Tactile Marketing and Tech: What Everybody Ought to Know

Touch is often considered intimate. Cultures are defined by their openness to it.

Tactile marketing is everywhere, whether you realize it or not.

Today we carry around devices that we allow to touch us all the time with buzzes, snaps, and pulses.

tactile marketing is reaching our primitive brainIf your Fitbit’s vibrations reminded you to move today or your smart phone buzzed when you were near Starbucks to remind you to think about stopping in for a mocha frap, you will appreciate the role touch has thrust its way into your life.

Touch is our earliest sense to develop. Savvy marketers are on to this game and using the sense of touch, either by itself or with the other senses, yielding powerful results.

Consider the example of Olay Regenerist’s thermal facial products.

Their “thermal” products are designed to generate heat when applied to the skin to signal to the user that the product is working, even though heat isn’t necessary to their functioning.

That’s right. The “thermal” part of the thermal facial products isn’t even necessary.

But the warmth indicates to their consumer that something is changing, taking effect. It satisfies the need for a sign that the product is active.Oil of Olay Website - does it make you feel warm?

Marketing to people who are suffering from sensory overload?

According to an article posted in the Journal of Product & Brand Management, “Sound is a sense that is often underestimated in marketing, however, along with sight it accounts for 99% of all brand communication.”

Marketing to an audience that is oversaturated in communications through other senses, provides brands a chance for differentiation and exploration as more technologies evolve using touch to interact with every smart device user.

Joshua M. Ackerman of the MIT calls touch the forgotten sense and says: “[…] research has shown that haptic feel does, indeed, affect what we like and what we buy. Tactile warmth, for instance, signalizes sympathy/liking and the heavier an object is the more it seems serious and competent, which explains the current trend of very thick business cards.”

But no one wants to be inundated with too many prods, pokes, buzzes, and pulsations. Using the sense of touch is tricky and requires discernment.

Going the distance

The challenge of tactile marketing has always been distance between the marketer and the audience. But today we have smart devices carried around on our audience’s bodies at all times.

In addition to that, we are moving toward wider adoption of virtual reality and augmented reality. This offers many more opportunities to use touch by way of haptics.

Tactile Marketing, Haptics, and the Augmented Reality We’ve Been Expecting

So how do we do it? How do we begin to reach people through their sense of touch?

Tune in to my next installation investigating the future of tactile marketing and how we can begin to apply it to marketing strategies today.

Maybe to really have the impact you want, you just need to reach out and touch someone.

[Authors Note: This is my first post discussing the sense of touch in the Five Senses of Marketing series which delves into sensory branding and technology. My next set of posts will continue to explore the sense of touch (somatosensation) in marketing and how it is impacting us today and could impact us tomorrow. This is Day 8 of my 100 Day Blog Post Challenge (you can read my first post in this challenge, too). If you liked it, please share this post with others and subscribe to the newsletter for more great tips and news. You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Thanks!]