Five Senses and the Bazaar

  6 min 15 sec to read
Five Senses and the Bazaar

--By Saurav Satyal  

While walking in a food court, one’s senses are filled with the sights and sounds of sausages sizzling on the grill, with the smell herbs and spices filling the air with mouth watering flavours.

To the right is a mannequin dressed as a chef advertising fresh sausages, the smell of freshly cooked sausages.

Looking down, footprints guide you to the back of the stall where a salesperson dressed as a chef offers test samples at a counter.

A rack full of sausages is placed next to the counter. What are the odds that the sausages will sell a lot?

It is evident that 70 per cent of marketing communication or, more commonly, advertising is visual and is considered to be the most powerful tool. Traditional marketing also focuses on this area and spends a majority of its budget on visual marketing communication. 

Sensory marketing states that all five senses, sight, sound, touch, smell and taste should be used for marketing purposes.

Smell affects the emotional section of the brain called the amygdala. Because of this, smell can be recalled as far back as childhood and can put customers in a good mood. Businesses use scents in marketing through ventilation systems, scratch stickers, mail and concerts, streets, sports grounds in public areas etc.

Sight is a fundamental part of all the senses. Through sight you are able to actually see the product. Sight is the most used sense in marketing of logos, corporate colours, characters and other graphical tools. 

Individuals tend to remember visual products better because products tend to sharpen their sensory experience so that they can be identified better when seen again - having a specific colour scheme and arrangement such as the logos of Apple, Facebook and Pepsi,  to name a few.

Taste is used by businesses such as food and beverage companies to distinguish against other related companies. Taste is normally distinguished as sweet, salty, sour, tangy etc, contributing to the formation of the product. 

Sound Schemas cognitive frameworks that organize and interpret information are heavily influenced by sound which could be built by product description, message and data. Sounds linked to brand images produce more effective encoding and recall. Music can have a large influence on consumers by setting a mood, involving a particular brand’s perception, being a distraction. Slow music could lead to more time spent at businesses; a fast tempo could make customers make random purchases, spend more money and less time at business.  

Touch Factors such as temperature trigger tactile warmth on consumer’s perceptions by helping them discern metaphorical warmth in others and more trust and vulnerability to sales transactions.

The weight of a product influences the consumer’s opinion of the product’s quality, durability and reliability. Softness and hardness of a certain product leads to pleasant sensory feedback, impacting the consumer’s decision.

Physically holding objects increases the sense of ownership within a consumer and is also the quickest way to learn about a product.

“By using these stimuli organizations are towards making a stronger brand employing scent, sound and texture thereby building stronger emotional connections with the customer and driving preference for their brand,” says Aradhna Krishna, a pioneer in sensory marketing.

The need for applying sensory identity system has emerged as companies are facing diminishing returns from product or service features alone; visual advert spending has increased but the rate of return has not and the most powerful and persuasive method of communication has been non-verbal.

The impact of sensory marketing has gained importance as visual systems by themselves have limitations. New studies in psychology reveal conclusive ties between non-visual sensory stimuli and human behaviour. Many companies have also realized that they have been using the variables independently. With the right mix and usage of sensory branding using analytical techniques stronger brand preferences could be met.

Sensory branding can harness a range of stimuli such as scent, sound and texture in a systematic fashion to help organizations forge stronger emotional connections with their customers. An example of a company that masters these skills is Singapore Airlines, tailoring the effect of the scent on its hot towels to the impressions created by the quality of the in-flight video and by the flight attendants’ uniform pattern.

Such a cohesive sensory system builds an overall brand signature that embraces multiple sensory elements that customers will encounter at the same time or in a series of linked experiences. Surprising research data revealed that people might react to a smell adversely but when mixed with other sounds and smells react favourably.

Some Facts and Stats 
• 95% of human communication is unconscious, and 80% is non-verbal
• Vanilla is universally perceived as nurturing while leather, wood and wool are thought of as traditional
• The colour white is typically considered pure while blue is the most common favourite colour
• Large-amplitude modulation in music typically is associated with happiness, activity and surprise
• Women typically think of premium fabrics as fine and light (silk) while men think of them as fine and heavy (wool)

Marketers such as Samsung electronics, Hyatt Hotels and Singapore Airlines are starting to develop their own version of a comprehensive sensory identity system.

Based on the research and pattern of companies four fundamental steps are necessary to implement a sensory identity system.
1. Identify the required brand positioning
2. Design the right sensory identity elements
3. Test the sensory elements
4. Optimize across the critical touch points

The beginning of the process starts with an evaluation of the market and market position of the company, its goals and objectives and competitors in order to identify the gap and craft a positioning and a set of image attributes. The step could be qualitative or quantitative or a combination of the approaches.

The implementation of sensory strategy would involve the use of musical, olfactory, visual and haptic cues into the brand design and/or the retailing atmosphere.

However, from the environmental and social point of view, the existing laws and regulations ought to be taken into account while implementing such a solution.

With the growing competitive environment and expectations of customers force the companies to constantly innovate and search for new value creation methods and tools. The principles and models of traditional marketing have become insufficient.

It should be kept in consideration that some combination of cues might damage the evaluation of the products or the environment for e.g. when the arousal properties do not match, or do not affect the purchase decision.

All in all, the senses influence our emotions and decision-making. Touch, smell, taste, sound and the look of a product all play an important role in our perceptions, attitudes and consumption of a product. Understanding those roles provides a valuable advantage in today’s marketplace.

Therefore before applying sensory marketing, the pretest should always be conducted.

The writer teaches Marketing and Consumer Behaviour at King's College.

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