What is sensory marketing? How to practice the art of appealing to all 5 senses

by | Jun 20, 2022 | Marketing, Public Relations

Today’s technology means that marketing is more advanced than ever. Traditional tried-and-tested strategies like billboard ads or radio jingles aren’t enough. Brands need to activate all five senses to be noticed by consumers and potential clients.

This one-stop guide will explain the benefits of sensory marketing and how it can work for a range of businesses, with a focus on retail and PR.

What is sensory marketing?

Most marketing campaigns are visual or audio-visual. These two senses cover image-and-text content (digital and paper ads, flyers, marketing emails) and video content with-or-without sound. But humans have five senses—where are the other three?

Innovations in sensory marketing encourage advertisers and PR specialists to use scent, taste, and touch in their campaigns alongside audiovisual elements. Marketing supports sales through advertising and works closely with PR departments to build the brand’s image.

Senses in advertising

Like we said, the majority of adverts are visual. Text, images, and video rely on sight to market the product and the wider brand. Television adverts or video content on social media often include music, dialogue, and sound effects to add depth to the narrative of an advert, which is more effective for sales.

Even if consumers can’t literally smell or taste an advert, text and images can describe the sensation. Think of a Burger King’s ad—there will be a huge high-quality photo of the burger, then words like ‘mouth-watering’, ‘spicy’, and ‘flame-grilled’ to convey the taste and smell.

What is sensory marketing? How to practice the art of appealing to all 5 senses

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This is just one example of how sensory marketing can include literal sights/sounds/smells, but also language that appeals to those other senses.

In-store experience

The other big opportunity for sensory marketing is the in-person customer experience. This can be a retail store, a food service establishment, or any other face-to-face business space such as a bank or estate agent.

You’ll want to encourage clients and customers to make sales in a way that aligns with the wider brand identity. In-person experiences are also the easiest setting for the senses that don’t translate as strongly to digital media: smell, taste, and touch.

How can sensory marketing boost your business?

A 2019 study by Mood Media showed that, across the board, sensory marketing improves sales. This research on in-store retail customer experience concluded that people who spent longer shopping, bought higher-priced items and became more emotionally invested in the products they were browsing.

What is sensory marketing? How to practice the art of appealing to all 5 senses

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Brand awareness

A logo, whether it’s a free logo or made by a logo maker, is a visual token that immediately makes someone think of your business. Logos like the McDonald’s golden ‘M’ are recognizable around the globe and by people of all ages. Now, imagine if you also had the four other senses to boost your brand recognition.

A logo, a font, an audio jingle, and a signature smell (again, think McDonald’s) work together to build an unmistakable brand identity. Each sensory touchpoint for brand awareness keeps your company memorable to consumers.

Prompt customer responses

The link between sensory stimuli and emotions is tied to psychology. High-quality sensory marketing will be designed to trigger specific feelings and actions that boost sales. For example, the background music in a restaurant can influence which dishes people order.

So when planning a sensory marketing strategy, think about it in terms of what response you want.

Appealing to all 5 senses

Now that you know the kinds of benefits that sensory marketing can offer, let’s get into some strategies that appeal to each of the senses!

What is sensory marketing? How to practice the art of appealing to all 5 senses

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1. Sight

Our eyes interpret a wide range of stimuli such as images, text, video, and color. There are already hundreds of marketing strategies out there that use these elements: television advertising, press releases, and even email campaigns all rely on visuals.

The most successful of these marketing campaigns create a cohesive visual identity for the brand. A good tip is to establish a signature font set and color scheme to use in all image-text assets. For example, a business presentation created with visual pitch maker software.

2. Smell

Research studies have found that olfactory memories (memories associated with scents) are some of the strongest in the human mind. Therefore sensory marketing that uses smell has the potential to make a lasting impression on a consumer.

The most obvious use of smell in customer experience might be in food and perfume/beauty businesses, but it is not limited to just these. A clean, neutral scent like white musk promotes focus and a calm environment—which would be well-suited to a bank or office space.

What is sensory marketing? How to practice the art of appealing to all 5 senses

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3. Touch

The digital landscape has completely changed how we think about touch. It used to mean physical tactile experiences like holding a product in our hands. But now with smartphones and tablets, touchscreens provide the opportunity for a much wider range of interactions.

Your company’s website will get a lot of visitors through these devices, so build a website that responds to touch in satisfying, user-friendly ways. Mobile touch is far more dynamic than clicking on a desktop so incorporate that into your design.

Make sure to test that any websites or apps with touch-activated features are secure and bug-free. Meltdown and spectre testing early on in the development process will mean far fewer troubles further down the line.

What is sensory marketing? How to practice the art of appealing to all 5 senses

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4. Taste

If your business is to do with food or drink in any way, then taste is key. Taste is strongly intertwined with smell. It is extremely difficult to have one without the other. Make sure that they complement each other in a pleasant way, as any mismatch can be jarring.

You should also be considering taste if your business works with beauty or skin products, as these may come in contact with the mouth.

5. Sound

Low-quality sound is super frustrating. Like when you make a conference call with a bad connection and everyone just sounds like lagging robots? Yeah, you don’t want that. On the flip side, well-thought-out high-quality sound can be a complete gamechanger when it comes to marketing.

Advertising jingles can be even more memorable than the visuals. They’re catchy and specially designed to stick in your head. Whether you love them or hate them, you can’t deny that they make an impact.

A relatively new route in audio marketing is podcasts. They offer a unique opportunity for behind-the-scenes content about your company, and interviews with industry professionals.

What is sensory marketing? How to practice the art of appealing to all 5 senses

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Closing notes

Sensory marketing is an innovative strategy with the potential to revolutionize in-store customer experiences. No matter your business, there is a way to make sensory experiences work for you.

Please share this article with other professionals and entrepreneurs if you found it useful!

Gerard D'Onofrio
Gerard D’Onofrio is the Country Manager for Dialpad Australia, an AI-equipped business communications solutions platform for better communications at work. Gerard is experienced in discovering world-class developments and turning them into effective business advancements, wherever he goes. Here is his LinkedIn.