Historically, there has been a significant focus on the visual impact of a brand. However, customers do not only use sight to understand their world; they use the full five senses. The idea that marketing companies can utilise several different sensory experiences to appeal to customers opens up a whole new world of opportunities for branding and marketing.

Psychologists, alongside industry pioneers, have explored how taste, touch, sight, sound and smell

can influence people. From shaping the shopping experience to drawing consumer attention to a particular product, sensory marketing helps your brand stand out without bombarding your target audience.

Table of contents

What is Sensory Marketing?

A core principle of sensory research is a concept called embodied cognition, which says that sensations, like touch and smell, impact the decisions human beings make. There are cues that we are not conscious of, but they can determine our behaviour. When this knowledge is applied to promoting a product or service, the result is sensory marketing.

Consumers form opinions and make decisions based on sensory experience. Understanding how this works can help companies better direct their marketing messages and make more meaningful connections with their customers. In an article in the 2014 edition of the Journal of Consumer Psychology, Prof. Aradhna Krishna examined the role of ‘bodily feelings’ and information processing. Since then, marketers have come to realise the power of appealing to the five senses.

Why is Sensory Marketing Important?

Before you add new concepts to your marketing strategy, it is crucial to know how it can enhance your brand. Sensory branding can give your customers a better idea of who you are. Appealing to the senses is also an excellent way to create the right mood for driving sales.

A vital part of marketing campaigns is customer experience. Focusing on the products will only get you so far, which is where sensory experiences come into the picture. Appealing to more than one sense, when most brands go for sight, gives you an edge. It is also a more detailed way to establish your brand identity.

If a visual aid can say two or three things about your company, think how much you can communicate using several senses, like sound, smell, touch and taste. Taste and touch might not be appropriate for some brands, just as the sense of smell might play a minor role for others. However, with marketing research and product knowledge, you can hit the right note.

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How To Use Sensory Marketing

As with any marketing tool, you will need to adapt it to fit your product and your channels. The aim is not to use all five senses every time. That could lead to sensory overload and wouldn’t necessarily work on social media or other platforms. Instead, this article will help you find ways to include sensory marketing in your existing process.

These case studies of how sensory marketing can be used effectively will give you an idea of what you can achieve for your brand. A prime example is Dunkin’ Donuts in South Korea. It went beyond traditional sound marketing by appealing to consumers’ sense of smell. Each time its jingle played on a bus, the aroma of coffee filled the air. This led to a 16% increase in visits and a 29% rise in sales in stores near bus stops.

Not every brand has such a clear cut path as Dunkin’ Donuts when it comes to a particular smell to appeal to customers. None of that stopped Abercrombie & Fitch, who runs successful sensory marketing campaigns in its retail stores. The company uses its signature scent, Fierce, and mood lighting in its stores to create a shopping experience that is appealing and recognisable.

Sensory marketing might seem like the obvious choice for companies that sell food or apparel, but it can work for all kinds of products and services. Singapore Airlines has helped to continue its high-end brand reputation by communicating luxury through sense of smell and sight. The flight attendants wear a light floral scent that can only be found on Singapore Airlines planes. They also wear a unique uniform, where colour and patterns designate their roles.

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Types of Sensory Branding

As the case studies have shown, companies need to consider their audience as well as the senses they want to target. Another way to understand how to use sensory marketing for your product is to look at an example of the different types. That way, you can confidently add it to your marketing strategy once you know how to use it best.

Sensory Marketing Through Sight

Perhaps the most commonly used sense in marketing practices, sight is one of the most versatile sensations to use. Many advertising channels, like social media, rely heavily on visuals like images and text. Though these effective tools might already feature in your marketing strategy, understanding the psychology behind customers’ reactions can help you strengthen this area.

Colour is a fantastic way to integrate sensory marketing into your approach. It is worth thinking about how you want people to feel when they enter your stores or experience your service and what colour could signify. Your marketing efforts should employ the senses to craft how consumers perceive your brand; for example, orange for energy and creativity.

Lighting is another way you can affect the customer experience of your product. Many stores use harsh overhead lighting. Switching to lamps to provide a softer, more pleasurable experience is a subtle way to encourage consumers to spend more time in your store. This approach works for the lighting design of bars, cafes and restaurants too.

Sensory Marketing Through Smell

When targeting customers in a specific location, engaging the sense of smell can be an effective way to trigger memories or emotions. As we saw from Dunkin’ Donuts, that doesn’t just apply to brands in their physical location. You can use it in areas where you already advertise, like public transport or airports.

Your product doesn’t need to have a specific smell for your marketing content to be evocative. You can build a scent into your brand, which has proved successful in hotels. The key here is to design your sensory marketing efforts with people in mind. It is most impactful when you combine several senses. This could work with sound and sight; for example, the crackling of a fire, the flames and the smell of logs burning creates a cosy atmosphere.

Sensory Marketing Through Sound

With the technology available to help a brand talk to its audience without being there, the popularity of sound marketing took off. This first happened through voice-overs on the radio but has since advanced to include sophisticated techniques to reach customers. Jingles and sound effects are part of many companies’ marketing process.

Beyond voice, there are two ways brands harness this sense to engage people. One is the sound effects that marketers use to bring an advert to life, that could be the pleasing sound of a drink being poured into a glass. It doesn’t need to relate to the product, though. The other way to engage is through music. Even a few short tones as a brand name is shown can build an association in consumers’ minds.

Sensory Marketing Through Touch

This sense relies on physical contact with a member or customer. The most obvious choice for this kind of sensory marketing are products that have a tactile design that enhances the customer experience. Brands that want customers to associate them with comfort can encourage people to sit on the furniture.

Other hands-on products are technology and cars. People are more likely to make these expensive and significant purchases after a test-drive or a real-life experience with a device. Interacting with hardware from a brand before buying will help a consumer to see the product as part of their identity.

You don’t need to be a company with a physical product to impress customers. The quality of paper you use for business cards and other marketing collateral can provoke a positive response to your brand.

Sensory Marketing Through Taste

Taste is perhaps the most subjective sense, which is why brands need to consider this sensory marketing approach carefully. Companies that make or sell an edible product can use new flavours to reach a target audience. This is an ideal way of refreshing existing products; a good example is seasonal drinks from cafes.

Brands can provide tasty experiences for consumers through samples. Distilleries and supermarkets already use this to excellent effect, but brands could also partner with another company to reach people by stimulating their senses. The key concern is to identify how you want your customer to feel. Once that is established, you could plan a joint promotion with a brand that shares your values and evokes those feelings.

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Measuring Sensory Marketing Success

Companies using the five senses as part of their marketing strategy will still want to see tangible results. Your company could see more products flying off the shelves or more subscribers.

There is more to marketing than securing a first name, last name, email address and number from customers.

Sensory marketing will improve the way customers experience your brand. You can read related posts that outline the key factors to take into account when measuring brand recognition and customer satisfaction.

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Seek Out Sensory Marketing Experts

Brands that appeal to consumers’ senses will be closer to realising their potential. Any brand can take advantage of sensory marketing once they figure out which branding characteristics that translate into sensory experiences.

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