In the world of Americhip Inc., magazine pages sing, gift cards light up and junk-mail letters play songs.
The Torrance-based company produces "multisensory ads" that go beyond the scratch-and-sniff or paper pop-ups of days gone by. The goal, according to Chief Executive Tim Clegg, is to engage the sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste of the consumer to form a bond with a product.
In one recent example, bubble wrap was pasted to a magazine page ad for Aquafina to simulate sparkling water. Marketing studies found that half the magazine's readers were attracted by the tactile experience; some even reported "interacting" with the ad popping the bubbles.
A more ambitious project engaged three senses for Jazz, a new flavor of Diet Pepsi. When the reader turned the page, a pop-up formed the shape of the bottle. Simultaneously, a tiny chip embedded in the paper emitted the sound of jazz music. Finally, the ad was perfumed like black cherry and French vanilla, the two flavors added to Diet Pepsi to create the Jazz beverage.
"Marketers realize the importance of cutting through the clutter," said Clegg. "Visual alone isn't enough readers and customers are immune to it."
Americhip's 70 employees produce direct-mail pieces, magazine ads, packaging and point-of-sale displays. The company also makes so-called "wow cards" for Target, which are gift cards with light-emitting diodes.
Larry Chiagouris, marketing professor at Pace University in New York, said most advertisers are content to appeal to viewers' eyes only not their noses or fingertips simply because images quickly and effectively show most products.
"It's very difficult to describe a beautiful car, dessert or clothing item based on smell or taste or sound," Chiagouris said. "The best connection is one based on multiple sensory modalities to assure that all consumers, regardless of gender and age and individual characteristics, are reached with a brand experience."
Recently Clegg developed a chip that allows a letter to communicate with a customer's cell phone. Soon he hopes to perfect a thin motor that makes paper cutouts move around the page.
The cost for some of these campaigns can be daunting, especially for smaller businesses. Clegg said Americhip's ads can cost five to 10 times as much as a standard four-color ad.
But it can pay off.
Jeff Larche, vice president at Ec-connection, a marketing firm in Milwaukee, first tapped Americhip to create a mailer for a snow-blower manufacturer that wanted more stores to carry its products. When store managers opened the mailer, it played the roar of an avalanche.
"The mailing signed a ton of new dealers and helped cement our relationship with the client," Larche said. "Involving as many senses as possible in a promotion is a key to breaking through the clutter."
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