Sensory Branding: Opening Up Senses Of Consumers

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on March 16, 2012

When you enter nearby Kirana shop to purchase say wheat, what do you do first? You touch and feel the sample you are intending to buy. When you go to purchase clothes, you touch and feel the clothes. Why? Reason, it appeals to one of your senses i.e. touch. When a product appeals to the sense of customers, chances are more that the product will be sold more than its competitors. Gone are the days when simple advertisements like “Swad Bhare, Shakti Bhare Parle-G” used to create market shaking effects. Today markets are buzzing with number of competitors and the conventional advertisements are no more sufficient to make the impact on customer’s mind. It is the time to make consumers more intensely feel what additional functional and emotional value a product of a company has for customers compared to its competitors. This understanding has given rise to the concept of Sensory Branding.

Sensory branding

Sensory branding: It is promoting a product in a way that appeals to the senses of a customer. When a product appeals to the senses, it directly gets tied to the emotions of a customer. There are many examples where brands make permanent image in the minds of customers as like a religion. Coca-Cola, invariably largest brand in the world has made use of this technique prudently and maintained the top rung in the race.  For human beings there are 5 senses which are described below.


     Internal structure of mall

Visual:You see and you understand. You see and you believe. It is a very effective sense that affects purchase decisions and hence targeted most by marketers. There are new supermarkets and malls coming up in the country. Arrangement, infrastructure, aesthetics and illumination of them are designed to attract the customers and make them stay longer. Cloth stores use techniques like mannequins to display their best offerings. Supermarkets keep fresh fruits and vegetables on display to attract customers. Manchester United store at Phoenix mall at Lower Parel, Mumbai has colored entire store in red to show their belongingness to Manchester United. Examples are infinite, since it is the oldest, widely used sense that still  holds value in branding. 


         Kellogg’s…..Patenting sound

Auditory: Sound is one of the senses targeted by most of the marketers. Consider an advertisement with just best quality picture and no sound. Intended effect will not be there. The same advertisement accompanied by sound can gift the company with burgeoning sales. Many companies have given special attention to this sense.

Kellogg’s, a world renowned corn flakes maker, has a patent for its crunchy sound which has been designed specifically for them in the laboratory. Intel inside tone that is played in their advertisements makes us remember the name Intel even though we cannot physically see the microprocessor chip. 

Even the automobile industry couldn’t stop itself from considering this sense. Daimler Chrysler formed a separate department of engineers in their company to design a specific clicking sound while opening or closing the door thereby creating sensory experience. 

Smell: Imagine a situation where you are in dilemma whether to enter a particular restaurant or not. Suddenly you listen a ‘charr…’ sound and a mouth watering smell of pav-bhaji automatically turns your feet towards the table. It’s the magic of our olfactory sense.

It is the sense that attaches most to the emotions of customer. Neuromarketing studies show that 75% of emotions are triggered by smell.Smell is linked to pleasure well being, emotion and memory.  Many retail shops spread aroma in the atmosphere to offer pleasant ambience to customers. Men’s clothing retailer Thomas Pink ensures that each store of company should have an aroma of freshly starched linen.


Roasting beans inhouse..Does it make ‘sense’?

The best example using olfactory can be Starbucks coffee, the world’s largest coffee shop. They have started roasting coffee beans within the stores instead of outsourcing the process. This spreads the odour of beans in the surroundings thereby giving richer sensory experience. Nissan studied the effects of aromas on human mental activity and "the resulting forest AC system intermittently and alternately furnishes two unique aromas, borneol and leaf alcohol, to alleviate boredom and stimulate the driver's brain." 

Taste: Taste is linked to emotions. It can help you change the brand perception and image. Brands/shops offer free sample of food products (especially new launches) in order to make better impact of product on customer mind. Pizza Hut, pizza chain by Yum takes all efforts to maintain the taste of its pizzas same worldwide.


World’s largest food chain ‘McDonalds’ have introduced food items like McAloo Tikki to pamper taste buds of Indian consumers. Interesting example we can take is Colgate. It is the only toothpaste company in the world that has taken patent for its taste. Even though one tastes it without knowing the name, he/she can easily identify the taste as Colgate’s. 

Even bartenders are mixing ginger and jalapeno in their cocktails. Expect to see more extreme tastes on mainstream menus, with more ordinary food products being given an extreme taste makeover. Some argue that our growing thirst for extreme flavor is being driven be an aging population who are seeking taste sensations to pep up taste buds and olfactory nerves.

Touch: It includes physical contact between customer and the product. Area skin occupies is highest compared to all other senses. It is a tool for those who cannot see or listen to get feel of anything. Many a times what customer sees is different from what she feels through touch. Hence, touch helps customers make more conscious decisions. Areas where marketers use this technique are the sales of clothes and electronic devices like mobile or laptop.


Handling the product makes difference

There are cases where marketers were knowingly/unknowingly using sensory marketing. Main senses that have been targeted traditionally are visual and auditory. There are new advertisements coming up all giving digital sound effects and excellent quality picture. However, customers are being bombarded so much each day through advertising that to make him remember your brand you need to target remaining three senses also. In his book Brand Sense, author Martin Lindstrom argues that humans are most receptive, and most likely to form, retain, revisit and reinterpret memory when all five senses are in operation.

Some excellent examples that brag of stimulating maximum of the senses are Ferrari Centre – Abu Dhabi and Singapore Airlines. These sensory-enhancing techniques are filtering into brand communication with the rise of multisensory brand experiences. The brand should be such that it must attract faith and belief of customers like the religion attracts.

Touch   Touch

                     Ferrari world, creating multisensory experience                                       We serve using ‘sense

At the recently-opened Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, visitors are invited to experience multi-sensory immersion into the sights, sounds and smells. Visitors can have a look on attractive Ferrari models and see them running. Needless to say is fascination of the sound the vehicle makes while running.

One can experience Ferrari's Italian heritage and rides that simulate the G-force of Formula 1 racing. Provision has been made to give you a pleasure of ride with the expert.

Singapore Airlines is one of the best examples which have considered marketing using maximum of the senses. Singapore girl introduced by them has now become a unique identity of their brand. The scent, Stefan Floridian Waters, that it has is specifically designed for airlines and can be experienced in their flights as well as hot towels that are supplied before meal. Customers can uniquely identify that smell as that of the airline.The crew must be physically attractive and the dress they wear has been designed in alignment with the colour and design of the cabin. There are norms regarding greeting customers also. Therefore, even though the airline provides food and seating arrangement like any other airline, it is the top preference of the travelers. 

Above two examples signify the consideration of senses in the branding process. Hence a marketer must make use of this marketing technique in the changing environment. It is a challenge for the marketers to create multi-dimensional sensory experiences in the consumers. Achieving this will definitely push the marketer towards the path of success.

This article has been authored by Sunil Chaware from Welingkar Institute of Management.

Image: Salvatore Vuono /

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