LONDON: With the scent of serious digital competition in the air, the UK's biggest postal service is promoting sensory appeal as an incentive to stem recent migration from the mail platform.

State-owned former postal monopoly Royal Mail, currently in the contentious process of modernising its neolithic staff structure, is urging commercial customers to enclose a sound, smell or taste in their mailed promotional material.

In partnership with UK agency Brand Sense, the RM suggests mailers could, for example, add fragrance to a direct mail shampoo promotion via microencapsulation, which allows smells to be released when an envelope is opened.

An automaker could likewise demonstrate the sound of an engine through tiny chips that reproduce a simple series of tones.

Hypes agency ceo Simon Harrop: "This takes direct mail from a two-dimensional medium and turns it into a three, four or five-dimensional medium."

While an equally enthusiastic Antony Miller, head of media development at RM proclaims: "This is about reinventing mail. The mail of yesterday is not necessarily the mail of tomorrow."

RM and Brand Sense would reap a cash benefit from increasing the cost of postage if a 'sense' were enclosed - an extra 10% says Harrop. He adds: "Human relationships are built across all the senses. So is loyalty to brands."

Direct mail, in its present form, is facing an increasingly tough future with the inexorable advance of email, SMS messaging and other mobile communications.

Moreover, consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of physical 'junk' mail.

The UK Direct Marketing Association estimates the volume of direct mail has dropped 12% over the past three years.

Data sourced from International Herald-Tribune; additional content by WARC staff