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September 22, 2007

FEEL FACTOR: Tapping into the sensory experience

How many times have you walked past a bakery and found yourself being tempted in by the smell of fresh bread emanating from within? Or, if you’ve bought a house recently, how many times did you walk through someone’s front door to be greeted by the smell of freshly brewed coffee? And, surely, everyone must have experienced the sensation of a song or sound that takes you back to happier times?

“We experience the world in five major senses, so why do marketers focus almost exclusively on just sight?” asks Julian Treasure of The Sound Agency.



The wise marketer appeals to all the
senses, not just the visual


The answer doubtless lies in the limited range of senses that traditional advertising can use. With the exception of radio, traditional media is very much focused on the visual, even TV advertising is predominantly about making visual impact. Indeed, companies spend millions on how they look and tend to gloss over the other senses.

Can't see the wood for the trees

A few years ago live events were about taking your above-the-line visuals and plastering them – 10ft tall – all over your stand. Indeed, there is still probably an over emphasis on key visuals. And you can understand companies’ mindsets: they’ve spent £xm creating visual idents, and many are undeniably strong images, so they want to use them as much as possible to trigger brand recognition for their own return on investment.

While there is certainly a role for integration with above the line, a lot of experiential companies miss the trick that this is a very different media, and needs to be thought of separately. While above the line is about audio/visual, a live environment means you can use the other sense, and so you should. You still need to incorporate key visual images, but that is probably only 20% of your creative strategy. The live environment offers brands the ability to communicate on all levels, so the other senses can be used to underpin that and strengthen the bond with your brand.

“Experiential marketing is all about creating the right environment to engage people with, and ultimately to sell, your products,” says Nick Adam, managing director of brand experience agency Sense. “The key objective of any brand experience project is to create something memorable with an impact, and using a multi-sensory approach allows you to forge a deeper an more lasting consumer engagement. More and more brands are trying to harness these techniques.”

Sound business sense

And it’s not just heresay and marketing hype. “Research conducted by Ronald Milliman in his book The Effects of Background Music Upon the Shopping Behavior of Supermarket Patrons, showed that the right sounds can increase sales in shops by up to 38%,” quotes Treasure. “The soundscape we created for BAA and tested in Glasgow airport relaxed people in that stressful location and as a result retail sales rose by 3-10%. You can design for the other senses just as you design for the eyes. Scent and sound in particular have huge potential.”

The Sound Agency has defined eight expressions of BrandSound, from brand voice to sonic logos, and most companies can usefully consider most of them. “The ones that are typically least considered are soundscapes (in physical spaces like shops and offices) and telephone sound,” continues Treasure. “Currently, we are the only people in the world at present designing soundscapes for commercial spaces, but in a few years this will be common practice.”

Adams points to two multi-sensory projects Sense ran to demonstrate the power of multi-sensory techniques. “We did a campaign to relaunch Diet Tango, following the brief of 'You need it cos you’re weak', which was aimed at the credit/debit lifestyle," he says. "We used roadshow vehicles that were essentially burger and kebab vans with special pumps to push out the smell of freshly fried bacon across a wide area, and this had a dramatic effect in drawing people in.

“The second campaign was for Allinson Bread. This was a sampling campaign where we pumped out smell of freshly baked bread to increase the taste sensation. We then tested our campaign against usual instores and sampling for the brand, and found that, in terms of the messages that consumer retained and could recall and their purchase behaviour after the activity, it was certainly much more successful with a multi-sensory approach.”

The smell of things to come

Adams explains that a core part of creative of both these campaigns was smell to draw consumers in. “The whole creative process revolves around appealing to the five sense,” he adds. “This is not to say that we slavishly look at every brief and ask is there something to smell, touch or hear, but knowing senses are very important we ask ourselves if we are doing enough to tap into the power of these senses. This is something that is growing and is unique to experiential activity.”

Of course, despite the fact that so-called sensory marketing is a powerful tool, marketers and agencies need to make sure they are not using innovation for sake of it. If suddenly every campaign starts smelling or sounding differently, the chances are the technique will lose its impact as we walk around in sensory overload. In short, it must be used in the right situation or the consumer will become immune. But the fact remains, if you're not considering the multi-sensory opportunities of any live brand activity, you really are missing a trick.

Further Reading: BRANDsense by Martin Lindstrom; Sound Business by Julian Treasure

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