Start making sense in your branding!

Sensory marketing offers the potential to create the most binding form of engagement between brand and consumer.


In the realities of today’s marketplace, people are overloaded with so many options and conflicting information regarding just about everything. Products look the same and it’s difficult to identify the best choice. They become interchangeable commodities rather than powerful brands. Customers now are more confused, frustrated and skeptical on what to buy than before.


Since customers are surrounded with so many information and choices, they’re making purchase decisions based on how they feel. Those purchase decisions were likely influenced by subconscious cues built into the products. For example, when you are buying a car and do some test-driving, the car sales rep demonstrates the sound system or the engine power. And how can you forget about that new car smell? They are all carefully calibrated stimulations intended to inspire feelings of excitement to convince you to purchase the vehicle. This is sensory marketing, which provide a unique experience and an interactive way to win customer attention.


The five human senses play key roles in sensory marketing: touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste. The sensing organs associated with each sense send information to the brain to help you understand and perceive the world around you. Sensory offers the potential to create the most binding form of engagement between brand and consumer.


How to appeal to your customers’ senses.




It is the most important sense for making purchase decision since scent has quick effect on limbic cortex system, a part of brain in charge of controlling emotions and memory. It is very close to your emotions; in fact smelling scent accompanied with emotional experiences create memorable images in mind of customer.

Starbucks is very good in sensory branding using the sense of smell. Remember the coffee aroma the moment you enter any Starbucks coffee store? The vision of those baristas working with the coffee machine and the smell of brewed coffee are memorable moments generated by senses, and naturally stored in your memory. The company decided to return grinding coffee in its stores for the sole purpose of improving the coffee aroma. In fact, it is cheaper to ship the coffee pre-ground in sealed packages, but Starbucks chose to improve customer experience and loyalty.




It is very difficult to ignore sound and you simply cannot “turn off” even when sleeping. Some studies presented that when one listen to music and they find it pleasing, the body releases dopamine, which increases their mood to buying. Sound is emotionally direct and considered a powerful persuasion tool. This explains why the majority of retailers play music in-store.

Years ago, Nokia’s secret weapon in branding was its trademarked ringtone. Nokia was one of the largest mobile cellphone manufacturers. Can you imagine the millions of tunes that were played and heard? In fact, millions of times a day of branded sounds around the world. No wonder they become the top brand mobile category during that time. The reason why sound is very effective in branding, it is connected directly with your reactions. It can be used to help consumers feel a certain way toward your brand. The use of sound does not only shape experience, but it can also shape behavior.




Touch is a powerful sense, and it’s easy for most brands to capitalize on. Brands are distinguished through sense of touching, for example, heavy objects are perceived for high quality. To improve customer experience with your brand, customers should be able to touch, press, turn on and explore the products.

Apple stores are designed with a large part of the store dedicated to letting customers try out and learn about new product offerings. In short, they allow customers to test drive the products. Furthermore, all devices in the store are connected to the internet and they can touch and use any device for as long as they want. This help attracts attention more customers to purchase products.




Of all the five senses, vision has been perceived as being the most powerful among human senses. It is the most relied upon and often drives a first impression. It is also the most frequently used sensory – you use it all day every day, every second that you’re awake.

Color is a dominant feature of sight, and brands like Coca-Cola found ways to use color to promote brand recognition. The brand engages consumers’ sense of sight by making certain their products are merchandised together and are very visible, so that it is the only product that a consumer would consider to purchase in the soda section in many convenient stores.




Taste is probably the most difficult to implement in sensory marketing due to the varying degree of what tastes good per individual. But once it’s done right, you will champion the brand to the targeted audience. It is also important to note that taste can influence sight and vice versa. The taste of a food produces a mental image of what is being eaten. Similarly, the mere sight of a food can trigger the memory of how the food tastes like.

Colgate is a brand that is successful in using taste in sensory branding. The taste of Colgate toothpaste is outstanding, and that specific taste distinguished this brand and customers are able to find it even without visual or written symbol.



Justine Castellon is brand strategist, a marketer and a writer. She authors in-depth marketing guides for entrepreneurs and other existing brands. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn: @justcastellon


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