Studies disagree on the exact number of senses that humans have, with some suggesting that the number may go all the way up to 20. Nonetheless, there are five widely recognizable senses which play an important role in sensory marketing, namely sight, scent, sound, taste and touch. In this article, we will be reviewing how each sense can inform the application of sensory marketing and considering the two most popular applications of this type of marketing for each sense.
Our perceptions of colour and our associations of traits to colours are largely influenced by nature and many years of evolution. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that we make purchasing decisions, especially when it comes to impulse buys based on colour. Companies often put a great deal of thought into the colour schemes for their products, packaging and advertisements, to elicit specific connotations. For example, Starbucks and Whole Foods both favour green as it can be associated with relaxation as well as nature and natural products.
Used mostly in physical stores or offices, lighting is imperative in setting the mood that a business wants to get across. Bright, stimulating light can be incredibly useful for companies that seek to encourage their customers to be attentive and alert. Alternatively, soft mood lighting can create an environment that feels cosy and welcoming and can work wonders in setting such as furniture or clothing stores. Hollister is one of the most extreme examples of this marketing style, as their company chooses to use dim lighting to imply a party lifestyle atmosphere in their stores.
3. Marketable signature scent
Where possible and appropriate, companies may choose to combine complimentary scents into one, easily marketable signature fragrance. Customers are then able to take the scent of their favourite hotel or restaurant home with them, building undeniable brand loyalty. The Mariott, Four Seasons and Sheraton hotels all offer signature scents you can buy and take home with you.
4. Pleasant environmental smells
Whether or not a company chooses to have a signature scent however, it is still possible to take advantage of scents associated with specific environments. A standard example are tropical, citrus-y scents in a travel agent’s office.
5. Voice overs
Most, if not all, radio and television advertisements involve a scripted section read out by a voice actor or voice-over artist. While the script itself plays an important role in the success of the marketing campaign, the actor’s voice, tone and oral posture can be just as, if not more, important. If the voice of the person presenting the ad does not match the emotions the item or service are meant to evoke, the marketing campaign is unlikely to be very successful.
6. Background music
Themed music in the background of a commercial, or on a company’s premises may sometimes go unnoticed by most consumers or may form part of a very memorable advertisement or experience. In either situation, appropriate music can make or break a marketing strategy and should always be carefully chosen to fit the general impression to company wants to get across.
7. Free Samples
One of the easiest ways to sell food and food-based products is to offer small free samples. These give customers a clear idea of what they’re purchasing and create a greater sense of trust when it comes to buying in larger quantities.
8. New Flavours or flavour variations
Where an edible product is already popular or well cemented in the public consciousness, introducing a new flavour or slight variations or a beloved flavour can help reignite interest. Businesses that sell savoury snacks are a common example of this application of sensory marketing, with limited edition campaigns that introduce interesting flavour combinations.
9. Printed materials
From brochures to thank-you cards, visually interesting and tangible materials that an individual can hold can be invaluable to a marketing strategy. Besides containing useful information, they provide a clear association to the company, and one that can be displayed and returned to multiple times.
10. In-store models
Popularized by car dealerships and tech stores, many businesses provide in-store models of the product being sold which a customer can try before buying. Like taste samples, this can improve rapport between the customer and the business and allow customers to make informed decisions about their purchases which increase trust and brand loyalty.
“Think you have only 5 senses? You've actually got about 14 to 20”, Philip Perry, Big Think, 2018 [available at https://bigthink.com/philip-perry/think-you-have-only-5-senses-its-actually-a-lot-more-than-that]