Pretend for a second that you’ve got a glass Coke bottle in your hand. You can imagine it there, can’t you? Its distinctive curvy shape and cold, smooth surface – you can perceive how it feels even though its not there. You can probably even imagine the sensation of putting the bottle to your mouth; the way the rounded rim feels as it rests on your bottom lip and the rush of bubbly sweetness you taste when the dark liquid inside washes over your tongue. It’s a pretty vivid image, isn’t it? Now consider this: is the image you conjure as vivid if you replace that Coke bottle with a bottle of say, Ginger Ale? Can you imagine that bottle so well in your hand? Probably not. That, dear friends, is the power of effective sensory marketing.

If good marketing is all about creating positive customer experiences (and it is) then sensory marketing techniques are a way to hotwire those experiences in customer’s minds. Scientific studies have shown that what we perceive through our senses influences our thinking, mood and decision making on a subconscious level, which means the right combination of sensory experiences can influence how customers think and feel about your brand, and greatly increase the likelihood that they will want to engage with it. When it comes to sensory marketing, subtlety is powerful. Consumers don’t perceive subtle sensory tactics as marketing messages, and therefore don’t react with the sort of skepticism or resistance that ads or promotions sometimes generate. Rule of thumb is, it’s better to tread lightly than be heavy handed when it comes to sensory marketing.

The glass Coke bottle is a great example of tactile sensory marketing (sense of touch), but what about the other four senses?

Smell: Our sense of smell is the sense most closely correlated to memory. The aroma of freshly baked bread may take you back to being a kid in your grandmother’s kitchen; the smell of a fairground may bring up memories of feeling shy and nervous on your first junior high school date. Marketers have cleverly employed aroma for decades to influence how customers feel in a place of business and encourage them to make purchases as well. Dunkin’ Donuts ran a hugely successful sensory campaign on South Korea’s transit system a few years back. The company jingle was played over bus sound systems while an atomizer simultaneously emitted the smell of fresh coffee in the air. Dunkin’ Donuts stores saw a 16% increase in visits during the campaign, and a 29% increase in sales.

Sound: Background noise can soothe, stimulate and aggravate us. It can make us feel happy and it can make us feel sad. What we hear in terms of sensory marketing very often is so subtle we hardly realize it’s there – but the effects of sound are undeniable. If high-end spas started playing punk rock music in their treatment rooms (rather than sounds of nature, for example) do you think customers would still walk away feeling relaxed and refreshed? Pay attention to what’s coming through the speakers the next time you’re in retail environment. Victoria’s Secret, for one, plays classical music in its stores to make the experience of lingerie shopping there feel classy and exclusive.

Sight: How a place of business looks is every bit as important as what it sells. Marketers spend millions creating environments that reflect the essence of a business’s brand, and consistency between stores is key. Walk into a McDonald’s restaurant and the look is always the same, regardless of whether you’re in Tampa or Tokyo. Colour impacts how we feel about a brand too. Although culture and personal experiences influence how colour is perceived, generally speaking, the spectrum of colour running from cool tones to hot tones correlates directly to feelings of calm to those of excitement.

Taste: Taste is the most specific of the five senses, and the most personal too. What appeals to one palate may be repulsive to another, and taste is highly influenced by other senses – smell, in particular. Very often the experience of eating or drinking something is highlighted by where we are when we consume it. So for sensory marketing, when it comes to taste, connecting feelings (such as fun or satisfaction) to the brand is important. Successful restauranteurs know that the ambiance in the room is every bit as important as what’s on the plate – and sometimes the charm of being a “hole in the wall” establishment with incredible food is part of a winning customer experience.

There are lots of ways your business can incorporate successful sensory marketing techniques, no matter what industry you’re in. Let our talented team help you discover and make the most of them.