Sensory Branding: Opening Up The Senses Of The Consumers

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on October 03, 2011

This entry is the second prize winner in the MBA Skool Article writing contest held in September 2011.

Today whenever we turn our head in any direction, all we can see is the billboards trying to market and establish the brand names on our mind. It is to be done in order to influence our buying behavior for the brands which they are targeting. According to American Marketing Association (AMA)  "name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.” We can see here that branding is not only about to get a preference over your competitor by the buyer but also leaving the impression in the minds of the customers that you are the sole provider of the solution to their problem.

Sensory Branding

Competition to establish a foothold in the minds of the consumers is increasing day by day. This problem leads to the Sensory Branding. Sensory Branding, as the term suggests involves the use of the senses in creating the relationship with the product. Who can forget the very soothing aroma of the Popcorn in the air, when we enter in the premises of any multiplex or cinema halls. The aroma helps us to create a relationship with the multiplex to such an extent , such that the next time when we smell the aroma the multiplex came into our mind.

The science behind the effectiveness of the Sensory Branding is that our basic understanding of environment is through our senses, which are linked to our memory. We store our memories in the cells of brains (can also be termed as Memory Banks).

The stimulation by senses however has to do very little with the quality, performance of the product, yet it creates an impression in the minds of the people. The stimulation offered by the senses

  • Influence our choices.
  • Create a connect with the brand.
  • Distinguish one product from the other.
  • Part of our decision making process.

The main thing that helps in the popularity of the Sensory Branding is the time crunch. In today’s time when there is so much of information from various channels, when the change is the only constant thing, when there is no time for pondering over any issues, senses is the only thing left with the marketers which helps them to connect with the target segment.


Few of the example of Sensory Branding is

  • The “Mela” look of the Big Bazaar. In his book 'IT HAPPENED IN INDIA' Mr Kishore Biyani had said, until and unless there is a crowd in the store in does not give a look of sabse sasta.
  • Victoria’s Secret is using fragrance in her store.
  • Signature tune of Airtel,

Sensory Branding plays effect on all the five senses of the human. The various forms of sensory brands caters to each and every senses.

  • What They See: Marketers mostly cater to this sense, as this is the most effective tool to establish your mark. In his book Brand Sense – Build Powerful Brands through Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight, and Sound, Martin Lindstrom emphasis on the identifying the brand even if the logo wasn’t there. He wants to establish the connect even the color with the brand so strongly that in the absence of the brand logo  the color alone should be sufficient to the identify the brand.

E.g. : The best example to signify this is Hutch, the orange color and also the pug campaign leave a strong impression in the minds of the people that every time when the pug campaign is on the air the audience will automatically understand that its hutch. Many other brands try to leverage the popularity of the Pug but didn’t succeed.

  • What They Hear: This is the second most favorite senses targeted by the marketers. A distinctive ring tone tells surrounding theatergoers that the offender is a customer of Nokia or Motorola. And a startup bong lets nearby latte sippers know whether the writer huddled over the laptop in the corner bought her operating system from Microsoft or Apple. Such is the strong connect of the auditory senses to the brand proposition. Also we all know music helps in creating an ambience. So auditory connect with the brand is the best way to identify your brand.


  • What They Smell: Olfactory sense is the most responsive sense of the five senses. Smell invoked memories and the person visualize the memories associated with the smell immediately. This is due to the fact that there is no filtration or analysis by the brain, who can forgot the smell of the earth after rain. Next time a person when smell the same fragrance he is being reminded of the ambience of the store. 75% of our emotions are generated by what we smell, this is sufficient to prove that how much important olfactory senses are to the brands.

E.g.: Victoria's Secret, have long used fragrance as part of the sensory environment in their stores.

  • What They Taste: Taste helps a lot particularly in the food industry to leave a mark of its brand name. I means if u taste McDonalds burger either in Delhi or Mumbai or Kolkata or Chennai, they all taste the same and their unique taste helps in establishing the foothold in the minds of the people.

E.g.: Lays and Maggi launched a campaign in which they invited the desired tastes from the customers and then after trying and testing they launch it. This initiative helps them to connect with the customer due to their emphasis on the customer’s taste senses.

  • What They Touch: Feel of a product is the major drive of its sale. Apparel industry drives on this fact. Still many people don’t shop online and the major reason for the fact is that they cann’t feel the product or I would say touch the product.

For a product to survive we have to touch it to have a feel of what the product is all about. We all remember our parents touching the stuff of cloth before buying it. Whenever we buy anything we like to take in the hand.

E.g.: Amazon gains popularity in the online shopping when no one shops online because it caters to the books only, which requires no feel as such.

However we can see that these companies only focus on one or two senses and not many. There are not many companies which focuses on all the five senses. One such companies which focuses on all the senses and integrates them is Singapore Airlines. The airline has demonstrated an understanding of the psychological importance of the senses in establishing and maintaining customer impressions. By appealing to all senses (music, fragrance, manner, and demeanor mingle in the cabin to evoke the airline's image), the airline has created a branded flying experience.

However there is one concern most of the marketers usually focused on the two senses – sight and hearing, leaving all other senses. This behavior is shown irrespective of the fact that olfactory can also serves a lot in the process. As mentioned earlier in this article 75% of our emotions are generated by what we smell but  only 3% of Fortune 1000 companies have use this fact. So organizations should look into the matter and try to indulge other senses as well so as to increase their brand appeal.

Sensory Marketing also has a one downturn that it looks good at an appropriate place and appropriate time. For e.g. the aroma of cakes smells good in a bakery but when the smell persist in the washroom area of the same , then the customer can perceive it in other way.

However we all cannot deny the importance of the Sensory Branding. It is important in today’s time as:

  • So many advertisement , so much information leaves customers indifferent towards brands, so we need something extra to create the impression
  • Nowadazz none compromises on the quality so we cannot compromise on the quality itself.
  • A physical connection always serves best in promoting the brand.

Sensory perceptions are unique to each of us, as memories are. We experience powerful stimulations from them. The opportunity of brand building by leveraging the five senses is wide open. But only few companies have integrated their brand-building strategies to appeal to all the senses. This is probably the case for two reasons:

  • Not all media channels are able to connect with each of the five senses, and
  • We really don't know how to handle the phenomenon of total sensory appeal.

Joe Lazarus, director at Lowe Counsel says "The challenge of sensory branding is to think more broadly about how people experience products in the real world and find ways to enhance these experiences," says Lazarus. In India, the advent of modern trade provides an opportunity of creating a sensorial experience.

About the Author

Ujjwal Garg is a student at IMT Ghaziabad and loves playing Guitar, reading and watching movies.



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