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How Sensory Marketing can Turn Your Consumers into Brand Advocates

by Al Gomez
How Sensory Marketing Can Turn Your Consumers Into Brand Advocates

So you have a massive social media following. Your posts gain thousands and thousands of likes and shares, plus engagement down at the comments section. Your audiences start and participate in discussions, airing their own opinions and sides of the argument. And of course, your sales and ROI are thriving beautifully. It’s the icing on the cake that makes the business so much better.

You have all that. But now it’s time to take it a step further.

It’s time for some sensory marketing

This breed of consumers’ attachment to visuals can only go so far. Online engagement is healthy for the brand and the business, but as everybody is likely to point out, it can get old.

The unique visuals you used to attract your online audience will stick with them for as long as they can remember, but do you know what really makes a mark on people’s lives? Experience.

And how do humans feel an experience?

Why, with the five basic senses we learned in elementary school, of course.

Since 2014, more and more marketers are turning to sense-based marketing or sensory marketing to attract consumers. And it’s not far-fetched to say that we have entered an era in which consumers are after the experience that brands and companies can offer.

Apple is selling the experience.

Coca-Cola is all about tasting the feeling.

Every brand sells the experience, one way or the other.

That leads us to ask two questions:

  • Does a particular brand appeal strongly to you?
  • Do you know why?

Maybe it’s the colors that attract you. Maybe the shapes remind you of something good. Or maybe it’s the quality of the packaging. Perchance, it could even be the scent, or the taste, or the texture that sticks to your memory.

Why does it happen?

The answer to that question is more than just a professional marketer’s opinion…

It all comes boiling down back to science. When you understand the psychological theory behind the human senses, you’ll realize why marketers are turning to the appeal of the senses, and why your attachment to a particular brand is more than just preference.

Harvard Business Review provides an in-depth explanation of the fascinating phenomenon, but here’s the gist of it:

New research centers on “embodied cognition.” This means our bodily sensations help us determine the decisions we make. Marketing researchers are beginning to realize how powerful the responses to unconscious stimuli can be.

This has led to researchers asking questions like Why does wine taste better in a wine glass than in a water glass? Why does a piece of the cake look better when a fork is stabbing into it? Why do you suddenly crave hamburgers when an ad shows and amplifies the sound of a burger patty cooking at the grill?

Researchers like Krishna realized that the senses amplify one another when they are congruent in some way.

Emily Cummins of study.com illustrates this point well:

“Our body might influence our thinking. In other words, our thinking does not simply come from the brain — the way that we experience the physical world through our bodies shapes our thinking. The environment is really important here. The way we move our body, how we’re standing, or what we’re touching or holding can influence the way that we think about or evaluate a situation.”

Pleasing visuals indeed attract followers, and an aesthetic Instagram feed will have your audience keep coming back for more, but employing the use of multiple sensory experiences ensures a better connection with your consumers.

Read Also: 27 Actionable Content Marketing Tips For 2018

Appealing to your audience

Each of our five senses plays a key role in selling the experience to your loyal customers. Here, we’ll take a look at some brands that nailed sensory marketing in their campaigns.

#1 Taste

Unless you’re running a restaurant or marketing drinks, this is the sense that social media marketers are least likely to influence. Nevertheless, companies like KFC, McDonald’s, and Burger King still invest in social media campaigns.

One way that food and drink industries have incorporated this, is through the creation of new and interesting flavors. They tickle our curiosity, compelling us to try whatever it is out.

Take Lays’ #DoUsAFlavor campaign for instance. Consumers loved it! People from all over America participated, resulting in either mind-blowing or downright nasty flavors. The takeaway for food and drink companies here is to create campaigns that will encourage your customers to take part.

But there is a way to influence your customers with taste even if you aren’t a food-and-drink company. Say, for example, you run a business where you sell Asian-wood furniture. As a part of your PR strategy, you can organize an event where you offer a taste of Asian food and drink.

The reasoning behind this is that our sense of taste can influence our memories, emotions, and moods. A resourceful marketing team will find a way to twist that to their advantage.

#2 Smell

Like every other trend escalating in the marketing department, science is the reason behind the emergence of scent marketing. According to the Sense of Smell Institute in New York, the average human is capable of recognizing approximately 10,000 different odors. They recall them with 65% accuracy after a year of exposure.

So it looks like scent is the next best thing alongside the sense of taste. Think about it. The particular aroma of freshly brewed coffee wraps around you when you walk inside Starbucks. The rich sweet smell of Cinnabon wafts towards you when you enter Cinnabon. The smell of freshly cooked steak causes your mouth to water unexpectedly.

Brands like Lush center their marketing campaigns around the sense of smell. Their specialized boutiques have a unique collection of scents. You simply cannot leave the store without a new bar of soap.

Scents promote behavior. Just as a pleasant scent draws your customers in; likewise, a nasty odor will drive them away.

Imagine promoting clothing on Instagram. The visuals draw your followers in, but upon walking into the actual physical store, the smell of strong bleach and drying paint assaults their noses. They’ll come in and purchase something, but they’ll also walk out with your horrible store smell ingrained in their memories.

#3 Touch

Touch is another emerging powerhouse sense when it comes to marketing. Touch influences our behavior and our decisions as well.

Jeremy Hsu at Live Science has this to say: “Such tactile sensations may encourage thoughts of abstract concepts connected to touch-related metaphors, and could affect how people haggle over the price of a new car or negotiate high-stakes diplomacy.”

Soft surfaces, for example, conjure the impression of tender and gentle emotions. Hence carpets and soft fabrics adorn a store that sells products for kids and babies. In contrast, hard surfaces evoke a sense of stability and firmness and make great surfaces for corporate offices or banks.

When you start presenting your brand to your social media followers in the real world, consider your brand’s packaging and how it will contribute to your consumers’ experience.

#4 Sound

You recognize that sound, don’t you?

Similar to other aspects of bodily sensation, you want your brand to be remembered for something. And this is one way of establishing your brand’s identity. On a more related note, however, how do you think does sound contribute to your customer’s experience?

When you enter a restaurant with low calming lighting, you can hear relaxing music from the speakers. Perhaps the best example of sound setting the mood, however, can be found in nightclubs. When the DJ starts pumping out electronic rave music, everybody starts dancing. As the music transitions into a slower tempo and softer mood, romance and sentimental emotions fill the atmosphere. Couples start wrapping their arms around each other, swaying to the music rhythmically.

But it’s not limited to in-store experiences. Because of technology, visuals and sounds can easily be marketed throughout the internet.

That’s why it’s important to choose your music carefully in every multimedia campaign. You can also try adding appropriate music to accompany still images of your brand. You’ll be amazed at the emotions it can invoke.

#5 Sight

Sight: the easiest sense to stimulate anywhere. It affects brand experience and perception the most. This is because we see it first before our other senses start getting involved.

Posts that include images produce 650% higher engagement than text-only posts. So it’s not a surprise why brands invest so much in producing appealing and stimulating visual content. For this reason, most brands turn to the power of YouTube and Instagram. This is why having an aesthetically pleasing Instagram feed is essential if you’re looking to attract people.

What colors should we use? From which angle do I approach this photo? What’s the best picture composition to use for this campaign? Will this please my customers’ eyes? Is this appropriate? Is this offensive?

Many things need to be considered because it is what primarily drives your audience to check out your brand.

But there’s more to visual marketing than just stimulating the audience with pictures and videos. The perfect example of a brand that manages to appeal to its customers five senses through visuals is McDonald’s.

These 3 sample commercials will speak for themselves:


Every time McDonald’s releases a commercial involving a new item on the menu, they make use of extreme close-up shots. They focus on how the food is being made. They employ ASMR-worthy audio, and they highlight food textures. Their models’ actions give their audiences an impression of what the new food smells and feels like.

Viewing their commercials even once creates an impression among the viewers. For some, seeing the new menu item advertised on traditional mass media inspires cravings. For others, it says, “Hey, there’s a new McDonald’s item. You might want to check it out.”

And do McDonald’s consumers immediately jump into the fray and head for the nearest McDonalds? Well, seeing as how McDonald’s is still around, we can assume that it does.

Now that’s visual marketing…

Brands that nailed sensory marketing campaigns

The following are success stories of brands that made use of sensory marketing to attract customers and keep loyal ones.

Dunkin Donuts

South Korea: Commuters suddenly had strange cravings for fresh coffee and doughnuts. The doughnut chain had a machine-made that would serve up spritzes of coffee aroma while the Dunkin Donut jingle played. The spray was called “Flavor Radio,” and it was dispensed through devices that looked like air-fresheners.

The campaign was a huge success — with sales increasing by 30% during the promotion.

Haagen Dazs

Upon the emergence of virtual and augmented reality technology, Haagen Dazs found a way to engage its consumers through sound marketing. They developed an augmented reality app that allows customers to listen and watch a violin concerto while waiting for the ice cream to defrost.

There were even customer feedbacks that reported on ice cream tasting better after the musical serenade.

Marriott Hotels

The Marriott is known for having hotels all over the world. And the hotel’s public relations and marketing team came up with the idea of showing its clients the sights and wonders of the world.

Marriott Hotels used virtual reality headsets that allowed their customers to experience being digitally transported to vacation destinations that Marriott had a presence in. This allowed clients to see popular spots and experience smells and sounds that were associated with the area.

The experience is aimed at helping customers decide on their next destination, and to remember the Marriott as their service provider.

The takeaway

Researches conducted for years further confirmed that our senses hold sway over our buying behaviors and decisions. Some senses are more effective at marketing a particular product more than others. How you utilize your sensory marketing determines how your customers will respond in kind.

It’s one thing to earn your customers’ loyalty, and it’s another to convert them into brand advocates that will spread your brand’s word wherever they go.

  • Engage your customers in social media.
  • Interact with them and get them involved.
  • Create a campaign that will appeal to their five senses.
  • Give them the experience of a lifetime.

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