Dollars AND Senses

Aug 01, 2006 9:30 PM  By

Sensory merchandising” — appealing to all of a customer’s senses in the marketing process — is especially challenging for catalogers. But improved printing and production technology has made it easier for mailers to truly appeal to the senses by including such extras as scents, samples, and stickers in their books.

Not that catalogers have been in a rush to embrace these extras, however. Jim Treis, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Menomonee Falls, WI-based printer Arandell Corp., estimates that only about 3% of catalogers use scent strips and the like. But this should change as the methods become more sophisticated and the costs come down.

Scent of a mailing

Edison, NJ-based toiletries manufacturer/marketer Caswell-Massey introduced scratch-and-sniff strips into its catalogs in spring 2005 to help roll out a new fragrance, says director of marketing Donna Chamberlain. “The thinking was it was a little more cost-effective than trying to include actual samples inside.” Editions with the scent strips had greater response than those without the strips.

“If it’s a brand-new scent a customer isn’t familiar with, it certainly adds value,” Chamberlain says. “It grabs them right away. It kind of makes a visceral connection.” Caswell-Massey isn’t using scratch-and-sniff strips with its catalogs this year, but Chamberlain says, “It’s something I’d want to pursue next year, especially if we have new fragrances.”

The scent strips increased the cost of producing the catalogs by about 3%, Chamberlain says. It also increased the amount of lead time needed for production.

“What’s time-consuming is working with the people who did the scent,” Chamberlain says. Caswell-Massey used Vandalia, OH-based Lipo Technologies to create the scratch-and-sniff strips. Lipo translates fragrances into either a slurry — a thick ink — or an oil encapsulation for the strips. Chamberlain advises allowing six to eight weeks to have the fragrance samples developed and to have the necessary parties at your party sign off on them. “You have to start early enough to coordinate everything,” Chamberlain cautions.

Richard Senzel, manager of marketing analytics at South Deerfield, MA-based Yankee Candle Co., says the cataloger/retailer of scented candles has seen a 20% lift in direct sales since it began using scent sampling in its catalogs two years ago.

Yankee Candle Co. uses Rub’nSmell, from Valhalla, NY-based Scentisphere, to showcase up to 10 fragrances in its catalogs. Scentisphere president Bob Bernstein says the Rub’nSmell microencapsulated scents can be applied like varnish by just about any commercial printer. The traditional scratch-and-sniff strip, he says, “cannot be applied by a conventional inkwell in an offset press. It has to be applied as a separate pass with a silkscreen machine.” In addition, Bernstein says, the strips can diminish the quality of the graphics on which they’re placed.

Scentisphere CEO/cofounder James Berard says a cataloger would spend about $6,000 for 1 million impressions of Rub’nSmell’s scented varnish. Ali Westcott, marketing/communications director for Concord, NH-based printer Concord Litho, says that’s up to 40% cheaper than other fragrance sampling options. Concord Litho has been applying Rub’nSmell scents for about three years.

See me, feel me

Consumers often cite the inability to touch the merchandise as a key reason for not ordering from a catalog. Including actual samples of fabric in your books can eliminate that objection.

San Diego-based Road Runner Sports, a cataloger of running equipment and apparel, first used material swatch cards from Bridgeport, NJ-based Imtek several years ago to promote a new fabric, says production manager Chris Galvan. “It was the uniqueness of the fabric — it was incredibly soft, and we really wanted to get that message across,” Galvan says. Although he doesn’t have specific figures regarding sales and what sort of lift the swatches provided, offering the samples “got really good feedback,” he recalls. “We know it resonated really well with the customer.”

Galvan says using the swatches didn’t unduly complicate catalog production. “The biggest piece is trying to get fabric from a vendor and determining how much we need and getting that to Imtek in time to produce the piece,” he says. “It didn’t really add any time to the catalog process. It just added another layer. We probably had to start planning about three months ahead of time.”

Pat Will, director of the Catalog Solutions and Tag-ems divisions of Imtek, says that adding swatch cards to a publication is “a three- or four-week process.” Imtek supplies the catalogers with a template, “and they can design and fully customize their piece. We provide them with a proof for approval, and production begins, and we ship to their printer or binder,” Will explains.

Asked if Road Runner Sports would use material swatch cards in its catalogs again, Galvan says, “I don’t see why we couldn’t, because it’s a pretty intriguing way to get your product in front of direct mail customers.”

Galvin says that the samples cost roughly $0.05-$0.06 per book. But Will says it’s difficult to pinpoint costs “because each job is custom-done, depending on the number of labels that they are choosing and the size of the insert that they are going to include and the quantity, paper, etc.”

Try before you buy

Beyond fabric samples, some catalogers, include actual product samples in their mailings. Republic of Tea, for instance, sometimes includes a teabag in its catalog; skincare marketer DHC regularly includes miniature versions of its soaps and moisturizers.

The costs vary greatly, depending of course on what is being sampled. “We provide samples for more than 100 catalogs per year,” says Louis Zafonte, senior vice president of sales and marketing for New York-based Arcade Marketing, a provider of cosmetic and fragrance packets. “The cost depends on which one of our 27 different sampling technologies is selected. It ranges anywhere from less than $0.01 per sample to $0.15 per sample.”

Zafonte says Arcade’s clients generally consider three key metrics in determining the success of a sampling program: length of readership engagement, increase of purchase intent, and conversion to sale. “Typically a person spends three seconds looking at a page in a catalog,” he says. “If that page has a scent strip or a scratch-and-sniff strip, then that length of time goes up 8-10 seconds. That length of engagement is dramatic. It increases the recall of the ad and increases purchase intent. If a person uses a product sample the length of engagement is a full day.”

Tag, you’re it

Though they don’t appeal to the senses in the same way as a scent sampling or a fabric swatch, including small, repositionable adhesive strips or tags that can be used to mark pages can enhance reader engagement with a catalog. Post-its from St. Paul, MN-based 3M and Tag-ems from Imtek are two of the best-known brands of tags.

Imtek’s Will lists Lego, Office Depot, Oriental Trading Co., and Staples as some of the catalogers that have used Tag-ems. While catalogers often eschew revelations about sales increases resulting from the implementation of items such as Tag-ems, Will says the fact that “we have a lot of repeat customers” speaks to the success of the technology.

Will says that repositionable tags can extend the life of a catalog; what’s more, by enabling shoppers to quickly refer to products, they can reduce telephone order time.

“The rationale behind these products is that if you want to stand out in a crowd of mail, you need to have something that will catch the consumer’s eye,” says Will. “These products allow the consumer a fun way to interact with your ad or product.”

A catalog client of Imtek’s who declined to be named says the cost of Tag-ems is “minimal,” perhaps an additional 1%. “The primary value it brings [us] is that you’re dealing with a very large catalog with over 20,000 products, and organization is a critical thing,” the client says. “We serve business-to-business customers, and when we give them a five-pound catalog we want them to have a certain organizational flow of book and help them out to keep track of their favorite items. We put them in all of our big catalogs.”