Haptics: The desire to touch

Desire to Touch

A common skeuomorph are wall coverings designed to look like stone, brick, tile, or wood – a structure is artificially given the look of materials that it used to require to make it.

Last week I introduced the topic of haptics – today, I’m going to go a little deeper into sensory marketing by introducing a new concept, skeuomorphism, and how understanding it can help your business.

Skeuomorphism is phenomena of retaining ornamental design cues in derivative objects, because they were necessary in the original. Skeuomorphs exist as traits sough in other objects, either for their social desirability or psychological comforts. Physical skeuomorphism has been alive for millennia, going back to the Minoans, and is in more places than you think. Above are some great examples of physical skeuomorphs.

When computer use, and then mobile computing, became common, skeuomorphs appeared in those: from simulated knobs, buttons, switches, and sliders to images applied to simulate the appearance of a texture. Many audio processing systems heavily use skeuomorphs in their interfaces, even down to handles, screws, and ventilation holes, all of which serve no user interface functions.

Skeuomorphs need not be visual. A common audio skeuomorph is the shutter-click emitted by camera phones – there is no mechanical shutter to click! The swipe gesture to turn pages or screens on mobile devices is another example of a gestural skeuomorph.

What this phenomena proves is that consumers still crave the feel of the physical. Skeuomorphs are used because consumers want something familiar, and designers want a 5 year old or an 80 year old user to use the same item just as easily. With the advent of flat design (as evidenced by Apple’s graphical change in iOS7), does this mean that consumers no longer desire physical touch? No. While design and tech leadership may say that the aesthetics of “flat” design are more pleasing, the reason they’ve been able to make that move is that their older demographics have now been with mobile technology for at least a decade, and newer demographics easily adapt.

How can this knowledge help you?

Direct Mail Marketing

We know that as customer relationships and loyalty are getting harder to come by, marketing budgets are being reduced. New media, including social media, are competing for these smaller budgets – and they certainly have their place in delivering content excellence – but do they always pay off? When used as a tool to maintain communication and start discussions with people, yes, but email marketing in particular has two glaring shortcomings. What happens when you don’t have any accurate (or any) email addresses for your entire list? How do you get around the fact that unsolicited email is often viewed with suspicion, and ignored? And that 0.12% response rate – ouch.

In contrast to email’s 0.12% response rate, direct mail has a response rate of 4.4%, and when the two are combined the results are even better. Why is this?

 “It [print] activates multiple senses. It is 3 dimensional and tactile. It says to the receiver that the sender cares. It makes communication glorious.”

Frank Romano, Professor Emeritus at Rochester Institute of Technology

Tactile input has a positive effect on the evaluation of products, especially for products high in quality – which the packaging for the above products certainly convey. You can use this same concept for your business, and it won’t cost as much as you think it will. Today’s print marketing is short run and variable data capable, including graphics, to allow to even more effectively market, and you can combine processes to make a truly stand-out piece of marketing. Ultimately, customers want more than one dimensional experience with their products – technology needs to be grounded with a physical significance.

We’d like to invite you to the Los Angeles Printers Fair, where you can learn not just about the benefits of print, but how to chose the right print for the job – we’ll have such a guide available at our booth for free.

Written with help from Mohawk – thanks for telling us about haptics – and these other resources:
Skeuomorph
Wikipedia article
Skeuomorphism
by Imtiaz Majeed
What is skeuomorphism?
BBC
Why I’ll miss skeuomorphism in iOS
PCWorld
DMA: Direct mail response rates beat digital 
Directing Marketing News
It’s 2013. Why should I bother with print? OnFulfillment 

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