Sensory Branding - A Differentiator In Retail Experience

Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 4592 , Published on 10 April 2012

The branding guru ‘Martin Lindstorm’ in his book Brand Sense says,” It is extra ordinary given that 75% of our day-to-day emotions are influenced by what we smell, and the fact that there’s a 65% chance of a mood change when exposed to positive sound. This is a long way of saying that the importance of senses has been completely overlooked in the branding business… until now”

Every experience that we have in our lives, engage our senses. When our senses are engaged, we are focussed and as a result we experience it in an in depth way and remember it better. The smell of hot “mom-made” pakoras in the rain, the smell of wet mud, the feel of the satin sheets, sound of child’s laughter are unforgettable. Hence the focus has to veer from simply video in promotional activities which comprises of 83% of communication to the audio, olfactory (sense of smell) and tactile (sense of touch) communication which is a paltry 17%.

Attempting to lodge the brands in people’s minds through sensory associations has plenty of precedents in India. Liril is the earliest example of the sensory pleasure of touch and this was conveyed through the commercials. KrackJack was India’s first original sweet and salty biscuit. Slice- Aamsutra also tries to influence the consumer psyche by describing the pleasure derived from its taste and its smooth feel when drunk.

Sensory Branding in Retail Stores!

A retail experience of a customer is an opportunity for the marketer to brand all the touch points which is consistent with the company’s values. The retail experiences must be memorable to a point where customers get excited about doing business with you, assign their loyalty to you and in result become advocates of your brand.

Star BucksThe Store Experience: Star Bucks is the best known brand to give a complete coffee experience with the unadulterated, delicious aroma of coffee. The employees are told to refrain from wearing perfumes and the food is kept covered. Every store design is considered with respect to the ethnicity variable and hence has its city-feel to it.

Closer Home, we have Barista Lavazza which is an experiential brand and they use the store ambience, store experience, innovation and guest service to leverage all the touch points.

Brand Experience of a Retail Customer:

Sensory Experience is at the lowest level of the pyramid and hence the most important to make a first impression

Sensory Retail Branding 

Building Brand through Sound

According to a research, if music slower to the rate of our heart beat is played in restaurants then we feel more relaxed, hence eat slower and also, eat more. Music when played according to the profile of the customers who are in the retail store will make them longer in the store which may result in increased sales.

Pizza Hut asks its customers to ring a bell if they had a good time. The novelty of the bell ringing builds a strong bond with the customer where a regular visitor would then associate the ringing of the bell to the experience in Pizza Hut rather than being to the temple,

Building Brand though Smell (The Smell of Money!!)

After sight, smell is a very strong factor which helps to take the decision. 75% of our decisions are influenced by the smell. Hershey’s retail stores for chocolates, StarBucks, Singapore Airlines have successfully used the power of smell.

Should the retail stores have a signature scent?

Some marketers believe that adding a scent creates a bonding with the customer. The marketer’s goldmine i.e. the olfactory receptors are directly linked to our limbic system which is responsible for emotions and decision making.  Scents are work well in 2 areas:

(A)  Cognitive: This helps us to recognise the smell and triggers a memory or a desire. Research shows that products/places with pleasing smell are perceived to have a higher quality than the unscented ones.

(B)  Emotional: Scents make us feel comfortable. Like in Las Vegas Casinos where there is a soft small lingering in the atmosphere. A scented room also gives an illusion of more space vis-à-vis an unscented one.

Building Brand through Touch

Every product should be arranged in an order which is either intuitive to the customer or is pleasing to him. No wonder a lot of money is spent on the packaging of the products. The hospitality industry is the best example where they make sure that every touch point (literally) is not coarse and is pleasing to the senses of the customer

Deep in the recesses of the minds of a customer

A shown in the above figure, the different senses affect different areas of the brain which result in a better recognition of a place or a product. Hence, sensory branding is logical with respect to the functioning of a customer’s mind.

A complete retail experience will become imperative and not just optional in the marketing practices.

This article has been authored by Ritika Murarka from Welingkar Institute of Management.

Image: Salvatore Vuono /


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