Create Powerful Direct Mail Marketing

Increasing your ROI is the goal for all direct mail marketing. So, how can you create powerful direct mail to drive that improved ROI? You won’t believe it is this simple, but just add scent

Increasing your ROI is the goal for all direct mail marketing. So, how can you create powerful direct mail to drive that improved ROI? You won’t believe it is this simple, but just add scent.

Your sense of smell is extremely powerful. A scent can elicit vivid memories that take you to your mom’s kitchen growing up, to the beach or just about anywhere you have been before. Our sense of smell is the most powerful sense, even above sight and sound. The location of our sense of smell, in the same part of our brain that effects emotions, memory and creativity, is the reason we react so powerfully to it.

To harness that power with your direct mail and make people respond is a marketers dream. In order to do that effectively, you will need to take the time to figure out how to tie scent to your marketing message. If you create a message and then incorporate a smell that is not compatible, you have doomed the campaign. They must be symbiotic, both with the message and the visual images.

How can you harness that power for your direct mail? Here are a few things to start with:

  • Identify the message: This is not just conveyed with words, but also with images.
  • Identify the emotion: What are you trying to make people feel?
  • Create the call to action: This needs to be very specific and easy to identify.
  • Create the scent: Now decide what scent will enhance all of the above and drive them to respond.

The first thing to do once you have completed the above is to gather a group of people together to bounce these ideas off of. The group should not be employees of the company. They need to be outsiders who are seeing this for the first time and can give you honest feedback. If any one of the four is out of whack, your mailer will not get the desired response.

Examples of scented mailer ideas:

  • Imagine for a moment that you are a company that needs to sell brownie mix. Of course you will put pictures of brownies on the mailer, but the real good smell of the brownies will invoke emotions and drive the action to buy the mix.
  • Imagine you are a garden center and want to sell more flower seed packets. Add a floral scent to really pack a punch.
  • Imagine you sell a cleanser that gets rid of skunk smell. You can use the scent of a skunk to remind people how horrible it is. I would advise you to use only a small amount. No need to stink them out of their home.

The best part about using scent is that you can use either good or bad scents depending on how you want to spin it. Sometimes the better choice is the bad smell. It reminds people of the bad things that can happen when they do not use your product or service. Do not be afraid to reach a little with your scent connection. Just make sure to fact check it with other people. If it is too far out there, you may lose the desired effect.

Talk to your direct marketing company about what they have created or seen done. To really make the campaign perform well, you need to get very creative. By harnessing the power of scent, you can take your direct mail campaign to the next level. Not only will you increase your ROI, but you can drive social engagement when you capture the attention as well as the imagination of recipients.

Author: Summer Gould

A blog about Direct Mail Marketing, tips, tricks and what not to do.Summer Gould is President of Eye/Comm Inc. Summer has spent her 27 year career helping clients achieve better marketing results. She has served as a panel speaker for the Association of Marketing Service Providers conferences. She is active in several industry organizations and she is a board member for Printing Industries Association San Diego, as well as a board member for Mailing Systems Management Association of San Diego. You can find her at Eye/Comm Inc’s website:, email:, on LinkedIn, or on Twitter @sumgould.

3 thoughts on “Create Powerful Direct Mail Marketing”

  1. Emotionally, smell is the most powerful–and most intrusive–sense. Triggering an emotional response to a direct mail piece is all well and good, but direct marketers really risk alienating mail recipients by lacing their mailers with artificial scents. Even if it’s a smell, e.g. brownies, that most people probably like, a smell is not “out of sight, out of mind.” Everyone has to breathe, which means everyone is constantly smelling what’s around them.

    Research out of Israel a few years ago, indicates that each person is to a degree genetically hard-wired to like and dislike certain smells. The odor you select for your mailer could potentially turn off just as many people as it turns on.

    The other factor to consider before adding scent to a mailer is allergy and lung disease. Close to 20 million Americans suffer with asthma and other lung diseases. Artificial scents can trigger asthma attacks and cause breathing problems in people with lung disease. Also, at the top of many allergists lists of things to avoid are fragrances, which today are made mostly with chemical analogues of real scents. Many people are sensitive to particular ingredients in these artificial fragrances, which can trigger sinus problems and atopic dermatitis.

    Because smell is such a strong emotional trigger, rigorous testing makes sense to make sure a scented mailer campaign doesn’t end up being a real stinker.

  2. How cool, Summer. Psychological studies have shown that our sense of smell is one that has the longest memory. Smells can trigger emotions and memories like no other senses can.

    When you smell something good (movie popcorn, fresh baked cookies), it conjures up the finest thoughts and memories.

    Great read!


  3. These direct mail pieces are great examples of where the print marketing industry is headed. Sight, touch, taste, hearing and smell – experiential marketing campaigns are utilizing a range of senses these days to capture consumers’ attention. Yes, print makes emotional connections and memorable impressions in this fast-paced, always-on world – but partner print with the sense of smell and you’ve created one of the strongest and most powerful triggers for emotional memory. In fact, a well-designed, creative, innovative piece can drive a connection between a brand and a consumer, sparking their interest, increasing their loyalty and possibly gaining new ambassadors. So, I highly recommend taking direct mail to another level – take advantage of the power of print and have a little fun with it, too! – Shelley Sweeney, VP/GM Service Bureau/Direct Mail Sectors, Xerox

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