What makes a good print campaign? It’s something that stands out, is visually pleasing and grabs your attention long enough to leave a lasting impression. But how easy is it to achieve this in a world where we are constantly bombarded with hundreds of marketing messages every day, the majority of them playing to our senses of sight, hearing, or both?

Something that has recently captured the imagination of designers and consumers alike is sensory print.

Sensory print is the traditional medium of printed marketing that interacts with consumers on more than one level. It’s print that triggers more than just one’s sense of sight, but has the potential to play to a consumer’s senses of touch, hearing, smell and even taste. Exciting, right?

Print we can eat

I say ‘recently’, but this is by no means a new development in marketing. Brands have been targeting all five of our senses for many years now, but recent developments in technology have allowed for this to become more widespread, and it’s something that cannot be ignored. Various studies have been conducted and some estimate that triggering more than one or two senses can increase brand impact by up to 70%

Touch and feel

From a very early age, we favour learning and experiencing the world around us by reaching out and touching it. I still remember the books I had as a child that contained soft or fluffy patches on the pages instead of just an image of a blanket or animal. They left an impact that has lasted for years.

Using our sense of touch is a simple way of gathering information and we all enjoy interesting tactile sensations. This is also evident if you consider the range of papers and finishes available when ordering something seemingly as basic as a business card.

Take time choosing texture

Touch is a sense which cannot be switched off, so whether intended or not, the texture or polish of your card will be a communicative means in its own right. While an interesting texture or increased paper weight can leave a great lasting impression, negligence may have the opposite effect. A light material may give the impression of cheapness, and used inappropriately, a glossy finish may come across as gaudy or tasteless. Ink transfer is another example of a negative tactile experience.

Plan packaging with care

Well-designed packaging is a great way of exploring the sensory potential of materials, and unconventional packaging is becoming notably more prevalent in supermarkets these days. The consumer is taken on a sensory journey as they unwrap layers of card, cloth, treated papers, textured and folded in increasingly innovative ways. Unwrapping a gift has always been an experience associated with excitement, so why not make everyday commodities feel like gifts?

Know your audience

This is by no means a simple process. Encasing a product in thrill and adventure takes care and consideration. Knowledge of the target market is essential. For example, often in Japan, gifts will be wrapped in an additional layer of white to suggest an element of purity. And in the UK, we’re becoming increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of our purchases, so non-recyclable plastics can transmit a lack of care and consideration.

Dive deeper

If I haven’t yet convinced you of the power of sensory print, below are a few brief descriptions of sensory campaigns to get your finger-tips tingling.

  • A restaurant in Massachusetts used paper treated to feel like plastic to simulate a credit card, which potential customers could use as a discount towards a meal. The discount card could be kept in a purse or wallet with other payment cards. The physical feel of a credit card in the hand made buyers feel as though they already had money as opposed to just a discount. The restaurant saw a 30% response rate to the campaign.
  • A magazine ad for an exfoliating cream used a rough textured surface to cover the featured model’s skin, but created it as a peel-off sticker with a smooth surface underneath to demonstrate the effect of the cream. Top-of-mind awareness went to 21% and total sales increased by 16%.
  • Instead of using standard paper for their business card, a pool service company, printed their details on special pH sensitive paper. The card had a colour chart on the back, and when dipped into pool water would change colour to indicate the pH of the water and whether the pool needed to be serviced.

Senses working overtime

There’s more to print than may initially meet the eye, and it’s an exciting world of innovation and creativity. A lot of it is down to thinking of both the pleasant and negative sensory experiences in your everyday life, and applying them to print. Keep an eye (and a hand) out for this next time you hit the shops.

Have you come across any exciting sensory print campaigns? Leave a comment and share your experiences.