Brands have become skillful in incorporating the five senses of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste into their marketing to get our attention and to make a positive impression. However, also to earn our trust and loyalty. The trick is called sensory marketing.
We often do not notice, how we are hooked by our senses and end up consuming more. This is how brands do it!
Sight is the most dominant sense. In visual marketing, visual content (photos, videos, infographics, maps etc.) plays a key role in creating emotional appeal, along with compelling storytelling. Using visual elements in marketing can increase brand awareness and strengthen the emotional bond to the target group.
This is no surprise since already back in the cave days, people used to draw pictures on the walls to pass information. As still pictures have evolved into moving pictures, Cisco estimates the global internet traffic from videos to reach 82 % of all consumer internet traffic in 2022.
Visual content is essential in brand recognition. Colours can have a major impact on successful marketing efforts as they may increase brand recognition by up to 80 %. Colours are associated with different meanings, e.g., blue is considered trustworthy (used by Facebook and police), pink is feminine (e.g., Victoria’s Secret), white is sophisticated (e.g., Apple), and black is luxurious (e.g., Chanel).
Have you ever had an earworm – a catchy tune that seems to be stuck in your mind? It is a common phenomenon and marketers use it effectively. Perceiving sounds, e.g., music, nature sounds and conversations, helps people to connect with the world.
In sound marketing, brand jingles are simple tunes that are repeated regularly. Surely, we can all recall some familiar ones. As music reflects brand personality, combining a catchy tune with visual presentation reinforces the brand message and recognition.
Sounds are very useful in influencing the audience both in and out of the store. In-store music makes us buy more and stay longer. There are companies like Music Concierge that find the most appealing playlists for hotel, food and beverage or retail businesses. Some take things a step further. For many years, Walmart has broadcasted its own radio station in Walmart stores, thus reaching millions of US customers.
Our brain interprets smells and the sense of smell is closely linked with memory. Scents can make us remember moments that have made an impression. The smell of baked bread makes us feel at home and the smell of cinnamon may evoke a memory of a beloved journey.
In marketing, smells can improve brand recognition and recall. Businesses that smell good in can positively distinguish themselves from competitors. Scented areas are often perceived as high-end and luxurious. Glossy magazines have several perfume samples inside of them, competing for our attention.
The shopping experience can be enhanced by scents e.g., using candles, fragrance billboards, potpourris or oil diffusers in the store. Fierce still remains a scent customers link to the famous American clothes retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, as all their stores used it. However, businesses do not necessarily need signature fragrances, but may benefit from ambient scents like florals, vanilla and fresh linens.
Smells are controversial, though. For an increasing number of fragrance-sensitive people, entering stores with all kinds of scents circulating, may be a nightmare.
Touch is the first sense we develop. Now that the brick-and-mortar stores are fading into the background and e-commerce sites are gaining ground, consumers have less chances to feel a product prior to purchase. We yearn to feel the temperature, texture, shape, softness or sharpness of items.
Technology has done wonders and it feels almost like you are touching an Apple device while just watching it unfold on the screen. It is easy to make the purchase online and get the tactile part as an ultimate gift in the end when the sleek Apple package arrives.
The sense of movement can also affect our taste buds, which all bakeries and cafes should note. Just putting a spoon in the picture along with a cake will make us desire the cake even more as we can sense it on multiple levels. Sensory marketing expert and professor of marketing, Aradhna Krishna, believes that mental imagery and engaging with several senses will impact our behaviour and desires and make the experience more real and pleasurable.
The sense of touch is still missing from virtual reality (VR) technology, although movement is already included. With tech-celeration, there may be more possibilities to come close to the real experience with multiple senses, and thus, enable humans to visit remote, fragile and inaccessible places by VR.
Although taste is the weakest of our senses, it is associated with our primary needs like food and survival. Our four basic sensations of taste are sweet, sour, bitter and salty. In recent years, food trends have pointed towards a fifth taste, umami, an element of savouriness, especially prevalent in Asian cooking.
Brands use sampling vans at festivals to bring the taste, smell and visual of the brand close to the consumer – in a multisensory experience. When several senses are engaged, the taste improves. Just think about your latest culinary experience, it was probably not just about the taste of the food, other senses were at work there, too.
Taste is considered the most intimate of the senses and the most difficult to appeal to. It differs much from person to person and is dependent on our genes and life-experiences. The sense of taste has an ability to evoke memories. Taste memories recreate earlier experiences like childhood tastes or travel memories. No wonder food festivals are accompanied by free tastings to have us craving and salivating for more.
According to Harvard professor Gerald Zaltman most of our purchasing decisions are subconscious, guided by emotions. However, the use of the senses in sensory marketing is intentional and consumers are affected by both cognitive and emotional factors when making purchasing decisions. The five senses have an impact on how we feel about brands, events, places and people we encounter. Fascinating stuff!