James de Waal, head of marketing business imaging group, Canon South Africa, states that we are living in an era when consumers are increasingly prioritising ‘experiences’ over ‘things’ (1), a trend that poses new challenges for marketers, whose success is likely to be defined by simple commercial metrics such as product sales and market share. But this preference for experience is a valuable prompt for brands to remember that consumers are humans, with real emotions and a craving for personal interaction and engagement.
It’s one of the reasons for the sustained interest in contemporary, interactive marketing devices like virtual and augmented reality, which promise new ways to connect with consumers, bringing them up close and personal with products and creating immersive, multi-sensory brand experiences. Interactivity certainly adds an interesting and potentially effective dimension to marketing, but perhaps it’s simply a 21st century expression of a much older marketing truth: emotion sells.
This isn’t just an empty marketing catchphrase. In fact, individuals are seven times more likely to purchase more when they have a positive emotional association with a specific brand (2), and advertising campaigns with purely emotional content perform twice as well as those with only rational content (3).
Most marketing professionals instinctively understand this, but the message may have been clouded by a decade of digital ‘marketing by numbers’ with its obsession with immediacy and measurability, and the assumption that more conventional marketing channels, such as print, provide less calculable metrics.
In fact, in a world where consumers are overwhelmed by marketing channels and messages, the tactile power of print, combined with intelligent personalisation founded on real customer insight, may be precisely what’s needed to overcome digital overload and trigger emotional responses to brands.
While digital content is processed faster, consumers spend more time with physical marketing materials such as printed direct mail, and individuals can recall them more vividly. The very act of touching a physical piece of print while looking at it – what scientists call ‘haptic communication’ – leaves a deeper footprint in the brain, producing an increased emotional response. Studies by the Royal Mail and the United States Postal Service revealed that ‘Greater emotional processing is facilitated by the physical material than by the virtual. The ‘real’ experience that the physical media provides means it’s better at becoming part of memory (4). Essentially, the deeper in the mind the material goes, the more mental processing it requires, making it seem more real and leading to a more positive emotional response.
As a sensory marketing tool, print can trump digital too, thanks to its ability to trigger emotions using touch, sight and smell, overlaid with individualised messages and delivered when consumers are most receptive. This trio of senses may be all-important in increasing marketing effectiveness; consider research commissioned by branding expert Martin Lindstrom, which shows that media that appeal to more than three senses can increase brand impact and engagement by more than 70 percent (5).
These sensory qualities make print marketing a powerful way to tell a brand story, especially when used in careful combination with other platforms to build a seamless omni-channel experience. As part of a considered marketing journey, print’s ability to stimulate an emotional response can play a critical, measurable role in driving purchase, while building lasting brand affinity.
Good marketeers understand print’s persuasive combination of imagery, message and delivery, but are also under pressure to minimise time to market for campaign materials. Inevitably, this emphasis on immediacy has tended to work in digital marketing’s favour. Long-standing assumptions about print production timelines mean that many marketers have de-prioritised print in the marketing mix, because they believe it cannot be turned around quickly enough.
However, with the latest ‘programmatic print’ techniques, powered by digital printing on demand and sophisticated campaign automation, print marketing can be real-time, with targeted, individualised direct mailings compiled, printed and distributed within a 48-hour timeframe. Marketers can finally combine the advantages of algorithmically-driven digital campaigns that send consumers relevant messages at pre-determined trigger points, with the greater impact of personalised print.
Speaking at Future Promotion Forum 2018, Susan Fulczynski, process and project manager at Hamburg-based fashion retailer Bonprix, shared why personalised print is a key element of the company’s customer marketing strategy: ‘Everything that can be personalised online can also be personalised in print. By intelligently using our customer data, we can respond to each customer’s personal preferences and user behaviours, enabling us to add a personal touch to the promotional material we create and increasing the conversion rate to buy.’
Fulczynski confirmed that by using a high level of print personalisation to target offers more precisely at individuals through mailings, catalogues and other elements of the marketing mix, Bonprix has achieved a significant increase in response rates and conversion.
Each and every one of us is a consumer, with our own preferences regarding channels of communication, and is receptive to marketing messages at different times. Brand owners that adapt their promotional efforts to recognise this individuality – for example by using intelligent, individualised print in tandem with digital marketing – are more likely to achieve the desired emotional connection and ensure that the customer remains receptive to further marketing communication.
Consumers are happy when they feel appreciated as individuals, and brands can channel this by using their rich data to deliver marketing materials that make customers feel individually understood and valued. The happier a customer is, the more likely they are to be loyal and perhaps even become a positive brand advocate.
Fulczynski’s words are a powerful reminder that the ultimate achievement for any marketing campaign is to have connected with a prospective customer at a personal level. When brands get this right, the commercial rewards quickly follow.