Ahh, the holiday season. The blazing heat, the sweet smell of pineapple, the bright cyan of mistletoe, and the grinding tones of death metal drifting softly on the air…

Wait, what?

That’s obviously an extreme misinterpretation. But think for a moment: how would you finish that sentence? What is the holiday season to you? The smell of turkey? The red of holly? The soft crunch of snow beneath your boots?

Good marketing plays on these perceptions. The best marketing engenders them.

 

Tactile Marketing

When walking around a store or café have you ever wondered why it is you buy certain items? Or why it is you went in to buy one thing, but ended up buying something completely different? You can’t quite say what it is that prompted the purchase, but chances are you were being influenced in some way by the environment around you.

In an increasingly digital world, the importance of physical interaction can sometimes be overlooked. Tactile marketing – that is, marketing that utilizes all the senses rather than just those that can be emitted from a monitor – harnesses the power of presenting people with something tangible their body can engage with, even if they are unaware of it.

In many ways, this primal connection is much stronger than the flashiest of logos or the fanciest of language.

 

Scent

Smell is perhaps the most abstract method of influence. How can a smell possibly alter the behaviour a rational, thinking human being? Well, consider that many studies by leading institutions have concluded that of all the senses, smell is most powerfully linked with memory and emotion.

This is partly a matter of anatomy – we could use a lot of words like ‘olfactory bulb’ and ‘amygdala’ at this point, we choose not to – and partly a matter of emotion. The end result is that people are 100 times more likely to remember something they smell over something they hear, see, or touch.

Scent marketing is the deployment of carefully chosen fragrances at different customer touchpoints to provoke such reactions. The most obvious example is in coffee shops, bakeries, and restaurants – if something smells good, you want to eat it.

For example, coffee giant Nespresso perfected a hermetically sealed home espresso maker that made coffee exactly as it is served in coffee shops. Despite the machine’s excellent engineering, sales were flatlining. Nespresso soon discovered that re-designing the espresso maker to deliberately release more aroma dramatically improved their business.

That’s right – by making the machine less efficient, they actually sold more.

Such is the logic-destroying power of smell.

Scent marketing goes beyond food and drink. Because scent is so directly tied to memory and experience, companies like Abercrombie & Fitch and Singapore Airlines have taken to developing unique, trademarked fragrances. Every time you step into an Abercrombie & Fitch store or board a Singapore Airlines plane, you will smell the exact same thing. This weds the brand together with the physical sensation in your brain, meaning to you the company seems more real, alive, and vibrant.

This holiday season, the next time you walk into a store pay attention to the smell. If you smell a subtle aroma of gingerbread, mint, or mulled wine – that’s scent marketing, trying to convince you to buy more presents to put under the tree.

 

Sound

‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year.’

You read these words on the page, but the truth is you probably heard them as a melody in your head and that melody made you think of the holiday season.

It works again:

‘Ba da ba ba ba’

You’re probably lovin’ it.

Sound is widely regarded to be the last sense a person loses when dying. It plays a crucial role in helping establish an environment – after all, when humans first climbed down from trees, it paid to be hyper-aware to any lurking threat. Sound can welcome and beguile us, or it can unsettle and provoke us.

Different types of music have different psychological impacts on shopping and purchasing habits. By playing classical music, for example, you can drive customers towards buying items perceived as more refined or cultured. Conversely, playing upbeat music in liquor stores can trend people more towards purchasing beer or mixers rather than wine.

But sound goes beyond music. Have you ever heard birdsong being played in a train station? Nature sounds put us at ease, and convince us we are in a more pleasant place than we actually are. A supermarket in Finland conducted a series of experiments by playing different nature soundscapes to their customers. Too loud or too false, and the customers became irritated. But, with the right combination playing, the supermarket eventually found that sales increased by 20%.

Simply put, if your store is a pleasant place to be, people will want to spend more time there – and people who spend more time in one place tend to spend more money there, too.

 

Sight

The unveiling of Harrods’ department store Christmas window display is a yearly event in London, England. This year they’ve gone with a silver, snowy theme, lit in gold and complemented by an interactive AR element.

Colour evokes base emotion. In this case, the overall pale motif of the display reminds us of snow. Very wintry, yet the silver hints at opulence, too – very much what Harrods is known for. As a contract the gold lighting provides a sense of warmth, inviting passing customers in from the cold.

Consider that greens and blues can remind us of nature, that browns give us a hint of the earthy and the trustworthy, that blacks are mysterious, and that pinks and purples evoke imagery of decadence and royalty.

We bore this in mind at WJ when we recently helped Calgary-based Last Best Brewing & Distillery launch a line of ready-to-drink gin cocktails. Last Best wanted to convey a sense of elegance to emphasize the quality of their gin, coupled with a feeling of energy and dynamism as these cocktails are pre-mixed and easily portable. We chose royal purples, powder blues, and rich salmon – silky colours, colours you might see on somebody’s cravat at a fine gala – and set them against a stark black background. This vivid contrast, as well as the pale filigree on the packaging, really helps it grab the eye when it sits on the shelf.

Think about this the next time you’re scanning the goods at a store – which product seizes your attention first?

 

Touch

By definition, touch is reciprocal in nature. You cannot touch without in turn touching. Consider the handshake, or the way a parent holds their child. These gestures are the foundations of developing a relationship, and by allowing customers to interact and examine their products or services physically, brands can develop a similarly deep connection.

Presentation, texture, and complexity matter when it comes to packaging. Something heavier feels more valuable. Something softer feels more luxurious. Something presented in a simple corrugated box is saying “What’s inside matters.”, something presented in an elegant lacquered case filled with beguiling, scented paper is saying “The experience of opening this matters.”.

We would be remiss to discuss the holiday season without discussing toys. ‘Tis the reason for the season, as they say. If you’re shopping for children this year, look up and down the toy aisle. You’ll see an array of wild colours, and packaging that not only often greatly exceeds the size of the toy itself but also provides a contrast of textures between smooth plastic, rough cardboard, and other materials. This grabs the interest of curious children, who will pick up the product and examine it thoroughly based purely on the packaging alone.

 

The Complete Experience

In the end, tactile marketing all adds up to create an experience that is more than the sum of its parts. How and where you want to emphasise your brand’s qualities is an exciting challenge with a million different potential answers. This month at WJ, with our twentieth anniversary on the horizon, we’re putting together a special something that will tell our own brand’s history. Keep your eyes on the website and see how we put our own theory into practice. And, in the new year, if you think your brand needs a little sprucing up, we’re always here. To help take you there.

And remember – fragrantly, aurally, visually, texturally – have a sensational holiday season.