The power of print at a glance
- Our sense of touch is our “sense of truth”. Haptic impressions colour our perception and make advertising more credible, too.
- Communication that has been haptically optimised is more attention-grabbing, more memorable and more resonant.
- Luxury brands are especially well-served by print. Magazines with premium haptics are the ideal environment for value-added advertising messaging.
Olaf Hartmann is a man with a special touch. Teaming up with psychologist Sebastian Haupt, the Managing Director of Germany’s Multisense Institute for Sensory Marketing has written “Touch!”, a marketing best seller. Small wonder he’s regarded as one of Europe’s leading experts in multi-sensory and haptic communications. We asked him why, in this digital age, people seem to yearn for a haptic experience more than ever – and how advertisers could profit from this trend.
Olaf, are people in Germany still in love with print? After all, some magazines struggle with falling circulation while others reach millions. Why this discrepancy?
You’re right: circulation of Germany’s venerable weekly newspaper “Die Zeit” is at an historic high. “Landlust”, a magazine on country living, shifts 800,000 copies a month and mindfulness mag “Flow” is going from strength to strength. And now TV presenter Joko Winterscheidt, who has two million followers on Twitter, is launching a print magazine all of his own called “JWD - Joko Winterscheidts Druckerzeugnis”, or “Joko Winterscheidts Printed Matter”. Even purely digital players such as airbnb and online fashion retailer Zalando have discovered the communicative powers of print and are producing their own customer magazines. They’re not doing this for the hell of it, but because they’ve seen that print has an impact on people – despite or perhaps even because of the tsunami of digital media.
Still, the question remains: why are some actors successful in kindling a love of print while others aren’t?
Print is a slow medium. Whenever print tries to pop, flicker and rush like the internet, it can only lose. Print always demands content of substance, something that gives me a deeper understanding of something. If this is combined with an attractive physical feel, print products turn into a compelling proposition. Our brain loves haptics. Over 40 per cent of our brain deals with nothing else – on a permanent basis. Which explains why print continues to work so well even in this digital age.
You can sum it up in one: in a digital, fast-moving world, people yearn for things that are durable and tangible. And that’s precisely where print comes in: it’s all about taking relevant content that differs from that on the internet and then delivering it in a physical format that’s haptically appealing. Print’s added value has to be based on the strength of its content and format.
Hang on. In this digital age, we’re all fixated on our touch screens. Swiping is the new page-turning. Where does this leave the “haptic experience” promised by print?
Paradoxically, touch screens prove just much haptics matter to people. For example: studies have shown that touching a product image leads to a stronger psychological sense of ownership than merely clicking on it with a mouse. Only the touch screen has made the boom in mobile internet usage possible in the first place. So it’s not surprising that there’s intense research into ways to improve the surfaces of tablets and other screens to ensure that users have a haptically fulfilling experience. In this sense, haptics is the next big thing for the internet. Nevertheless, these digital simulations are a long way away from the experience of really touching something. There’s definitely still lots of potential in haptics.
Does that go for the digital world, too?
Absolutely, man remains a multi-sensory animal. The digital revolution hasn’t simply rendered human irrelevant. Signals that simulate multiple senses fire up the brain. They command greater attention and are more likely to be remembered. With every additional sense that is stimulated, brain activity increases tenfold. Research shows clearly that appealing to the senses offers great potential when it comes to anchoring brand messages in the mind. For a long time, marketing has not paid enough attention to this, or to put it differently, digitalisation seemed to forget this.
Can you flesh this out for us? Which part does our sense of touch play when it comes to processing different stimuli?
Many people might not be aware that our sense of touch is our “sense of truth”. You can mishear or even “mis-see” something, but no-one would ever say, I have “mis-touched” this. On a subjective level, haptic impressions are synonymous with truth. Any message I get across using haptics gains added credibility straightaway. In this way, haptic stimuli subconsciously colour our judgment. For example, we think an applicant more competent if their material is presented on a substantial clipboard – without us ever being aware of this.
Enhanced credibility thanks to print – can advertisers benefit from this effect?
Human perception is always multi-sensory. That’s why haptics play an important part when creating powerful visual communications. There are images you can touch. After all, what do we like to look at? Of course, things we would also like to touch. When an image depicts that kind of object, it simulates the same parts of the brain that are activated by actually touching the object in real life. Good creative makes use of this insight. Take, for example, the award-winning campaign by Germany’s DIY market Hornbach – it was called “You’re alive, remember?” When a naked man falls off a mountain and tumbles across alpine meadows, forests, tree stumps and mud, our brain tumbles, too. We feel the physical pleasure as well as the physical pain. We’re touched by this, and so the message sticks.