What a Difference a Sense Makes

I was born and raised in a family printing business. The experience gave me a vast love of the industry and I credit it for my work ethic and many of my views on honor and integrity. I am also very much interested and active in Social Media and Virtual Worlds. That all said, I would like to start off my blog series with Printing Impressions looking at an area where print has an advantage over the Internet.

Please note I am not addressing other elements of print where it is integrated with Social Media and Internet marketing. There are many valid reasons why it makes sense to work in both mediums. In this particular blog post I am beginning to look at the differences of the two based on the five human senses.

Let’s face some facts. In regards to the dissemination of immediate information, digging into topics and engaging and continuing discussions the Internet is the better venue. Business and people in general will always go the direction that is faster, cheaper and improved. The Internet is the better choice here. If you have never searched out a topic on Wikipedia and clicked on the various hyperlinks found within any topic, I suggest you do so to understand how it all works.

When looking at the five human senses, one must respect that the Internet has just two of them covered, sight and sound. Printing, takes the lead with the ability to interact with all five senses. This is a major advantage in a myriad of areas, some of which we will touch upon here, but the majority can be left to our creative resources.

Let’s start with the sense of smell. I commute to work via public transportation a vast majority of the time. There is a popcorn vendor at the North Station (Boston) MBTA. The smell of that popcorn is one of most amazing smells I encounter on a daily basis. Each and every time I smell it, I am hard pressed to avoid immediately buying that popcorn. If I were in the popcorn business and was looking at advertising, I would rely heavily on that smell. Smell entices humans and causes a physical reaction within them. This is a quick link to some information that will help you start your learning journey on this subject.

Brian Regan, President of Semper International, was born with ink in his veins, running everything in his family’s small printing company from prepress to finishing. Brian helped finance his degree from the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles and his struggling music career by running a printing press, ultimately becoming a pressroom supervisor.  In 1996, he joined PressTemps (Then PrintStaff now Semper International, the leading placement firm for temporary, temp-to-hire and direct hire help in the graphic arts and printing industry), overseeing West Coast operations. Brian moved to Boston as Chief Operating Officer managing the recruitment process, overseeing hiring and training, skills testing, and conducting statistical analyses to measure success. He also helps manage the company’s sister company, Printworkers.com, the industry’s leading job board. Brian has been a speaker and contributor on the subject of staffing challenges facing the graphic arts industry. Parlaying his interest and intuitive learning skills developed from video games, he is also a member of the Video Game Association, actively consulting firms in the business merits of using the Virtual Worlds for business and training as well as other Social Media tools such as Twitter and FaceBook.
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  • http://MaryBethSmith Mary Beth Smith

    Brian, what a great topic! <br />
    <br />
    I appreciate your acknowledgement that there ARE certain times when electronic communications are superior to "ink on paper". <br />
    <br />
    Having said that, though, there is no question that printed materials have a sensual quality that fosters creativity and stirs emotions in ways that communicate so much more than just the words that are published on the substrate.<br />
    <br />
    Looking forward to your next installment!<br />
    <br />
    :) mb<br />
    ………………………………<br />
    Mary Beth Smith<br />
    Dallas, TX

  • http://BrianRegan Brian Regan

    Thank you MB. And yes, I feel it is important that we understand where strengths lie and use the appropriate medium for that strength. It’s understanding the strengths and capitalizing on them that is the key piece.<br />
    <br />
    So what’s your favorite scents?

  • http://MichelleLeissner Michelle Leissner

    Brian, I applaud your column. As printers are looking for ways to add value and differentiate themselves, scent provides a means to do just that. The ROI is well documented by companies such as Yankee Candle and Mitsubishi, who have experienced double digit sales increases when using scented materials. When the consumer has an olfactory experience with the piece, they are far more likely to notice and remember the message. Today’s technology allows us to add scent to any substrate making the possibilities endless.<br />
    <br />
    Thank you for highlighting this opportunity.<br />
    <br />
    —————————<br />
    Michelle Leissner<br />
    Lincolnwood, IL

  • http://John John

    Hey Brian,

    Great column. Got me thinking about the holidays coming up and how cool a flavored vodka print ad or a cigar smoke print ad would be. Not sure how many pipe smokers are left but smelling a pipe in a print ad would be interesting. Nothing reminds me more of my dad around the holidays than the smell of his pipe.

    The Internet will never be able to replicate that.

  • http://BrianRegan Brian Regan

    Michelle,<br />
    <br />
    The Yankee Candle comment is a great add, I was thinking of adding it to the piece, but cut it out of the final piece, so I am glad you brought it up. <br />
    <br />
    John,<br />
    <br />
    I like that, personalized scents. So along with tracking other types of data in a person for specialty marketing you add in scents that remind them of happy moments in their past… I like it.<br />
    <br />
    I have been challenging people I know to come up with a smell that would stimulate people to respond to an Insurance marketing piece. This to me would be a very interesting revelation.<br />
    <br />
    Another idea to pitch to a potential client – Business and/or home cleaning companies. A scent that entices you to want your home clean, I added some text on a few scents that might work and with a brief description.<br />
    <br />
    "Citris, Minty, and Pine Scents – Uplifting, Clean<br />
    <br />
    If you want to create a cheerful, clean environment in your home, choose candles scented with citrus, mint, or pine. Often these scents can be not only uplifting and motivating, but just give that "clean" feel. When you or your guests walk in, these scents will be a fresh breeze to welcome anyone."

  • http://MichaelJosefowicz Michael Josefowicz

    A really interesting take. Thanks.

    As you know i’ve been a print evangelist for longer than I care to think about and have never really thought about leveraging the ability of print to communicate smell.

    I did want to add one thing about visual input. The human brain can process visual information much faster than either words or sounds. The huge canvas of print compared to the tiny screens of computers and smart phones really does make a difference.

    Turns out that size does matter.

  • http://FredS.Gomberg Fred S. Gomberg

    Brian, as you stated, placing a scent/fragrance on paper has been around for a very long time and it is now becoming more popular to use scent for marketing products beyond just fragrances. It has taken some time for that to happen, however it is here.

    The next of the 5 human senses that is just in the early stages of being used with print is “taste”. I do not mean one tastes the printed page however it is close to that. The application was first used big time by Welch’s Grape Juice with an insert in The Feb 18th issue of People Magazine. Over 5,000,000 magazines carried a supplied insert with a Welch’s Grape Juice “Flavor-Strip” affixed. One just had to remove the sealed “Flavor Strip” off the page, peel it open, place the flavored film strip on their tongue and let it dissolve. You were then “tasting” Welch’s Grape Juice.

    The insert could of carried the scent of grape as well. Talk about hitting the human senses. Sight, smell, feel, taste and with a sound chip attached why not add the sound of the bottle opening or a consumer commenting on the great “taste”. The opportunities can go on forever, you just need a creative thinker and a progressive supplier.

    By the way I understand the ROI for the Welch’s ‘Flavor Strip” was pretty good.
    Let the “senses” take hold on your next marketing effort.
    Fred S. Gomberg

  • http://BrianRegan Brian Regan


    Thanks for sharing the taste concept. It is definitely another advantage print has over the Internet and one that should be considered.

    Do you know if Welch’s documented the ROI anywhere? Would love to refer to it.