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What a Difference a Sense Makes

November 20, 2009

Original post found on the Printing Impressions Blog site – Printblogalooza


I was born and raised in a family printing business. The experience gave me a vast love of the industry and I credit it for my work ethic and many of my views on honor and integrity. I am also very much interested and active in Social Media and Virtual Worlds. That all said, I would like to start off my blog series with Printing Impressions looking at an area where print has an advantage over the Internet.

Please note I am not addressing other elements of print where it is integrated with Social Media and Internet marketing. There are many valid reasons why it makes sense to work in both mediums. In this particular blog post I am beginning to look at the differences of the two based on the five human senses.

Let’s face some facts. In regards to the dissemination of immediate information, digging into topics and engaging and continuing discussions the Internet is the better venue. Business and people in general will always go the direction that is faster, cheaper and improved. The Internet is the better choice here. If you have never searched out a topic on Wikipedia and clicked on the various hyperlinks found within any topic, I suggest you do so to understand how it all works.

When looking at the five human senses, one must respect that the Internet has just two of them covered, sight and sound. Printing, takes the lead with the ability to interact with all five senses. This is a major advantage in a myriad of areas, some of which we will touch upon here, but the majority can be left to our creative resources.

Let’s start with the sense of smell. I commute to work via public transportation a vast majority of the time. There is a popcorn vendor at the North Station (Boston) MBTA. The smell of that popcorn is one of most amazing smells I encounter on a daily basis. Each and every time I smell it, I am hard pressed to avoid immediately buying that popcorn. If I were in the popcorn business and was looking at advertising, I would rely heavily on that smell. Smell entices humans and causes a physical reaction within them. This is a quick link to some information that will help you start your learning journey on this subject.

Recently PIAG (Printing and Imaging Association of Georgia) sent out their monthly magazine Georgia Printer with a bubble gum smell on the cover. Like popcorn, bubblegum has a very enticing smell to many people. All of my staff, including myself, smelled the cover and had a strong urge to buy bubble gum. Interestingly enough, when I looked at the PDF of the magazine, I saw the picture of the bubblegum, but without the smell it had next to no impact on me. What a difference a print makes.

I spoke to Peter Cook from Concord Litho at a recent PINE (Printing Industries of New England) awards gala. Concord Litho has been adding scented varnishes to various printed pieces for over five years. They were the first official sheetfed and web printing test site for the application ofmicroencapsulated ScentisphereTM scented varnishes.

While sharing my North Station popcorn experience, Peter quickly completed my thought and added, “If you have a client such as cable provider and they are debuting a new movie on their on-demand network, take the popcorn smell, add it to a printed piece announcing the new movie availability date.” Made perfect sense … or should I say “scents” … to me.

Going from the printer to the producer of the scents lead me to James Berard from Scentisphere. He had a tremendous amount of information on the subject. Most often we think of scented pieces attached to fragrance companies. I suspected, and now James has confirmed, that it goes well beyond that. In fact, some companies are looking at something called a Corporate Scent. The idea is to select and market a scent that makes one think of a specific firm when ever they … “catch wind” … of it. Could we see a day when a company’s scent is every bit as important as its logo?

Adding scent to printed pieces using a varnish is not as expensive as older methods. In fact, adding varnish is very easy and part of the printing process if you have the right equipment. This makes it cost effective for your clients and for a printer to add as an option to their product mix. However, the most important question to have a solid answer for is and always will be, “What is the ROI?” Doing something because it is cool or neat doesn’t always generate a result. For companies whose products are based on fragrance it is a no brainer to use those scents on their print marketing pieces. Adding scent to pieces for companies that don’t have scent in their products will take some creativity, much like Peter Cook’s example above with an on-demand movie and the scent of popcorn.

I will go into the other senses in future blog posts. I hope by now your mind is working on how much impact print can have. While the Internet is quickly replacing some of the past uses of printing materials, there are still some real strategic advantages that print has in the marketplace. Creativity and thinking anywhere but in the box can help you take advantage of things like we discussed here.

In the mean time…

• What scents stimulate you?

• How could they be used to sell a product?

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