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Old-skool marketing “touches” and why they still work

Written by Jason Groom
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Originally published
March 8 2017,
updated
July 13 2020

I’m not sure if it’s a bit passé now, even old-fashioned. But, when they were static and inflexible – that is, before they became automated and triggered – campaigns were said to be built from a series of marketing touches. A succinct way and a catch-all term for describing an “exposure to the brand”, whether that was direct mail, a print advert, even a piece of PR, etc.

With the rise of account based marketing (ABM), a growing reliance on inbound and content, along with omni-channel experiences determined by the customer and not the marketer, “touch” is a term we hear less of. So, I was pretty interested to stumble across some research sponsored by Sappi1 (the paper people) about Haptics, essentially the science of touch.

A Communicator’s Guide to the Neuroscience of Touch is written by renowned neuroscientist Dr. David Eagleman. In it he explores why touch is such a crucial part of the sensory experience, how it influences emotion / decision making and what makes it critical to any brand experience. How come?

The Endowment Effect
There’s a phenomenon known as the endowment effect, and humans are hard-wired to infer value on something by touching and holding it in their own hands, rather than just simply seeing it in someone else’s. And studies have shown that touching printed marketing materials imbues this additional value on direct mail pieces, catalogues, brochures, etc.

Incidental touch
How something feels colours our judgement above, beyond and around what it is we are touching. A corporate brochure created on expensive, heavyweight paper stock for example is likely to give the impression of a solid, reputable business. But contrast that with a candidate’s CV where the paper is flimsy and damaged and perceptions are radically altered.

Deeper engagement
Touch even has the power to create within the brain a deeper level of engagement and generates a stronger impact than sight or sound alone. Dr Eagleman’s research points to physical media, particularly paper, being more likely to “lead to knowledge” than digital forms of communication. And that’s borne out by studies where the overwhelming majority of students (92%) state their preference for reading and studying from printed books, rather than online.

Quality not quantity
Want them to really remember? Upping the weight of a paper stock apparently makes a difference. Participants are more likely to recall information printed on heavy, high-quality paper than on a lower-quality one.

In our ever more digitally-connected world, human connections are being overlooked, even lost.  Dr Eagleman’s work serves as a reminder that by mastering the science of touch brands might once again forge memorable and meaningful connections with their customers.

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