Branding and marketing to all five senses

Think of “sensory branding” for health and healthy lifestyle brands.

Sensory branding leverages all five senses to make deeper connections with consumers by baking sight, sound, smell, taste and touch into the brand experience. These elements add texture to help create authentic, distinctive, compelling and enduring brand stories that create competitive edge.

It’s based on studies that link the five senses with human memory and emotion, and can greatly enhance one’s engagement with a brand (both offline and online). It also increases the likelihood of advocacy, and very possibly, stronger business results. In a rational world of business, connecting at an emotional level is the key, and often missing ingredient, to capturing hearts and building lasting connections.

All marketers can benefit from “sense-surround” branding and marketing. Almost anything you design, manufacture, provide or do; anything that customers can see, hear, touch, taste or smell are candidates. Consider these examples:

• sight, e.g. the emotional associations of Tiffany’s blue box, J&J’s Baby Shampoo bottle and the “Apple.”
• sound, e.g. the startup tones that distinguish Microsoft and Apple computers, the distinctive sound of a Harley engine and the crunch of a Nestle Crunch Bar.
• smell, e.g. Ben Gay’s unique love it or hate it smell, the scented towels fliers receive on Singapore Airlines and the scent of an Abercrombie & Fitch store (replicated in their mail-order product).
• taste, e.g. the distinctiveness of Starbucks, Dr. Pepper and the refreshingly fizzy Orangina.
• touch, e.g. the unique and one and only shape of the Coke bottle, the feel of an iPod and Simplehuman’s household “tools for efficient living.”

And how about delivering sensory experiences online. While it may not be possible to physically evoke the senses, you can appeal in a virtual way. Consider:

• sight, e.g. Tiffany’s home page (flooded with its blue box).
• sound, e.g. BMW’s 7-Series HD experience, and the incredible streaming video and audio documentaries on factualtv.com.
• smell, e.g. though virtual, you can almost smell Lush’s products on their site.
• taste, e.g. while you can’t drink a screensaver, it’s as good as it gets with this Sam Adams download.
• touch, not in the physical sense, but through the ability to provide feedback, contribute content, play games.

To succeed with a sensory strategy:

• beyond demographics, build lifestyle profiles of your customer segments
• understand the core equity of your brand
• identify its true “sense-surround” potential
• align this opportunity with customers desired emotions and feelings
• identify the messages you want to send
• determine the channels and the tools you plan to use and the senses you intend to tap into, with each element of your brand integral to the eventual show

Given the bombardment of 2-D advertising into every corner of our lives, it’s effectiveness and return on marketing expenditure sliding – the ability to connect in more emotive and memorable ways holds great meaning for consumers and marketers. Particularly in this economic environment, any emotional edge that you can provide is important – and lasting.