Digital isn’t just the future of marketing – it’s the present. Online, mobile, and social techniques dominate the modern marketing landscape, and for some it’s the end-all-be-all. However, marketers may be overlooking a simple and effective way to connect with consumers with physical objects. “The growing fixation on the physical raises the bar for creating special experiences that reward users and perpetuate positive feelings about a brand,” noted Stanford grad student and frequent Visually contributor Allison McCartney. Here are five best practices for how brands are using the physical objects to win big

1. Stick it

Stickers are cheap, plentiful, and easy to produce. Apple has been in the sticker game as far back as the 1970s, when they used the rainbow apple logo. These retro stickers have a fierce following and Apple has continued to include stickers with all of its new products. While Apple already has one of the most recognizable logos in the world, stickers give fans (such as myself) the chance to be creative and show their loyalty. BigAppleStickers

2. Wear it

T-shirts are a good start, as are pins, hats, and other accessories. But simply plastering a logo on an item of clothing can only go so far. Burger King and Steak and Shake both take it a step further by giving guests hats that tie directly into their restaurant’s brand personality. The BK crown and Steak and Shake fry cook hat are clever tie-ins that kids love.

Image by Kristi Nix, Your Houston News
Image by Kristi Nix, Your Houston News

3. Feel It

When the Charlotte Hornets ditched the Bobcats name and rebranded earlier this year, they underwent a full transformation that even included a new home court featuring a honeycomb pattern, which was universally acclaimed. Team executives smartly utilized this honeycomb design for its premium tickets and raised the honeycomb to create a tactile reminder of the team’s new identity. Additionally, the jersey-stitched top half of the ticket helps link the ticket to the game ahead.

Image by Adam Stern, Sports Business Daily
Image by Adam Stern, Sports Business Daily

4. Read it

Chipotle is well known for its innovative marketing efforts. When the writer Jonathan Safran Foer pitched CEO Steve Ells on his idea to include original short stories on their cups, the burrito makers were all aboard. By utilizing previously blank space with entertaining and engaging content, Chipotle was able to provide a unique experience to its customers, stand out from its competitors, and generate positive press. Chipotle Cups

5. Play with it

No executive office is complete without a bobblehead or two (or three) on the desk. While not many take it as far as ESPN’s Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg, these trinkets help keep the mood light, can provide a light break from email, and show a little personality. In addition to bobbleheads, objects such as stress balls and hand grip exercisers can provide a moment of relief in the middle of a client’s workday and help promote your brand at the same time. Mike and Mike Jon Salm is a client analyst at Millward Brown Digital in New York City and a freelance data journalist in the Visually marketplace. He has a bachelor’s degree in English from Washington and Lee University. You can follow him on twitter @Jon_Salm.