Boost engagement and build long lasting relationships

A consumer hears the familiar ‘ding’ of their phone as another marketing email arrives in their inbox, shortly before it’s moved to the virtual rubbish bin without being read. Just like that, a brand has failed to gain their customer’s interest. In fact, according to MailChimp, the average email open rate is only 21.33%[1]. Brands need to actively engage their customers to drive purchase, but digital alone isn’t cutting it any more. Customers are quite simply overwhelmed by the digital ‘noise’.

Instead, imagine this alternative scenario: The customer opens their post to find a high-quality printed direct mail (DM) piece that catches their eye instantly. The physical medium in their hands means they’re naturally engaged with its content. They can’t just delete the message with a click. If the message is well targeted, there’s a high chance they’ll be interested to know more about the company, product or service.

Touch goes beyond the senses

We all understand that successful marketing often appeals to our emotions, but it’s easy to overlook the importance of the marketing medium in triggering those feelings. Our emotions are intrinsically bound up with all our physical senses, which is giving rise to new schools of thought around ‘sensory marketing’, focused on reaching consumers through all five senses.

Olaf Hartmann, Managing Director of Multisense Institute for Sensory Marketing, highlights the importance of the ‘power of touch’ in boosting customer engagement. How? Because print is real. It’s physical and tangible. The tactile nature of print stimulates the brain, sparking emotions. Not only can we see and feel its quality, but it acts as a visual representation of a brand and its values in a way that an email simply can’t.

The Multisense Institute for Sensory Marketing defines five stages in marketing using the ‘ARIVA’ model. The five dimensions of sensory optimisation are Attention, Recall, Integrity, Value and Action, and these can be effectively applied to maximise the impact of a direct mail campaign.

Firstly, a brand needs to consider what is going to make customers engage with its printed collateral. Does it stand out from the rest of their post and other marketing? Does it have a look and feel that characterises the brand? Does it use a strong and identifiable colour palette or perhaps a unique material? Maybe the prospect has to interact with it somehow to uncover another message? For a printed direct mail piece to be effective, it needs to first catch the customer’s attention.

Consider the paper used and how that might be interpreted by the customer or add to their experience with the brand. To make print more noticeable, move away from a standard format and see it as an opportunity to reflect the brand. This can be as simple as choosing a heavier paper and higher quality envelope to convey luxury and durability. Unlike when viewing something on screen, touch enhances value perception.

Having grabbed the customer’s attention, the printed direct mail piece needs to be effective so that the recipient remembers it. Think about how to engage customers for longer, perhaps through a unique ‘opening’ experience, or with an enclosure that is likely to be retained. For example, a strongly branded voucher inside a gatefold DM is likely to be pinned to a noticeboard and used at a later date. After all, interaction boosts recall.

Next, is integrity. Brands want consumers to connect with them and understand their values. Homeless charity Aktion Deutschland’s campaign is a prime example of how this can be achieved. The charity sent out a direct mailer printed on coarse paper, to represent people who are sleeping rough. The harsh feeling of the paper sparked a sensory and emotional reaction, boosting donations by over 20%[2].

Then we come to how a brand can add value to its customers through its products or services. This is where the content of the direct mail comes in. It’s important to be clear on the benefits to the customer, what is motivating them to engage further and take action. Whether the action is making an actual purchase or simply accessing further valuable content online, this is a prime opportunity to use cross-channel communications to enhance the overall brand experience.

Think about the action you want the customer to take and make it clear. Beauty brand Dove, for example, did this effectively by adding an extra layer to its campaign in the form of a ‘scratch to see what’s underneath’ instruction. Clear and concise, it prompted the consumer to extend their interaction with the brand message. The longer the consumer is engaged, the more likely it is to spark an emotional reaction and drive them to purchase.

These five stages can all be achieved effectively with targeted direct mail. From there, brands can create bridges from their print marketing to their digital platforms for a seamless multi-channel experience.

It’s inevitable that brands are focused on the marketing channels that centre around sales conversions, but winning customers’ trust is the first step to building a long lasting relationship. And this is where print trumps digital.

In the current climate, emotional resonance has become more important than ever. Whether you’re a brand looking to enhance your marketing mix to create a two-way and more engaging relationship with your customers or a print service provider looking to find creative ways to use print with digital, now is the time to leverage print’s power of touch and appeal to your customers’ senses.


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[1] Source: MailChimp – 2019 –

[2] Source: Wang, C., Zhu, R., & Handy, T. C. (2016)

Originally published by Canon Europe

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