. Sight is the most powerful of the five senses, with 83 percent of the information we retain derived from the visual. Though less explicitly associated with product recall, a worldwide survey found that 56 percent of consumers recognized the tune for Intel's "Intel Inside" jingle. In a study of scent and propensity to buy, 84 percent of consumers shown the same shoe in two different circumstances preferred the shoe when it was presented to them in the more pleasantly fragrant environment. For 81 percent of consumers, how a product feels is heavily associated with the perception of quality.

Taste becomes a challenge because it requires an actual physical involvement and, thus, has only ever been effectively achieved through voluntary sampling. Nevertheless, taste-marketing agency First Flavor found that 87 percent of consumers were "very likely" or "somewhat likely" to purchase a product based on a positive taste experience.

After being exposed to the environment, our senses then play an important role in facilitating our ability to recall that information. In time, however, consumers are bound to forget. Within a one-year period, the average human can recall with 65 percent accuracy. After three months, visual memory typically drops to 50 percent. Therefore, integrating sensory capabilities would not only increase attraction, but enhance long-term brand recognition.

While engaging the five senses is an important and necessary strategy, it's not necessarily for everyone, Maguire warned. In general, embarking on these creatives require more resources to manufacture and distribute than a simple spread in a magazine. As a result, companies need to know exactly who their target is. "Data is 50 percent or more of the formula to make sure you're getting to the right people," Maguire said. Because of this, the extra investment is found to be most worthwhile when conducted in B2B relationships, or other relationships of high value, such as with a senior-level executive or a casino's high roller. Moreover, the use of these ads is encouraged at events and trade shows when a personal interaction can be secured; as part of a well-timed follow-up to someone who has already taken the initial bait; and as a method for effectively presenting complex messaging.

Just when you think you're done hitting all five senses, Maguire unveiled the sixth sense -- what he called the Holy Grail of multisensory marketing. When the advertising strategy is in place, marketers need to be in control and maintain a holistic and integrated view of their efforts. As much as it's about quality, the only way to get there is to set the metrics and conduct the tests. "If you can't track it," Maguire said, "don't do it."

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