They’ll Believe It When They Feel It

Haptics packaging by Blue Flame Thinking
Team BFT

Recall an experience where you established a connection with something you touched. Perhaps it was that warm, rough, sunlit stucco wall, the resonant crystal glassware that fairly hummed or the remarkable feeling of quality and promise as you opened the packaging of an Apple product.

Our most profound memories sometimes aren’t sights, sounds or smells. Our sense of touch has a remarkable emotive power, and leading marketers know how to use it to forge positive connections to their brands in both traditional and digital media.

Touch: The Primal Sense

Of all the senses, touch develops first, in as little as eight weeks. Newborns explore the world and derive comfort in a very tactile fashion. And throughout our lives, this primal sense continues to operate as a whole-body, two-way experience that carries a strong ability to elicit emotions and much longer-lasting recall.

Haptics in Marketing

Haptics, the study of the sense of touch, is already a mainstream tool in brand communications. Print marketers have long been aware of the impact of fine paper stock and dimensional direct mail enclosures. Haptic advertising has become a specialized field devoted to using tactile sensations to create stronger experiences surrounding brands in both traditional and digital media.

A generation ago, haptics made its first inroads into the digital world with vibrational, force-feedback game controllers. Today, digital marketers are making very creative use of smartphone vibrators and accelerometers to integrate tactile effects into digital ads, videos and apps.

Stolichnaya Vodka ran an ad that enables users to feel a cocktail being mixed, while Showtime’s Homeland season 4 series premier used a haptic teaser that delivered a click-through rate five times higher than average. Both of these ads generated improvements in user engagement and brand perception.

The Endowment Effect: It’s Worth More When It’s in Your Hand

Part of what’s at work here is the Endowment Effect, a tendency to place higher value on things already in our possession. We possess the tactile effects of print on paper, an actual product sample or some other physical object designed to demonstrate a key product feature. In the digital realm, we can possess the tactile experience of vibrational feedback and how we touch or orient the device during interaction.

Leveraging Tactile Power to Your Advantage

So, how can you use the sense of touch to reinforce your customers’ connection to your brand? In the print realm, use the highest-quality paper stock you can budget for. Recipients are sure to notice the perceived quality difference between a heavy, premium coated stock and lesser alternatives. And, they transfer that quality association to your brand. Second, add dimension. Use embossing, die cuts, ink relief, accordion folds and other physical features to invite the kinds of handling and interaction that trigger the Endowment Effect.

On the digital side, take the leap and invest in haptic effects that appropriately complement your audio and video. Then, run A/B testing with and without the tactile effects to see how your investment pays off.