Could Digital Do with a Shot of the Real World?

By Alex Sanders, Head of Design at Kyp Plc for Popsop

I went to a seminar this week that was analysing how digital activities and traditional direct mail relate to each other in the real world. There were two exciting case studies I was intrigued by. One was a piece by GGRP created by Grey Vancouver and the other by Razorfish for Audi. Intelligent creative that demonstrated clearly that there is absolutely no doubt that digital has revolutionised the way we engage with consumers offline. Cool stuff.

So what about direct mail? Is it dead? Has digital killed traditional direct marketing? Generally people don’t believe in direct mail as a strong component in driving digital engagement and it is perceived as becoming irrelevant. I am not one of those people.

I can tell you digital is struggling as well. Why? One doesn’t need to look for long to spot flaws; a study shows that 43% of people receive over 20 marketing emails per week (I don’t know about you, but that seems way too low to me!). The average ad click through rate is a mighty 0.1%. Wow, return on investment anyone? I wonder if digital marketing is having its own evolutionary crisis? Outside of social media digital marketing seems to be struggling. Email and Internet ads are just not cutting through.

That is because people (and I am one of those people) are becoming highly sophisticated in the way they treat information supply. Communication technology and fast paced modern life have fundamentally changed the way people expect to receive and use information. We want to keep it brief (e.g. Facebook updates), we want to be selective (fast forward ads on recorded Sky Plus programmes), we want to take it with us (we heart the iPhone) and we want to interact with it (we heart the iPhone apps even more).

Did someone say ‘let’s get physical’? Seriously, could digital do with a shot of the real world? OK, so here is the thing to remember, we are physical creatures who live in the real world and our inbuilt instinct to learn and discover through touch will never become obsolete. Never. It’s just not going to happen.  Simply because, information isn’t purely visual, let alone one-dimensional.

People (yes, me too) have very limited processing capacity for information in just one sense. Digital environments deliver information in a primarily visual way. While rich media web content is helping deliver a more multisensory browsing experience, the vast majority of websites aren’t appealing to the range of learning modes our brains use or providing a multisensory experience. The ability of physical objects to arouse curiosity and invite exploration, both visually and manually makes them emotionally attractive. In a situation of information overload, our brain will prioritise such emotionally attractive items when choosing what to deal with first. Makes sense, no?

I will conclude with the following and I invite anyone to challenge me: Digital channels cannot create this instant, emotional appeal in the same way that a physical item can – they just can’t open a dialogue in the same way. Relevant, valuable and engaging direct mail can make the customer feel valued in a way that an email shot let’s face it: cannot. Combine this emotional appeal with the ability to respond to the call to action then and there and you are onto a winner.

Campaigns such as the ones below created by Grey and Razorfish that were moving people to digital destinations that start in the physical world have proven highly successful.

What was that? Let’s get phygital? I am game.

Grey Vancouver created this mailing piece for GGRP – a sound engineering studio. The mailer was folded over an enclosed vinyl record, which was then turned with a pencil by the recipient to play a recording.

This piece of direct mail created a viral reaction online:

•Featured on over 500 blogs such as Gizmodo and Wired.
•YouTube views for the promotional video increased by over 20,000 in under a week.
•Traffic to the GGRP site grew from 50 visits/week to more than 70,000

The campaign won a Direct Gold Lion at Cannes. Well deserved. See it here:

Audi took a very brave step when they sent out a calendar that featured no cars to its customers in Germany. That’s right, no cars. Just beautifully shot landscapes.

As with the very best of direct mail, there was more to it than meets the eye. Their agency Razorfish had developed an iPhone application to accompany the calendar, which allows you to activate the calendar through an Augmented Reality feature to bring the images to life. When downloaded and held up to the calendar, the car is revealed to you through the wonders of augmented reality.

See it here:

About the Author

Alexandra Sanders is a brand strategist who is currently heading up the global creative team at Kyp, an international marketing communications agency, with clients such as Sony, BP, American Express, Novartis, O2, BBC, Shell and the list goes on.