Car fans love the smell of a new car

Most marketing plans appeal to only two of our senses: sight and hearing (Hier lesen Sie den Kommentar in deutscher Sprache). But why should this limited sensory appeal apply to the discipline? How come almost all marketing and brand-building concentrates on only two of our senses?

We know for a fact that appealing to all our senses at once is likely to double the consumer’s brand awareness. Several surveys document the fact that our olfactory sense is probably the most impressionable and responsive of our five senses. Smells invoke memories and appeal directly to our feelings without being filtered and analyzed by the brain, which is how the perceptions of our remaining four senses are processed. We all recognize and are emotionally stimulated by, say, the smell of freshly-cut grass, the sea air, or the perfume of roses. And any car lover loves the smell of a new car.

Some are getting the hang of sensory appeal. There are supermarkets in Northern Europe which have installed hundreds of meters of pipeline to carry the delicious smell of fresh bread to the stores’ entrances. Upon detection of the marvellous aroma, passersby are drawn inside the shop. A major British bank has introduced freshly-brewed coffee to its branches with the intention of making customers feel at home when visiting the bank. The fragrance of fresh coffee induces relaxation in the bank’s customers, not an emotion you could normally associate with such an establishment.

But let’s not forget the other neglected senses: hearing and touch. Sound, too, evokes memory and emotion. AOL is using a voice familiar to many young web users. Fans of Brittney have discovered that they can hear her voice, not only on her CDs and videos, but also when starting up AOL. It’s Brittney who now lets you know that “You’ve got mail”. Kelloggs has also invested in the power of auditory stimulus, apparently testing the crunching of cereals in a Danish sound laboratory in order to upgrade their product’s ‘sound quality’.

And of touch? One of the major reasons online clothes shopping never took off was because … well, you guessed it: people couldn’t touch the products. Amazon avoided this problem because people, on the whole, don’t attach so much importance to the feel of a book as they do to its contents. Clothes, on the other hand, have to be felt and tried on for size, colour, texture, and so on. Physical proximity to products is elemental to our purchasing decisions and, so, our shopping behaviour depends on it.

If you agree with me so far then tell me why it’s so difficult to find brands, anywhere in the world, that promote themselves by appealing to all five of our senses. In fact, the only example of integrated sensory marketing I know of comes from Singapore Airlines. Over many years, Singapore Airlines has demonstrated an understanding of the psychological importance of the senses in establishing and maintaining customer impressions. By appealing to all the senses (using music, fragrance, manner, and personality which all combine in the Singapore Airlines’ cabin to evoke the airline’s preferred image) the airline has managed to create a branded flying experience.

Our sensory perceptions are unique to each of us, just as our memories are, and we experience powerful stimulations from them. This being the case, marketers would do well to appeal to our senses as entirely as possible. Without exaggerating, I can say that the branding opportunities in leveraging our five senses is wide open. The stage is set and no-one has taken to it yet. Brands are all hovering in the wings, observing an audience made up of our highly receptive five senses, sitting together in the darkened auditorium in anticipation of the marketing show that hasn’t quite yet begun.

Martin Lindstrom ist Autor der Bücher BRANDchild und BRANDsense. Anlässlich des Radio Day 2007 wird er zum Thema Brand Sense sprechen (13.06.07: Congress-Centrum Nord Köln).