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Best direct mail campaign in history: yes, cats are involved

(Business Marketing) Appealing to the sense of smell is a creative marketing tactic used today, and several campaigns have caught our eye, especially one involving catnip and kittehs.

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Using sense of smell to enhance your branding power

Giving your brand an edge is more important than ever before. From scents to interactive ads, marketers are trying harder than ever to grab your attention. Motorola created an ad that lets you change the color of a printed page before your eyes; billboards ad have been lit aflame, and now brands are appealing to your sense of smell. You may not realize it, but you have probably already been exposed to scent technologies. Scent branding is being used by boutiques, museums, and everything in between.

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Why use scent? The sense of smell is one of the strongest and most powerful triggers for emotional memory. And, if used in the right way, scent branding can enhance customer experience in a pleasing manner. It can also drive purchases as well. If your scent evokes a happy memory, people are more likely to buy it again and again.

Recently, India published its first scented newspaper ad. Johnson and Johnson placed a full-page advertisement in “The Times of India,” “The Hindu,” and “Malayala Manorama,” all of which were infused with the smell of J&J’s baby powder. As more and more publications are losing out in the digital age, making print advertising exciting, innovative, and fun, is paramount. And let’s face it, everyone loves that “baby smell,” so not only did people enjoy the ad, it encouraged people to pass it around and talk about it; which is exactly what you hope for in any marketing campaign.

The best direct mail campaign ever in history


Scent targeted marketing has even expanded to the pet market. A cat litter warehouse, looking to draw attention as they launch, chose a direct mail campaign. But they needed a way to insure their advertising did not wind up in the trash, so they decided to use scent. They infused their postcards with catnip and kitties went crazy for it; see their reactions here. As soon as the mail arrived in their human’s mailboxes, the cats were pounced, immediately drawn to the scent. And when the cats like something, the owners take notice, which insured the ad, for the most part, was noticed and not discarded.

The same is true for print advertising. Creating an ad that makes your readers stand up and take notice is what the difference between and effective campaign and one that flops. So why not engage the customer’s senses and draw them in to your product? At the very least they will be likely to talk about the novelty of scented ads, something you just cannot get through digital advertising.

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Bruce Lemieux

    February 22, 2014 at 9:01 am

    Uhhh, you know this wasn’t a real campaign, don’t you? That piece couldn’t be delivered (no postal insignia, etc). And sending a square piece – yikes. USPS must hand-sort Irregular shapes like this, so they are prohibitively expensive for a direct-mail campaign. And this “cat litter warehouse” is using direct mail to sell cat litter?? Probably the least cost-effective example of using direct mail. Ever.

    What *was* real about this video — it’s catnip to social media and marketing gurus who can’t resist telling us about new, creative and exciting ways to do something that doesn’t need to be new, creative or exciting. Up Next: scented postcards with QR codes delivered by drones (cut to scene where a millennial is struggling to scan the QR code on a postcard with her smartphone while the wind whips around a drone hovering overhead).

  2. Lani Rosales

    February 24, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    Bruce, it is a Canadian company, but you could be right since their website is pretty defunct, the property they say their address is located shows up as “For Lease” on Google Maps, but I won’t let you crush my dreams – I think it could be a pricey marketing stunt!

    We spoke with an Austin printer who noted they’ve used buttered popcorn smell for direct mailers, and that scent is being used in marketing (and not just that horrible Abercrombie cologne sprayed every 10 minutes through the air vents in their store). Laugh all you want, but I think it’s pretty cool, curmudgeon! 😉

    • Bruce Lemieux

      February 26, 2014 at 8:00 am

      “Curmudgeon”? Really??

      ok, I admit, that’s about right.

  3. Shelley Sweeney

    February 26, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    First of all, this video is adorable. Second of all, this direct mail campaign is a great example of where the print marketing industry is headed. Getting your message noticed in today’s oversaturated media world is an ongoing challenge, but when you have the help of a furry friend and a little creativity, a direct marketing piece like this is bound for success. Sight, touch, taste, hearing and smell – experiential marketing campaigns are utilizing a range of senses these days to capture the attention of consumers. Increasingly, we’ve seen that it’s imperative for printed pieces to be interactive, cutting-edge and personalized, in order to increase the connection between the brand and the consumer. Print makes emotional connections and memorable impressions in this fast-paced, always-on world. Partner print with the sense of smell and you’ve created one of the strongest and most powerful triggers for emotional memory. In fact, a
    well-designed, creative, innovative piece can drive a connection between a brand and a consumer, sparking their interest, increasing their loyalty and possibly gaining new ambassadors. So, I highly recommend – take advantage of the power of print and have a little fun with it, too! – Shelley Sweeney, VP/GM Service Bureau/Direct Mail Sectors, Xerox

    • Bas de Haan

      February 28, 2014 at 3:58 am

      Totally agree with the comments of Shelley. For the best effect it is important to use scent as an active coating in order to get the fragrance released by local air flow instead of a (passive) cratch and sniff technology..

    • Bruce Lemieux

      February 28, 2014 at 3:49 pm

      I’m a huge fan of direct mail and agree it can be a very effective way to cut through “today’s oversaturated media world”. But scented mail absolutely isn’t the future of print marketing. “Have a little fun with it”? Maybe one can have some fun with direct mail on Planet Fantasy where printing and postage costs are negligible. But on Planet Earth where I live, direct mail is way too expensive for that (harsh, I know, but I feel it’s my duty since someone here labeled me as a “curmudgeon”)

      The real opportunity with direct mail — IMO — is cost-effective implementation of targeted, variable print direct mail that leads to personalized web interaction (PURLs). Xerox is a leader in printing solutions for variable print, but that’s just one link in the chain. It can be very expensive and very complicated to implement a program that targets the *right* consumers with the *right* message that also *minimizes* printing and postage costs. “Printers of the future” will master not only the technology of digital variable printing, but the data & tools needed to help facilitate targeted messages that are easy and cost-effective to implement. As a consumer of this product, I can tell you it’s getting better, but solutions are still evolving at a glacier pace.

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Business Marketing

Snapchat’s study reveals our growing reliance on video

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Snapchat released a report that shows some useful insights for future video content creation.

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Snapchat is taking a break from restoring people’s streaks to publish a report on mobile video access; according to Social Media Today, the report holds potentially vital information about how customers use their mobile devices to view content.

And–surprise, surprise–it turns out we’re using our phones to consume a lot more media than we did six years ago.

The obvious takeaways from this study are listed all over the place, and not even necessarily courtesy of Snapchat. People are using their phones substantially more often than they have in the past five years, and with everyone staying home, it’s reasonable to expect more engagement and more overall screen time.

However, there are a couple of insights that stand out from Snapchat’s study.

Firstly, the “Stories” feature that you see just about everywhere now is considered one of the most popular–and, thus, most lucrative–forms of video content. 82 percent of Snapchat users in the study said that they watched at least one Snapchat Story every day, with the majority of stories being under ten minutes.

This is a stark contrast to the 52 percent of those polled who said they watched a TV show each day and the 49 percent who said they consumed some “premium” style of short-form video (e.g., YouTube). You’ll notice that this flies in the face of some schools of thought regarding content creation on larger platforms like YouTube or Instagram.

Equally as important is Snapchat’s “personal” factor, which is the intimate, one-on-one-ish atmosphere cultivated by Snapchat features. Per Snapchat’s report, this is the prime component in helping an engaging video achieve the other two pillars of success: making it relatable and worthy of sharing.

Those three pillars–being personal, relatable, and share-worthy–are the components of any successful “short-form” video, Snapchat says.

Snapchat also reported that of the users polled, the majority claimed Snapchat made them feel more connected to their fellow users than comparable social media sites (e.g., Instagram or Facebook). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the next-closest social media platform vis-a-vis interpersonal connection was TikTok–something for which you can probably see the nexus to Snapchat.

We know phone use is increasing, and we know that distanced forms of social expression were popular even before a pandemic floored the world; however, this report demonstrates a paradigm shift in content creation that you’d have to be nuts not to check out for yourself.

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Business Marketing

Technology is helping small businesses adapt and stay afloat

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Small businesses need to utilize digital platforms to adapt their businesses during COVID-19, or else they may be left behind.

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While many may not have imagined our present day back in March, and to what extreme we would be doing things “remotely” and via “hands-free contact”, we have to give some credit to small business owners who remain flexible and have pivoted to stay afloat. They deserve major credit on adaptations they have made (and possibly investments) in new technology (ordering online, online payments) especially at a time when their in-person revenues have taken a hit.

There are various marketing buzz words being used lately to say “let’s keep our distance”, including: curbside, to-go, hands-free, no contact, delivery only, order via app, social distancing and #wearamask.

The thing is, if you really think about it, small businesses are always in evolution mode – they have to pay attention to consumer consumption and behaviors that can shift quickly in order to stay relevant and utilize their marketing and advertising budgets wisely. They heavily rely on positive customer reviews and word of mouth recommendations because they may not have the budget for large scale efforts.

For example, we use Lyft or Uber vs calling an individual cab owner; we order on Amazon vs shopping at a local mom-and-pop shop; we download and make playlists of music vs going to a record or music store. Small business owners are constantly fighting to keep up with the big guys and have to take into account how their product/service has relevance, and if it’s easy for people to attain. In current times, they’ve had to place major efforts into contactless experiences that often require utilizing a digital platform.

If stores or restaurants didn’t already have an online ordering platform, they had to implement one. Many may have already had a way to order online but once they were forced to close their dining areas, they had to figure out how to collect payments safely upon pickup; this may have required them to implement a new system. Many restaurants also had to restructure pick up and to-go orders, whether it was adding additional signage or reconfiguring their pick up space to make sure people were able to easily practice social distancing.

According to this article from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “Studies have shown that 73% of small businesses are not aware of digital resources, such as online payment processing tools, online productivity tools, e-commerce websites, online marketing and other tools, that can help them reach customers around the world. If small businesses had better access to global markets, it could increase the GDP of the United States by $81 billion and add 900,000 new jobs. During the pandemic, this could also mean the difference between thriving and closing for good.”

There are some larger corporate technology companies offering ways to support small businesses whether it’s through small business grants from Google, resources and grants from Facebook or Verizon giving them a break on their telecom bill. The challenge with this may be whether or not small business owners are able to find time from their intense focus on surviving to applying for these grants and managing all that admin time. Many business owners may be focusing on what technology they have and can upgrade, or what they need to implement – most likely while seeing a loss in revenue. So, it can be a tough decision to make new technology investments.

It does seem like many have made incredible strides, and quickly (which is impressive), to still offer their products and services to customers – whether it’s a contactless pay method, free delivery, or even reservations to ensure limited capacity and socially distanced visits. There are still some that just haven’t able to do that yet, and may be looking at other ways to take their business to a wider audience online.

We would encourage, if you can, to support small businesses in your community as often as you can. Understandably there are times that it’s easier to order on Amazon, but if there is a way you can pick up something from a local brewery or family-owned business, this may be the lifeline they need to survive and/or to invest in new technology to help them adapt.

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Business Marketing

There’s a shortage of skilled workers, so get learning

(BUSINESS MARKETING) COVID-19 may end up justifying training funds for lower-class workers to learn new skills. Skilled workers are desperately needed right now.

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The COVID-19 pandemic (yes, that one) has ushered in a lot of unexpected changes, one of the which is most surprising: An increased call for skilled workers — a call that, unfortunately, requires a massive retraining of the existing workforce.

According to the New York Times, nearly 50 percent of Americans were working from home by May; this was, reportedly, a 15 percent increase in remote work. The problems with this model are expansive, but one of the greatest issues stems from the lack of training: As employees of lower-class employment transitioned to working online, it became increasingly evident that there was a shortage of skilled workers in this country.

The Times traces this phenomenon back to the Great Recession; Harvard University’s Lawrence Katz points to some parallels and insinuates that this is an opportunity to elevate the lower class rather than regressing, and it seems fair to put the onus of such elevation on lawmakers and senators.

Indeed, Congress has even addressed the issue of skill equality via “bipartisan support” of a $4000 credit for non-skilled workers to use toward skill training. For Congress to come together on something like this is relatively noteworthy, and it’s hard to disagree with the premise that, given the invariable automation wave, many of our “non-skilled” workers will face unemployment without substantial aid.

COVID-19 has accelerated many trends and processes that should have taken years to propagate, and this is clearly one of them.

Supporting laborers in developing skills that help them work within the technology bubble isn’t just a good idea–it’s imperative, both morally and economically speaking. Even middle-class “skilled” workers have had trouble keeping up with the sheer amount of automation and technology-based skillsets required to stay competent; when one considers how lower-class employees will be impacted by this wave, the outcome is too dark to entertain.

It should be noted that non-skilled workers don’t necessarily have to scale up their training in their current fields; the Times references a truck driver who pivoted hard into software development, and while it may be easier for some to focus on their existing areas of expertise, the option to make a career change does exist.

If we take nothing else away from the time we’ve spent in quarantine, we should remember that skilled labor is integral to our success as a society, and we have a moral obligation to help those who missed the opportunity to develop such skills fulfill that need.

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