The 6th Sense of Marketing

Published On: March 16th, 20213 min read

We live in a time where we’re inundated with advertisements and brand messages throughout our day. From those social ads that seem to have heard that you’re in the market for an air purifier to those pesky banners that follow you around to every website you visit. As marketers, we need to go beyond our traditional views on advertising and find ways to craft meaningful connections with our customers. Sensory marketing is one key to unlocking the potential for these meaningful connections.

Our 5 senses are the core of how we experience and interpret the world around us, including the brands we interact with. Think about the unmistakable smell of a Subway restaurant–reminding you of the fluffy fresh bread. If you’ve ever used Listerine, recall the sting as you swish it around — the sting that makes you confident it’s working. These sensory connections to brands are subtle techniques that customers don’t think of as marketing, which is why they’re so impactful.

When looking at the 5 senses, Aradhna Krishna, Director of the Sensory Marketing Laboratory at the University of Michigan, suggests targeting multiple senses in order to amplify the experience and increase brand recall for customers.

1. Sight

Great effort and spending are placed on sight for leading marketing efforts. With the advent of the first registered logo in 1876, all the way to today’s social feeds bursting with brands’ eye-catching daily content creation, customers are quick to identify memorable brands. But visuals alone are not enough to form a strong connection with customers.

2. Sound

“The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup.” Can you even say those words without singing them? Spokespeople, jingles, and sound effects are incredibly powerful means of lighting up the brain and forming a memorable connection with consumers.

3. Smell

Our sense of smell is truly powerful in that it affects the limbic system, which impacts mood (fear, pleasure, anger) and memory. Whether you’re creating a signature scent (PLAY-DOH) or creating an atmosphere (Anthropologie), brands that are able to leverage this sense will be able to connect deeply with customers.

4. Touch

Touch was typically reserved for the offline space where customers could feel a product. Now with digital experiences like Visa’s haptic cue, a tactile sensation like a vibration that can represent a visual animation, we are seeing a shift in how we can engage with a customer’s sense of touch online.

5. Taste

Taste is an experience that requires a heavy offline approach, which makes it a more challenging sense to market to. Food, drink, and hospitality brands like JW Marriott have the upper hand with the ability to provide samples and edible gifts.

Sensory marketing is not a new idea, but what if brands could connect beyond the known senses to reach their audiences on a personal level?

6. The Whole Person

Understanding the behavior of customers through data-gathering tools such as social listening, sentiment analysis, and emotion targeting can connect with a person on a deeper level. This behavioral data gathering can then be executed in the form of personalization. There is a spectrum of tactics that utilize personalization, from using a customer’s name in a digital ad, to tailoring content specific to an understanding of a customer’s interests, to creating personalized communications like intelligent virtual assistants (LivePerson).

When personalization is mixed with any of the 5 senses, there is potential to increase brand recall, develop brand loyalty, and ultimately provide greater revenue.

If you want to make a true connection with your customers, let’s talk.

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