Step by step, sometimes leap by leap, the digital experience has been significantly enhanced over the past several years by the addition of one new capability after the other that engages more of the human senses.
First audio files, then streaming video—and, now, touch. New haptic technology for mobile video-advertising campaigns promises to amplify how brands can engage consumers and already has led to some good results for pioneering brands that have harnessed haptics—based on the sense of touch—including Lexus and Peugeot.
The key is software that manipulates the actuator motor inside smartphones—the part that vibrates when a phone call comes in—in a variety of ways to mimic various touch or vibration-based sensations, including the roar of a car or plane engine, the grit of a gravel road beneath a car or a beating heart.
“The goal is to create an enhanced experience for the consumer but also for the brand,” Paige Raynes, director of content operations for Immersion, a leading innovator in the technology, told brandchannel. “It brings value to the content that is being consumed on mobile and tablets.”
“It’s all about the power of feeling,” said Mike Owen, executive vice president for North America sales at Opera Mediaworks, a mobile ad and marketing platform. “People have these devices in their hands, and it’s an incredibly powerful opportunity to add a new sense to the creative experience.”
The two companies cite impressive improvements in clickthrough rates, positive sentiment, replay rates and ad-recall metrics for their haptics-enhanced content.
brandchannel talked with Raynes and Owen about the branding potential of haptics:
bc: What is the fundamental promise of haptic technology in marketing?
Owen: As we think about sight, sound and motion, it’s the ability now to tell stories that are using very specific elements in a powerful new way.
bc: So here’s a chicken-or-egg question: Which came first, the technological capability, or the question by marketers about whether there was something tactile that could help them tell their stories?
Raynes: We’ve had this capability for a while. Immersion had haptics [for applications in] console games. This concept of adding touch to [brand] content started about two years ago, and we’ve worked with many advertisers already. As it has become available, advertisers are starting to demand it.
bc: You use the actuator in smartphones for this capability. Is this a blunt instrument or a refined one?
Raynes: It’s very nuanced. We can create a wide variety of textures, from making things feel slippery to mechanical and clicky, and we can create a real emotional bond through adding haptics to a piece of content. For example, adding a heartbeat for a romantic scene. In that content you may not see a heart beating, or hear one, but you can put that [haptic] heart beat in there to create an emotional connection to the scene. Or you can feel the power of an engine or the torque of a wheel and how it grips the gravel of a road as it’s ripping around a track. There’s a wide range.
bc: How does this actually work?
Owen: All of these actuator devices have the ability to provide pulsing vibrations, changing a ringer to a vibration. The difference—and what we find incredibly powerful—is that you can control that vibration and make it come in slowly and go away quickly. So we’re able to customize it and sync it in conjunction with a video.
Imagine, for instance, the engine of a plane getting a lot stronger as it gets closer to you and the vibrations dissipating as the plane flies away. Also, Immersion has been able to eliminate the potential for confusing people with notifications that they’re getting a text or a phone call.
Raynes: And this isn’t added in as an intrusive effect but is put in at key moments in a video. Just as a sound track and visuals are edited together, haptics completes the entire picture at key moments.
bc: So what have you been doing with Lexus, for instance?
Raynes: For a video for the Lexus GS F [an $84,000 performance car], we wanted to highlight the power of the engine and the motion and texture of the road and how a consumer would feel driving that car. What kind of excitement would you get holding the wheel?
Owen: The campaign is out in the marketplace today and doing quiet well. What we see overall is that all creative is not created equal and not all brands are Lexus. Lexus was starting from a great place, of course, and we helped take it a step further. We’re creating a level of intrigue and some type of connection that’s really leading the consumer to say, “Let me see that again.”