Haptics and Your Marketing Plan

A few weeks ago I ditched my iPhone for a Galaxy S5. My reason for changing had nothing to do with any preferences about operating systems. (I have no interest in taking sides in the great iOS versus Android war.) Rather, I made the switch for financially pragmatic reasons: my four-year-old iPhone 4 no longer held a charge for more than a few hours and needed to be replaced, and my service provider gave me the Galaxy S5 for “free.”

I approached my new phone thinking it wouldn’t be tremendously different from my old one. And in most ways it’s not. But I quickly realized that the Galaxy S5 has one feature that makes it really stand out in the crowded field of mobile devices: haptic feedback. Instead of a beep or tone to let the user know that an input has been successfully received, the Galaxy S5 vibrates.

As a longtime Blackberry user, I missed its “clicky” keys when I moved to the iPhone several years ago. Although I quickly got used to the iPhone’s beeps, just a short time with the Galaxy S5 was enough to remind me how much I had missed getting touch-based feedback from my phone. Haptic feedback made me feel much more connected to my keyboard—and therefore more connected to the communication and interactions it facilitated.

The haptics of digital devices (e.g., phones that vibrate, game controllers that “resist” being pushed in certain directions) are grabbing lots of headlines today. These days there’s big interest in incorporating haptics into many products—and communication media as well.

Print is one area that’s ripe for haptics, and I’ve written before about how marketers are increasingly seeing the value of adding it to their toolkit. Haptics makes print particularly effective at standing out from its digital competitors.

Here’s one example from my own life that I’m sure many people can relate to. Not long after Newsweek resumed its print format, I paid for a subscription. It’s now one of the many sources I turn to for news—and it’s actually become the most memorable news source to me.

When I want to tell someone about something I read online, I typically start the conversation with “I heard about this story online somewhere.” Once in a while I might remember the specific website, but most of the time I speak in generalities because I honestly can’t recall exactly where I saw something. Because there are so many digital information sources in my life—and because I don’t interact haptically with them—they don’t always make distinct impressions on me.

But when I’m telling someone about something I read in Newsweek, I say, “I read this in Newsweek the other day.” Every single time. As the lone print source in my regular information feed, that magazine definitely stands out from websites, Twitter streams, and blog posts. And as a haptics-filled information source, it makes a strong impression on me. I remember how the magazine feels when I page through it, how it makes me feel when I read it, and the messages it conveys.

If you look around, I’m sure you’ll see plenty of print haptics in your life. E-books have their fans, but there’s a reason that brick-and-mortar bookstores are still around (and thriving, even!). And even though vCards make it easy to add someone’s contact info to an electronic address book, business cards are still alive and well. Think about the past few meetings and conferences you attended. Odds are you received (and handed out) a fair number of business cards at them!

If your organization isn’t thinking about how to employ haptics in its marketing efforts, you may be missing out on opportunities to reach out to you audience. Let’s talk about how haptics-rich print materials can help your message resonate with your targets. Drop me a line—I look forward to getting some haptic feedback from my Galaxy S5 when your message hits my inbox!