Tactility – Why Your Newspaper is the Next New Thing
Tactility, not a very common word, but a critically important one for the best kept secret in marketing for listings (and especially good news for direct mail). The dictionary says it’s “responsiveness to the stimulation of the sense of touch.” Simple but awfully deep – understanding how we respond to messages is philosophically beautiful but also, in our practical world, fundamental to advertising. Take careful notice – as electronic technology grows, we use this marvelous sense less and less. The best kept secret? People love to touch what they’re reading. Incorporating tactile materials, including direct mail, should help prospects warm up to you.
“A Magazine is an iPad That Does Not Work” is a video cited by Scientific American in a study that explores a person’s nearly primordial need to touch and feel what they’re reading. A one-year old girl swirls a batch of icons by swiping her fingers across an iPad’s screen, then crawls to a magazine and tries the same thing on the pictures. When nothing happens, she pokes her fingers on her leg to make sure that her fingers are working!
After the typically heady and exhaustive SA article, writer Feris Jabr concludes that “Babies touch everything. Young children who have never seen a tablet like the iPad or an e-reader like the Kindle will still reach out and run their fingers across the pages of a paper book; they will jab at an illustration they like; heck, they will even taste the corner of a book. Today’s so-called digital natives still interact with a mix of paper magazines and books, as well as tablets, smartphones and e-readers; using one kind of technology does not preclude them from understanding another.”
Scientific American is an extreme example of the analysis of our sense of touch when it comes to reading – we only cite it to show that this is an important area for all types of research. For our purposes, direct mail newspapers work better now than ever because there are so many fewer printed messages than just a decade ago. When your paper shows up in the mailbox, many people actually get excited for the chance to read a warm, noisy medium – at their leisure and convenience, when they’re most receptive to what your offering.
Why did Big Newspapers fail?
Newspapers, in the traditional sense, delivered important news and had little competition in this area. World events, changes in the stock market, and political updates are now more efficiently fed through the dings on our phones, rendering the Wall Street Journal less necessary. When we consider information important, perhaps even urgent, the need to know now trumps the novelty of sitting with a big newspaper and cup of coffee.
So, then, why do direct mail newspapers work so well?
Direct mail publications are not the medium people look to for news, but rather a paper they spontaneously open to be entertained or because an article grabs their attention. After being bombarded with news and information throughout the day, it almost cathartic to receive a non-threating publication on real-live paper with a smiling face on the cover. It stands out from the many envelopes and glossy postcards – and it’s even softer to the touch, and smells better. These days even children are quickly over-stimulated by the glass touch-screen. It’s hard, cold, heavy, with images and pop-ups relentlessly trying to capitalize on a split second of our “eye-share.” It’s a medium that is somewhat out of our control, at least today.
But don’t misunderstand. Digital is terrific and here to stay, but at least for the foreseeable future, tangible mail might actually give us the advantage we are looking for.