Connect with us


Meet the Mailers: Direct Mail & The Power of Scent

In this episode, we discussed the benefits of using scents in your direct mail and print marketing or advertising to connect with customers.

In this episode, I talked with Christopher Matthews, Account Manager for Scentisphere. Based in Carmel, NY, Scentisphere is a full-service scent marketing company that services and supplies printers with superior scent coating products.

We discussed the benefits of using scents in your direct mail and print marketing or advertising to connect with customers.

As Chris explained:

The idea is to upgrade the mood of the mail recipient, and we know that somebody who’s in a happy place is more likely to convert to your ask, whether it be to respond to this campaign or scan the QR code or whatever it may be.

Christopher MatthewsAccount Manager

Among the topics we covered:

  • His print & direct mail marketing background
  • The company’s services & how they work with clients
  • How embellishments can be combined in mail campaigns
  • USPS postage savings for using scents
  • Trends in direct mail

Here are some questions and answers from our conversation (edited for clarity and space):

  • [A]bout the unique solutions that Scentisphere offers: Can you talk about the varnishes and the coating technologies, like which ones are used for mail applications?

Yeah. So, we start with our Scent-a-Peel label; it’s a label product that is used with mass and fine fragrance clients and a lot in the candle industry. So it’s a clear two-part label that has a hinge, and you can peel it up and there’s a scented gelatin underneath that top ply.

It’s a great, really elevated way of delivering fragrance, like I said, a lot of our fine and mass fragrance clients use it.

And so that is eligible to be affixed either within a mail piece or on the outside. And then, really, what’s most popular with most of our clients’ direct mail is our Rub ’n Smell product. And that comes either as a coating or a varnish. [W]e basically work with a brand and with the printer and say, “OK, what’s the press set up here? Do you have an open ink station for varnish, or do you have an open color station for coating?” and then we come up with the best way within that format to deliver scent.

  • [T]alking about the process when you sit down with a client or even a prospect …Where do you first come up with these ideas?

Yeah, a lot of it is we want to understand what the campaign is. We like to see samples of the campaign and understand what the imagery looks like. And then, we want to understand the process of printing. Is it sheet-fed UV, or is it a heat-set web? And once we have those answers, we can then come up with what the best match to our products is so that, ideally, this piece can stay in its current production format and just having an extra ink station or a coating station used. That’s where the real bang for the buck is: when you stay in your current format and just make that addition.

  • Talking about the marketing advantages at work in using scents. There are certainly a lot of studies that have been done about the power of scents and being able to associate that with the brand and activating areas of the brain that aren’t normally activated with a digital channel.

Yeah, very true. We have some great research from a bunch of different sources. And one of the most powerful points that we talk about is that the sense of smell affects 75% of the emotions that we feel on a daily basis. So it’s just got a real connection to emotion. The idea is to connect your brand with your target consumer, and in an emotional way. Obviously, you’ve got to have products that are relevant to them as well, or a service that it’s offering. But, we always say that the idea is to upgrade the mood of the mail recipient, and we know that somebody who’s in a happy place is more likely to convert to your ask, whether it be to respond to this campaign or scan the QR code or whatever it may be. So, an upgraded mood is really a great way to have a happy client.

  • Do you invent any scents or fragrances, or do you just basically work with existing ones that brands already have?

That’s a great question. So, Scentisphere is not in the business of creating fragrances. We always say: we don’t create; we integrate. Every product that we use in our homes that has a fragrance has an oil in it that gives it that smell. So when we work with a brand like Febreze, we source the fragrance oil that is contained in Febreze from their fragrance house. [W]e have agreements with our clients like that where we’re able to source those oils. Those oils come in, and then we integrate those oils into our Rub ’n Smell coating or varnish or a Scent-a-Peel label.

So that’s how it works with brands that have fragrant products. [W]hen we’re looking at a project for a bank or retailer or something, many times we are kind of grabbing on to the seasonality. We’re coming into the holidays, but we’re coming out of the holiday production time for us where we did a lot of gingerbread and peppermint and things like that, and it’s great that really it doesn’t matter what vertical brands are in. We say that brands can always kind of bolt on to the season. The holidays are relevant to pretty much every offering, so we’ve got sources for all sorts of fragrance oils like that that we can then turn into our products.

  • So these scents can be included on or like any direct mail format like self-mailers and envelopes, things like that?

Sure. So our Rub ’n Smell product has always been allowed on the inside of mail. So we’ve been featuring inside catalogs forever.

Our Scent-a-Peel has been allowed inside of mail and, for the last couple of years, was allowed on the outside of mail. Just last year, last October of 2022, we got approval for Rub ’n Smell to be featured on the outside of mail, and that was a process that we went through with the USPS where they took a bunch of samples, and they tested them through their processing equipment. You know, the concerns were: is this going to make the postal sorting facility smell? Will the scent rub off through all of the belts and gears that it goes through? And so we were confident going into that. And you know, the USPS gave us full approval to feature our Rub ’n Smell on the outside of mail.

With that said, there are a couple of considerations as far as placement. [A] best practice, we think, is featuring on the non-address side of the mail because on the address side, the USPS has set some guidelines to keep the scented area away from the bar code respray area.

So it’s basically got to be featured in the upper half, which, on a 6×9, there’s plenty of room. Sometimes, that can be a little tight on a #10. So, for full availability of the area, the opposite side of the address side is a great way to feature on mail.

  • [S]omething else here reminded me of, too, when I had seen you at Printing United, is talking about the general subject of embellishments and using scent in conjunction with other printing techniques like texture, for example. What kind of process is involved in working with that?

So, the texture is a little bit difficult as far as being able to integrate scent into that, but we work with our clients a lot on combining features. At the panel you saw me on in Atlanta, we were with some printer who does lots of really cool foil things, and they have integrated our products quite a bit.

We were also there with one of our QR code partners. We are big believers that scent is a powerful tactic in mail, but when combined, the power of multiple embellishments and kind of engaging different senses and different processes is the best way to really get the customer to – or the mail recipient to – respond in a big way.

I mean, we are in the scent business, but you know I’m a direct mail lifer. And I’m into embellishments as a whole. Scent is very important to me. But you know, the more creative mailers are getting, the more fun it is and the more consumers are responding.

  • We’ve talked a lot about direct mail and how scent can be incorporated into those campaigns. But with modern-day branding, you also want to have other print channels available to you. [W]hat other ones do you work with?
[W]e really try to help our clients use scent in all of their different channels that they are communicating with consumers. So you’ll see our clients using scent on their packaging. For instance, if you’re buying anything in the air care aisle at any of the major retailers, it is very likely that you are buying something that has a scratch-and-sniff sticker that came from Scentisphere. We are also helping our clients integrate directly into their paperboard packaging. We are using Rub ’n Smell on their packaging.

We’ve got a great line of scented signage that is used on shelves and on displays so that, for example, a deodorant brand can use one of our present smell signs to kind of translate the fragrance of their products. So lots of different ways. FSIs are a big way that our clients are using scent. And direct mail is really – just in the last three years – has become a big channel in our business. It’s certainly exciting, but it’s really one of the newest ones.

  • So, getting back to direct mail. What incentives does USPS have for this kind of technology in mail?

So, in 2024, just like the USPS did in 2023, they will be offering the Tactile, Sensory, and Interactive Promotion, which will run from February 1st through July 31st. And those are mail dates, and sensory products are fully eligible under that promotion.

[B]asically the idea is that the USPS is encouraging mailers to get creative and use embellishments like scent or other tactics. We love being part of that. It’s a great way for our clients to test during that promotion. It can take a chunk out of the testing price, so it’s really a great time to try something different, and we’re excited about its return in 2024.

  • [I]t really helps take the sting out of having postage increases twice a year as well when you incorporate that.

Yeah. So, just some quick math: at scale at over 200,000 pieces, the postal savings will outrun the cost of our scented coating or varnish. [I]t ends up being a net savings. So that’s really the breaking point. [W]ith that promotion used to be set at 2%, and then it was at 4%. At 5% now, it’s really got a very manageable breaking point where it turns into a net savings.

  • So, given your background in direct mail and everything you do now with Scentisphere, what trends do you see for direct mail marketing in the next couple of years?

Well, I think we’re going to continue to see a combination of embellishments like we talked about, bringing together a QR code with scent or foil and scent. I think that the USPS is going to continue to drive those innovations with these discounts. I’m hoping we’re going to see a return to the days of more testing. I think what I see and what I hear from clients is that there’s lots of copy testing going on. But I think there is less feature testing going on, so I really hope we’re going to see a return to testing features like used to happen in past years …so only time will tell, but the mail industry is healthy. It’s a great channel for brands to be able to use. That’s proven more and more and more as the digital side becomes more and more expensive. So it’s relevant to all brands, and it’s become a big piece of Scentisphere’s business now. So it’s a lot of fun.

Here is our conversation (with all questions and answers). We’ve added timecodes for your convenience.

Thank you very much, Chris, for sharing your perspective and your expertise! To learn more about Scentisphere, visit their website at

Your comments and ideas are very important to us in making your Who’s Mailing What! experience even better for you. Through these engaging talks, we hope you’ll take away practical tips, insights, and personal stories to inspire and build your own success.

If you have any feedback — or are interested in sharing your expertise and viewpoint with our wide and diverse audience on “Meet the Mailers” — please reach out to me. I’d love to hear from you!

Direct Mail Evangelist

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


To Top