Our sense of touch never lies!

Olaf Hartmann and his agency Touchmore specialise in haptic marketing. He believes there’s still plenty of potential. A conversation.

Mr. Hartmann, have you ever “mis-touched”? 
Olaf Hartmann: (Laughs) Not really, at least not with my hands!

But what does your slogan “We cannot mis-touch!” really mean in concrete terms?
This claim describes a subjective psychological fact. Just take a moment to observe yourself next time you are shopping in the supermarket. When do you use your sense of touch? Often, we use it to check the validity of a visual impression. By picking up a kiwi or an avocado, for instance. Does it only look tasty, or does it feel as good as it looks? You gain an impression of products with your fingers – within a fraction of a second and completely without thinking. We know from experience that we cannot rely on our visual perception alone, and that’s why we seek to back up what we see by feeling. It’s no wonder
that scientists sometimes refer to our sense of touch as “the truth sense”. We can “gain a feel” for our environment with this sense. We feel it and trust what we feel.

Does the same apply for hapticals?
I refer to objects as hapticals when they transport a brand promise through design and branding or make a product benefit tangible. They work towards solving an acute problem of our overwhelming audio-visual age: people are becoming increasingly tired of ads. Advertisers and marketing specialists often only focus on bi-sensory marketing. We are bombarded with up to 13,000 advertising messages every day on TV, online, radio and on billboards – just about everywhere we go. We see and hear them, but do they touch us? We now know that with every additional sense included in perceiving a message, brain activity grows by 1000%. This means that we are not only able to implicitly understand messages that we perceive over several senses more quickly, we also remember them for longer and view them as more credible. Hapticals are multi-sensory brand ambassadors and give people what they don’t get from other forms of communication: experiences that can be felt.

What distinguishes a well made haptical?
Correctly integrated, hapticals in marketing are like effervescent tablets in a glass of water. They are proven to increase campaign efficiency, augment response rates and boost sales success. The haptic effect allows marketing to spark more attention, anchor the message deeper, allow people to experience the qualities of the offering more tangibly, activate positive associations and in doing so create greater willingness to buy.

But aren’t we subject to tactile stimuli everywhere we go?
It’s true that we are unable to not communicate with our senses, even if we wanted to. Every company is constantly sending out sensory signals through their choice of paper, the materials they use at trade fair stands or the surfaces of their promotional pens. The question is whether these signals are guided in line with the brand or not. Neuropsychological research has clearly revealed: If you want to boost the efficiency of your communications, your brand or product message has to be experienced comprehensively and with all the senses. To this effect, the highest possible congruency is essential. Even seemingly unimportant, small sensory impressions have to fit together, because only integrated brand and product experiences can lead to success. Managing the details is what makes brands successful.

That sounds challenging.
It requires just as much knowledge, creativity and decision-making as other marketing disciplines. Especially since hapticals are always used in the context of other marketing measures – as a mailing enhancer in dialogue marketing, as an aid to sparking interest at trade fairs and POS, as an incentive in customer loyalty or even as the central element of a campaign. That is why we should stop talking about promotional articles or give-aways. These terms essentially devalue the huge potential of advertising objects. These are not “nice-to-have” measures, but a necessity. Well thought-out and correctly used hapticals are proven to increase the efficiency of the marketing mix and are
therefore a must-have for every company.

Thank you for your time, Mr. Hartmann.

Olaf Hartmann (44) is the Founder and Managing Partner of Touchmore, co-founder of the Multisense Institute and one of the authors of the marketing bestseller “Touch!”, the first comprehensive description of the haptic effect in multi-sensory marketing.