Have you ever walked past a Bakers Delight store and felt the immediate impact of the smell of baking? Most of us have had this experience along with the resulting pull to go into the store and make a purchase – no matter how unhealthy. Even though we know that the cake we are about to purchase will stack on the kilos, the smell’s appeal is too strong. This example highlights the potential to influence consumers by creating a sensory connection and memory.
Rational thinking is overridden by an emotional response caused by a highly appealing smell. In this case – arguably, the smell of baking will have a more significant impact on consumer behaviour than the investment in-store signage and other forms of promotion.
While marketing campaigns overwhelmingly focus on sight and hearing, these are just two of the five emotions that can be addressed or leveraged to influence consumer behaviour. Moreover, it is often the case that senses other than sight and hearing can have a greater impact on consumer behaviour. Indeed, this is the case with the Baker’s Delight example. Indeed, addressing multiple senses at once can significantly impact consumer behaviour – overriding rational thinking.
Over recent years there has been a growing appreciation of the power of ‘sensory marketing’, the science of leveraging all five senses to influence:
- Learning processes
Sensory marketing is all about creating sensory experiences (singular and integrated) that strengthen a consumer’s connection with a product with a view to:
- Driving sales.
- Building a brand.
Smell is most certainly a big part of the customer experience when eating in a restaurant. In Bakers Delight’s case, the baking bread’s smell activates the consumer’s taste buds, creating the desire to eat – this is the decision to purchase. In the case of your local Indian restaurant, the aroma’s wafting out the door and causing you to salivate as you review the menu – smell helps build the brand – associating the restaurant will the ‘authentic’ (or what we believe to be the authentic) aroma of the country.
How often do you sit in a food environment with the intention of consuming as little as possible, perhaps because you are trying to lose weight – but end up eating far more than you should because the aromas and the food are irresistible.
It is interesting to note that smell is almost certainly the sense that has the greatest impact on memory. We tend to remember and associate smells much more than sights and sounds. Research suggests that memories associated with smells tend to be older, and their recollection tends to be more vivid when compared to other senses. Research indicates that smell and memory are closely linked with the brain’s anatomy, allowing olfactory signals to get to the limbic system very quickly. Few connections are better remembered than those associated with smell.
Consider these statistics:
- 75%of all emotions we experience are directly related to smell.
- Consumers recall 35%of what we smell and only 5% of what they see.
Clearly, not all products lend themselves to sensory marketing; not every sense is relevant to every product. Research confirms, however, that where senses can be associated with a product – ‘A memorable experience can forge a stronger connection to the product or service, increase satisfaction, and influence the consumer’s behaviour and attitude. …. the consumer becomes more predisposed to make a purchase, spends more time in the store, has more exposure to the various categories, and in turn, becomes more predisposed to make future purchases. By setting this process in motion, the brand also improves its image.’
Further, sensory marketing can be used to create and leverage connections – thus influencing consumer behaviour – throughout the customer journey and with some products at each touchpoint in that customer journey. At the same time, the strategic use of sensory marketing is less common than it should be. Too few marketers appear to appreciate the potential to leverage human senses to influence consumer behaviour. Anecdotal evidence suggests a low recognition of the degree to which consumer behaviour can be influenced through the strategic association of sensory input with a product. Certainly, there appears to be a low recognition of the potential to reinforce a product’s attributes, benefits, values, and personality – convey its relevance to the consumer – and communicate the product’s differential value for a specific customers in a competitive market.
Sensory marketing involves:
- Developing a strategy what senses to associate with a product.
- Defining the messaging to be conveyed through the senses.
- Establishing a brand signature – the sensory input associated with a brand.
- Appreciating how the individual senses create an overall sensory experience.
A sensory experience, used effectively, can communicate product:
- Functional benefits.
- Emotional benefits.
- Brand personality.
A strength of sensory marketing is that it can impact consumers at various levels – this establishes a powerful connection.
Following are some examples of the practical application of sensory marketing.
Sound has long been used to influence consumer behaviour. In 2022 such marketing can involve everything from background music to podcasts and the use of virtual assistants. Hearing is a powerful sense. It is the sense that brings joy or alerts of danger (car horns, for example).
Visa has started incorporating a sensory branding experience at the end of transactions. Recognizing that sound plays a part in how consumers make purchases when cardholders use their card and the transaction is complete, they hear a unique (well researched) sound. When customers hear this sound, they know their purchase is successfully and securely completed – providing comfort and consistency.
Smell is unique because the sensory organ that detects it is directly connected to the brain. This makes your sense of smell extremely powerful. Interestingly, smell is also the sense that causes most people to have no sexual interest in close family members.
The Dunkin Donuts campaign is one of the most successful campaigns in the history of olfactory marketing. To improve the sales of their coffee, in several buses in Korea, Dunkin Donuts programmed several nebulizers with a coffee aroma. At the same time, their jingle played on the bus radio in the morning while people went to work or school. And when the user got off the bus, he or she came across an advertising poster with the Dunkin Donuts brand, causing the brain to work with different stimuli. Coffee sales improved to 29%, and visits increased to almost 20%.
Scent plays a big part in the marketing of Hyatt Places. The hotel’s signature scent, ‘Seamless,’ ‘delivers the sensation of welcoming elegance and calm’ through a blend of blueberries, light florals, warm vanilla and musk. Having ‘Seamless’ wafting through Hyatt Place’s 300 locations has enhanced the visitor experience and increased brand memorability for thousands of guests.
Research suggests that vision is the strongest of the senses. Humans tend to rely more on sight than hearing or smell for information about their environment. Colours, images, fonts, graphics, and light can impact a consumer’s perception of a product.
Apple is acutely attuned to the impact of sigh on consumer purchase behaviour. Design, driven by one of the worlds leading industrial designers – Jony Ive – has always been a critical component of Apple’s marketing strategy. Steve Jobs talked at length about the importance of excellent design in the success of Apple. This is also reflected in the excellent design of Apple stores. They are perhaps the best-designed and most memorable retail stores in the world.
Behr places a very high priority on sight. It’s common knowledge that certain shades evoke specific emotions. Behr Paint created a sensory experience for social media fans through an ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) video of the painting process featuring soothing sounds and satisfying visuals like paint pours.
The average consumer has over 10,000 taste buds. Taste is an important sense, although it is rarely a stand-alone sense. Research has consistently demonstrated that smell and sight significantly impact taste. The importance of taste is demonstrated by the fact that taste testing is often considered the most effective way of selling a new food product.
The Krispy Kreme product has a distinctive flavour that is hard for anyone with a sweet tooth to refuse. Few businesses on the planet use taste more effectively than Krispy Kreme. Even people who are not inclined to eat cake – find resisting a second Krispy Kreme doughnut had to refuse after eating one. In this light, it is interesting to reflect on the success of Krispy Kreme, even though it has no advertising budget.
The Museum of Ice Cream creates interactive spaces dedicated to the sweet treat, encouraging consumers to indulge all of their senses. To help bring the playful brand to life, the museum partnered with Target to release 7 premium flavours and open “The Pint Shop,” an interactive space in NYC where guests can indulge in a one-of-a-kind tasting experience.
Touch involves not only the touch & feel of a specific product and the whole in-store physical experience. Some 75% of consumers say that they’d prefer to “feel” a product before they buy it: on a subconscious level, every purchase is influenced by texture, shape, weight and even temperature. An interesting feature of using touch in marketing is that holding a product can effectively create a sense of ownership.
Because Casper does not have showrooms where consumers could test out their beds, they offer a comfortable space where busy people can pop in for a quick rest and recharge. For $25, patrons can slip into silk pyjamas and sleep in a “Nap Nook” with a Casper bed and pillow, allowing them to feel the product while drifting off to sleep.
Relevant to professional services marketing in general, research reported in the Harvard Business Review shows that actual interpersonal touch, such as a handshake or a light pat on the shoulder, leads people to feel safer and spend more money. Studies have shown that waitresses who touch the diners they are serving earn more in tips.
Great marketing campaigns often target more than one sense.
In 2022, the most successful sensory marketing campaigns appeal to multiple senses. The more senses appealed to; the more effective the branding and advertising will be.
Singapore Airlines addresses multiple senses and especially scent and sight. The airline has a one-of-a-kind, refreshing, and subtle scent (rose, lavender, and citrus) worn by all flight attendants that are sprayed onto their towels and other elements throughout services. This specific smell can only be enjoyed on Singapore Airlines.
Singapore Airlines also requires all flight attendants to wear ‘The Singapore Girl’ uniform, in the colour and pattern that matches their earned designation. These sensory inputs are uniquely Singapore Airlines and offer a high-end and consistent experience for the flyers.
Starbucks’ philosophy is to satisfy its customers’ taste, sight, touch, and hearing senses. The Starbucks brand serves this comprehensive package of sensual gratification with consistent flavours, aromas, music, and printing that is known to appeal to its customers. All music played in Starbucks stores worldwide is selected from about 100 to 9,000 songs on CDs sent to the stores monthly by the company’s main office.
The potential for sensory marketing to drive sales or build a brand has rarely been realized in Australia. Great marketers, however, pay a great deal of attention to sensory marketing, given its potential influence and especially it’s potential to sidestep rational thinking.
- Great marketers in 2022 understand the potential of sensory marketing.
- Great marketers in 2022 develop and implement integrated sensory strategies.
- Great marketers in 2022 prioritize sensory marketing over cognitive marketing.
- Sensory marketing can cost-effectively connect consumers and establish brand loyalty.
- Sight, while the most pervasive sense, is not always the most effective for marketing.
- Olfactory marketing finds its power in the direct link between smell and memory.
- Multi-sense sensory marketing strategies are highly effective in building a brand.
- An integrated sensory marketing strategy can be used to sidestep barriers to purchase.
- A key component of Apple’s marketing strategy is sensory marketing. How are you using the senses to connect your product with your customer?
- Research demonstrates that the consumer’s sense of smell is directly linked to memory. In what ways do you use the senses to enhance brand loyalty?
- Starbucks uses a multi-sense sensory strategy to create the optimum customer experience. How are you using the five senses to enhance the customer experience?
- Research shows that while sight is the human sense most leveraged by marketers, it is not always the most important. What sense is most important for your brand?
- Sensory marketing can cause a purchase even when the rational brain says don’t buy. How are you using sensory marketing to overcome cognitive barriers?