Printing Companies
  1. About Printing Industry
  2. Printing Services
  3. Print Buyers
  4. Printing Resources
  5. Classified Ads
  6. Printing Glossary
  7. Printing Newsletters
  8. Contact Print Industry
Who We Are

Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

Need a Printing Quote from multiple printers? click here.

Are you a Printing Company interested in joining our service? click here.

The Printing Industry Exchange (PIE) staff are experienced individuals within the printing industry that are dedicated to helping and maintaining a high standard of ethics in this business. We are a privately owned company with principals in the business having a combined total of 103 years experience in the printing industry.

PIE's staff is here to help the print buyer find competitive pricing and the right printer to do their job, and also to help the printing companies increase their revenues by providing numerous leads they can quote on and potentially get new business.

This is a free service to the print buyer. All you do is find the appropriate bid request form, fill it out, and it is emailed out to the printing companies who do that type of printing work. The printers best qualified to do your job, will email you pricing and if you decide to print your job through one of these print vendors, you contact them directly.

We have kept the PIE system simple -- we get a monthly fee from the commercial printers who belong to our service. Once the bid request is submitted, all interactions are between the print buyers and the printers.

We are here to help, you can contact us by email at

Custom Printing: The Primal Power of Scented Direct Mail

Photo purchased from …

We used to call it “scratch-n-sniff” back in the day. It was probably back in the 1970s when I first discovered magazine ads that, when scratched, would release the aroma of perfume.

A number of years later, I read about one of John Waters’ films, Polyester. Moviegoers would receive scratch-n-sniff cards with sample scents to activate at key points in the film, adding to the overall sensory experience of the movie. He called this “Smell-O-Vision” or “Odorama.”

In both cases it is clear that the more physical senses you trigger in any virtual or real event or with any custom printing product, the more vivid the audience’s experience will be.

These days, with VR (virtual reality) headsets available even in the thrift stores my fiancee and I frequent, much of the novelty of John Waters’ Smell-O-Vision has been eclipsed. Once you put on a virtual reality headset (which I did for the first time a few years ago), you see that you can be completely transported from day-to-day reality into an alternate world by evoking internal (physical, mental, and emotional) responses.

And marketers have taken note.

Why Is It Effective?

Our sense of smell is even more powerful than our sense of hearing or sight. It brings back memories and evokes powerful emotions. It touches a very primitive part of our brain that is more involved with feelings and creativity than with logic.

That said, the more senses you can trigger (if you’re a marketer, a musician, or even someone telling a story to a friend), the more intense and realistic the experience will be for the audience. That’s why a Pop Art assemblage (perhaps with actual clocks, bicycle parts, or a mattress attached to the painter’s canvas) evokes a more visceral reaction than a flat painting of the same subject. You don’t expect it. And it engages the senses of both sight and touch (or at least imagined touch).

A savvy marketing executive can parlay this knowledge of brain functioning into an especially effective direct mail campaign or commercial printing piece. If she or he can tell a story about the product or service (let’s say a perfume) with emotionally charged language and images, and trigger the pre-rational part of the prospective buyer’s brain with scented items, the marketing initiative will be dramatically more effective.

Moreover, nothing intrigues a potential client like a “unique” direct mail piece. I receive almost 200 e-mails each day now, so I’m looking for any reason to delete each one quickly. In contrast, I get only a few direct mail pieces, and if one is especially unique, I’ll pay much closer attention to it. Think back, for instance, to the first time you opened a birthday card with a microchip that made it speak or sing to you. At the time, no one else had done anything like it. Because it was unique, it made an immediate impression.

Scented direct mail does the same thing. It not only touches the most primitive part of your brain, but it also makes a direct mail piece stand out and pique the reader’s interest.

How Does It Work?

This question addresses the physics and chemistry of scratch-n-sniff, Smell-O-Vision, and scented direct mail. How do manufacturers make this work?

First of all, the scent is created in the lab. This involves chemistry. If you have ever eaten a bag of jellybeans that mimic the taste of everything from watermelon to chocolate, you appreciate the marvels of science. (Also, keep in mind that the senses of taste and smell are closely related.)

The scented liquid created in the lab is then “microencapsulated.” This means that fragrance liquid is sealed inside tiny polymer cells (very tiny: from perhaps one micron to a hundred microns in size). The polymer cells protect the liquid fragrance until the time of its release. (One company I researched says the shelf life is 3 to 5 months or until activated; others say years or until activated.) And all that is needed to release the fragrance is to scratch the polymer.

How Might You Use This Technology?

If you’re selling perfume, you could always key specific scents to specific locations on your direct mail card. Or you can send follow-up direct mail pieces, each with a different signature scent.

In addition to the power of the scents and the uniqueness of the experience, such scratch-off fragrances act as an “engagement tool.” Your prospective clients interact with the direct mail piece, and this increases the chance of their “conversion” (which means clients will be more likely to contact you for more information or to buy your product or service).

But what if you’re selling gardening equipment? Perhaps you can simulate the smell of a freshly cut lawn.

If you’re selling new cars, you can even simulate the smell of a new automobile. Or you can simulate the smell of tires to encourage recipients to bring their cars in for scheduled maintenance.

You might even want to add a specific smell that shows what will happen if you don’t buy the product.

Whatever you choose, tying the smell (and the graphics the reader will see) to the message of the direct mail piece will increase its impact.

The final and most important step will be to note what you want the prospect to do. This might include visiting your website, using a cell phone to trigger a QR code on the direct mail piece, or returning a business reply mail card for more information or a sample product.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

    1. You can include a scent in flyers, postcards, brochures, letters, or just about any other direct mail commercial printing piece.


    1. Scents can be included in the custom printing inks, paper coatings, or glues used to attach items within the mailing package.


    1. The US Post Office allows use of these custom printing inks and glues as long as the fragrance is not released during the delivery process. (The microencapsulation process mentioned above protects the scented ink, and many printers will also add a top coating to seal the ink.)


  1. Commercial printing suppliers can coat most papers to work with scented ink and glue products, so you have a lot of substrate flexibility in designing your direct mail piece.

The Takeaway

    1. Always think about the emotions you wish to elicit and what specific scents will trigger these emotions. Smells evoke emotions in the limbic region of the brain. They also bring back memories. They are extraordinarily powerful motivators.


    1. Consider your audience and what scents would be most evocative to them (and most pertinent to the message of your direct mail campaign).


    1. Think about the goal of your marketing campaign and what action you want your prospective buyers to take (more than likely this goal would be for them to visit your website).


    1. Then research commercial printing suppliers who do this kind of work. The Printing Industry Exchange (PIE) website would be a great venue to find printers who can help you develop the scents you need.


  1. Then, as you would do in vetting any new printer, request samples of direct mail packages the custom printing vendors have created that incorporate fragrance into the printed products.

Comments are closed.


Recent Posts


Read and subscribe to our newsletter!

Printing Services include all print categories listed below & more!
4-color Catalogs
Affordable Brochures: Pricing
Affordable Flyers
Book Binding Types and Printing Services
Book Print Services
Booklet, Catalog, Window Envelopes
Brochures: Promotional, Marketing
Bumper Stickers
Business Cards
Business Stationery and Envelopes
Catalog Printers
Cheap Brochures
Color, B&W Catalogs
Color Brochure Printers
Color Postcards
Commercial Book Printers
Commercial Catalog Printing
Custom Decals
Custom Labels
Custom Posters Printers
Custom Stickers, Product Labels
Custom T-shirt Prices
Decals, Labels, Stickers: Vinyl, Clear
Digital, On-Demand Books Prices
Digital Poster, Large Format Prints
Discount Brochures, Flyers Vendors
Envelope Printers, Manufacturers
Label, Sticker, Decal Companies
Letterhead, Stationary, Stationery
Magazine Publication Quotes
Monthly Newsletter Pricing
Newsletter, Flyer Printers
Newspaper Printing, Tabloid Printers
Online Book Price Quotes
Paperback Book Printers
Postcard Printers
Post Card Mailing Service
Postcards, Rackcards
Postcard Printers & Mailing Services
Post Card Direct Mail Service
Poster, Large Format Projects
Posters (Maps, Events, Conferences)
Print Custom TShirts
Screen Print Cards, Shirts
Shortrun Book Printers
Tabloid, Newsprint, Newspapers
T-shirts: Custom Printed Shirts
Tshirt Screen Printers
Printing Industry Exchange, LLC, P.O. Box 394, Bluffton, SC 29910
©2019 Printing Industry Exchange, LLC - All rights reserved