Tangible Branding In An Increasingly Digital World

In a world overrun by pixels, pop-ups, and social media pings, you’d be forgiven for thinking that ‘print’ is a relic of yesteryears, gathering dust next to the vinyl records and VHS tapes. But hold onto your business cards because, in this high-speed digital express, there’s a quiet (yet powerful) renaissance of tangible branding chugging along.

The significant increase in attention to print ads, which soared from 23% in 2010 to 49% in 2020, demonstrates a renewed interest and trust for tangibles.

The physical touch of a brand’s identity offers a depth and richness that our digital screens struggle to mimic. We’re talking swanky business cards that echo personality louder than any LinkedIn request or product packaging so sumptuous it might just earn a permanent spot on consumers’ shelves. And who could dismiss the timeless allure of promotional merchandise, the kind that makes clients walking billboards of brands they love?

So, before you swap out all your tangible brand elements for pixels, let’s delve into the magic and magnetism of the tactile branding experience and discover why it’s still an essential ingredient in a brand’s storytelling mix.

Why Tangibility Matters?

You might be wondering why, in an age where swiping, tapping, and scrolling dominate our interactions, we would champion the cause of something as ‘old-school’ as tangible branding. Here are some of the many compelling reasons to consider the enduring value of tangibility:

Multi-Sensory Engagement

Digital can wow our eyes and ears but stops short of engaging the full sensory boardroom. The rustle of pages, the smell of freshly printed brochures, the weight of quality business swag - these engage multiple senses and cement your brand in a consumer’s memory, making interactions with your brand palpable and visceral.

Lasting Impressions

Digital content is ephemeral. One moment, a tweet’s the talk of the town, and by the next day, it’s old news. But tangible materials? They linger. They occupy physical space in our environment and, by extension, mental space in our minds. A striking poster might adorn a wall for years, and a beautifully designed brochure might find its way onto coffee tables, continually catching eyes and sparking conversations.

Beyond Pixels and Algorithms

How many browser tabs do you currently have open? And just how many of them are things you told yourself you’d ‘come back to later’? In this whirlwind of a digital age, we’re all guilty of skimming and squirreling away digital tidbits for a later that rarely comes. But amidst this constant barrage of online stimuli, a well-crafted physical touchpoint serves as a pause button—a tactile reminder that brands aren’t just faceless entities churning content in the digital void.

Trust Factor

Every physical branding element tells a story – the quality of paper used, the texture, the finish. These choices communicate your brand’s values, attention to detail, and commitment to quality. And by showing investment and substance, they present your brand as more than just a virtual facade.

Emotional Connections

When was the last time you felt nostalgic about an old email or a digital ad? Probably never. But physical items? They have stories. Think of concert tickets, postcards, or even old movie tickets. They serve as anchors to memories, experiences, and emotions. Research by Millward Brown for the U.K.’s Royal Mail found that physical materials evoke deeper emotional connections than their digital counterparts. When your brand exists in tangible form, it has a better shot at becoming a part of your customers’ stories and memories.

Merging Digital and Tangible

Now, advocating for tangible branding isn’t about dismissing digital. The digital world offers speed, reach, and analytics. The tangible experience offers depth, sensory engagement, and permanence. The brands of the future will be the ones that deftly tread the line between physical and virtual, creating robust, multifaceted brand experiences that extract the best from both worlds. Here are a few ways to stoke that synergy:

QR Codes on Print Materials

Remember those cryptic-looking, pixelated squares known as QR codes? Yes, they’re still around, and they offer an ingenious way to marry tangible branding with digital experiences. Just create your codes using one of the many trusted QR generators available on the web, slap them onto your product packaging, brochures, or business cards, and voilà! You’ve just turned that piece of paper into a portal to your digital universe.

The catch? Make sure the landing page is worth the scan. Whether it’s an exclusive video, a can’t-miss discount, or a deep dive into your brand’s journey, the destination content has to be captivating and valuable. Coca-Cola, for instance, introduced dynamic QR Codes on its packaging as part of its 2012 promotional campaign, turning its product label into a conduit for unique customer experiences.

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So, each time a customer scanned the QR code on a Coke bottle, they were treated to a unique digital experience. This not only increased engagement but also added a layer of excitement and anticipation around what the next scan might reveal. It’s a brilliant example of how a simple, tangible item (a bottle) became an interactive touchpoint.

Printed Catalogs with Digital Callbacks

Leafing through a well-designed catalog is a pleasure of its own. The texture of the pages, the vivid imagery, and the curated layout offer a tangible connection to the brand. But what if hidden amidst the glossy pages, there were breadcrumbs leading back to the digital realm?

Such tactics serve a dual purpose. First, they prompt readers to dive deeper, driving them online where they can engage further with your brand, perhaps even leading to a purchase. Secondly, they blend the boundaries between tangible and digital, allowing consumers to oscillate between the two realms, maximizing their engagement with your brand.

AR-Enhanced Print Adverts

For those unfamiliar with AR or Augmented Reality, it superimposes digital elements onto our real-world environment. And when such technology is applied to tangible branding materials, it transforms them from passive objects to engaging brand touchpoints.

For example, Malibu leveraged Snapchat’s AR Marker Tech to turn their printed ads on product packaging and billboards into a playable game called ‘Malibu Tropical Parkour.’ By simply scanning the ad with Snapchat, users were plunged into a vibrant, tropical-themed side-scrolling game where they could dodge obstacles, collect power-ups, and share their high scores with friends.

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By embedding AR into their tangible adverts, Malibu accomplished something extraordinary: they extended the life and impact of their printed campaign, adding a sense of excitement and innovation that a traditional billboard or a digital ad alone might struggle to replicate.

Physical Swags for Virtual Events

There’s something deeply impersonal about logging onto a webinar or a digital conference and being just another face in a sea of tiny rectangles on a screen. That’s why brands hosting virtual events are increasingly complementing their digital offerings with tangible merchandise.

By sending participants a curated bag of branded swags– think t-shirts, mugs, notebooks, or even gourmet snacks – you are giving them a tangible piece of the event to hold onto, literally. Moreover, these physical tokens of appreciation serve as brand reminders long after the virtual meeting has ended. Every time you reach for that branded mug or jot down notes in that particular notebook, you’re reminded of the insights you gained, the connections you made, and the brand that made it all possible.

Tips to Integrate Tangibility

So, you’re sold on the idea of tangible branding but unsure where to begin? Here are some pointers for those looking to explore the tactile dimension of branding:

Keep Your Aesthetic Consistent

The interplay between digital and tangible doesn’t mean splintering your brand identity. If anything, it’s more crucial than ever to ensure consistency across both mediums. This means that the tone, style, and visual language you employ in your digital platforms should mirror and enhance the tangible branding elements you deploy. A good way to keep everything in line is by monitoring your website changes. This cohesion ensures that regardless of where consumers interact with your brand – be it a website or a printed brochure – the vibe they’re greeted with should be unmistakably YOU.

Prioritize Quality

In an age of mass-produced digital content, a beautifully crafted business card or a thoughtfully designed piece of packaging can stand out like a diamond in the rough. Investing in high-quality, tangible branding materials communicates that you care about the finer details, value your brand’s presentation, and are willing to invest in ensuring your audience has the best experience. It’s a sign of commitment and dedication that consumers notice and appreciate.

Flex Your Creativity

Tangible branding offers a canvas for creativity that’s as expansive as your imagination. Use it as an opportunity to step outside the constraints of pixels and bandwidth. Explore bespoke packaging, quirky promotional swags, and experiential marketing efforts that immerse consumers in your brand’s universe. These unique, tangible touches can become memorable brand signatures that set you apart from the competition.

Utilize Workflow Management and Streamlining Tools

Now, don’t let the glitter of creativity blind you to the nitty-gritty of execution. The world’s most whimsical branding ideas amount to zilch without meticulous planning and execution. This is where those hefty project and resource management tools come in. These tools aren’t just shiny trinkets but the very gears and pulleys that ensure that creativity flows unimpeded by logistical nightmares. If you’re not really sure which tools to choose, fear not, for the best ad and creative agencies often provide lists of tried-and-tested project and resource management tools. So, hunt down those “Best Agency Tools” or “Agency Management Tools” directories, and take notes. This reconnaissance mission can save you from the trial-and-error purgatory of finding what works best for your tangible branding projects.

Leverage Printing and Production Expertise

Partnering with experts in printing and production can elevate your tangible branding from ‘meh’ to ‘marvelous.’ These pros know the tricks of the trade - from the latest printing techniques to the most effective materials. They can guide you in choosing the right textures, finishes, and forms that speak your brand’s language. By working with these experts, you’re not just filling a printing vacancy; you’re teaming up with artists who breathe life into your brand’s physical presence. The outcome? Each material crafted under their guidance becomes a sensory showcase, a tangible tribute to your brand’s dedication to excellence and innovation.

Be open to Feedback and Iteration

Just as the digital realm thrives on analytics and user feedback, your tangible branding efforts should be receptive to consumer feedback. Did the recipients of your promotional merchandise find it useful? Was the QR code on your product packaging easy to scan? Did the AR game resonate with your target audience? Continuously seeking feedback can fine-tune your efforts, ensuring your tangible branding remains relevant and impactful.

Streamline Vendor Communication

Whipping up cool tangibles isn’t a one-man show. You need to work with several vendors and B2B partners to make your vision come to life. However, managing different communication channels can be time-consuming and challenging to keep track of. Here, customer service and engagement platforms like Zendesk shine by offering a centralized solution for managing interactions. But Zendesk is not alone in this space. There are plenty of Zendesk alternatives to help you in organizing conversations, automating responses, and tracking performance metrics. Using these tools will make managing vendor relationships a smooth part of turning your creative vision into reality.

The Resilient Charm of Tangibility

So, what’s the recipe for branding success? A dash of digital dynamism mixed with a generous helping of tangible touch. Tangible branding isn’t about bucking the digital trend or being retro for the sake of it. It’s about recognizing that, amidst the flitting blinks and beeps of the online world, there’s immense value in creating something real and enduring. Brands that can seamlessly merge the might of the digital with the allure of the analog are the ones that will stand out, create deeper connections, and enjoy lasting brand loyalty. Because in our cluttered digital bazaar, sometimes the most unforgettable touchpoint is just that—a touch.

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