This guest post was written by Ram Kumarasubramanian. After working for several years, Ram graduated from Hofstra University’s Zarb School in 2012 with an MBA in Marketing and membership in the Beta Gamma Sigma honor society. He is currently a Master of Science in Information student at the University of Michigan School of Information specializing in Human Computer Interaction. You can connect with him via Twitter or LinkedIn.
Sensory marketing or sensory branding refers to the attempts made to indulge and appeal to the senses of the customers while promoting a product, by adopting a multi-sensory brand experience approach.
While brands have always placed an emphasis on providing cues that are geared towards creating the intended perception in the consumers’ minds, multi-sensory marketing aims to step up the experience by engaging all of the five senses or at least a majority of them. Sensory marketing (SM) has come into focus in recent times because of the increased competition for consumer attention. It is yet another weapon that brand strategists are looking to add to their arsenal to keep their products on top on the consumers’ consideration set.
Sensory Marketing is particularly relevant in segments such as luxury goods, retail, and food to name a few.
Take the example of Abercrombie and Fitch that uses a strong masculine scent in its stores, a particular type of lighting that is not too bright, store associates who look like model,s and loud music to resonate with its target market of young consumers.
Australian supermarket Coles uses multi-sensory marketing to induce customers to shop more. Here is a video explaining the techniques adopted by the supermarket to engage all the senses. These include an open layout for the store, access to watch the bakers and butchers in work, allowing customers to handle products without any barriers, and,use of specific scents as well as free product sampling.
Heinz Beans Flavor (launched in 2013) espouses sound, taste, and smell, touch and sight in unique ways. Food architects Sam Bompas and Harry Parr walk us through the creation of the product that leverages the idea of multi-sensory marketing in this video.
Applications of sensory marketing can be found in the most unexpected of products. Take the case of tennis balls. Holland-based Vennootschap onder Firma Senta Aromatic Marketing is one of the pioneers in this area and registered the “smell of cut grass” for tennis balls.
A Harvard Business Review study notes that retailers such as Apple have designed stores that allow customers to touch products to enable them to experience a feeling of ownership. The study also notes that the tactile sensation provided by something as trivial as the hardness of the chairs in which shoppers are seated alters the tendency and extent to which the consumers negotiate.
Examples of multi-sensory marketing in food industry are fairly common. Oxford University professor Charles Spence worked with British Chef Heston Blumenthal to create a dish called the “the sounds of the sea.” The dish served at British restaurant ‘The Fat Duck’ is best enjoyed when accompanied by the sounds of ocean waves. Professor Spence also recently noted that global FMCG companies are looking to leverage mobile applications to improve taste perception of their products in addition to changing the color, shape and size of the products without altering the actual formulations.
Although the notion of appealing to the senses to sell products is not new, it is evident that the future belongs to companies that create more than just products or services. It lies within the grasp of brands that are willing to innovate and create buying experiences that take advantage and charm for all of the five senses – touch, taste, sight, smell, and sound.