Have you ever walked down a sidewalk and suddenly caught an enticing whiff of a burger? If so, did it cause you to walk into the restaurant and buy a burger? And — most importantly — did it occur to you that this is exactly what the burger restaurant was hoping would happen?
Our senses are incredibly important when it comes to decision-making. From burger chains venting scents to the sidewalk to restaurants perfecting mood lighting, marketers have always been keenly aware of how important appealing to all the senses really is. Here’s how to bring out the best your product or brand has to offer.
Be a sensory marketing maestro. As you can imagine, different senses play different roles in different categories. When storytelling on behalf of a brand, the more senses you can engage, the better off you are. For example, think of your favorite restaurant. Yes, you can imagine the smell — but have you ever stopped to consider how it sounds? Or how it’s lit? There is a perfect balance of the senses restaurant operators strive for. (And if you haven’t thought about it, that probably means they did it right.) It’s like conducting an orchestra of sight, sound, smell, and feel. If any of these are off, it can change the experience in major, irrevocable ways.
Now, go back to that mental picture of your favorite restaurant. It still smells the same — but now add harsh, fluorescent overhead lighting to the scene. Imagine how your food and dining guests appear. Different, right? Would you go back again? Enough said.
Deliver on the details. That’s where the difference between an experience and a great experience lies. Because there are very few categories or segments that are truly competition-free, you will always be compared to someone else. Every detail can help or hurt you. Take, for example, how one Parisian hotel group positions its small boutique offerings. Their hotels are literally artists’ interpretations of historical Parisian figures, manifested in the fabrics, scents, colors, and sounds that create the experience in these luxury hotels.
Be scent-savvy. They say smell is the most powerful sense and has the deepest memory. So when you consider the natural state of products, there are plenty you’ll want to “enhance” or mask with packaging, soundproofing, or perfume. Think of Las Vegas — almost every new or high-end casino has its own signature scent (presumably to combat the smell of smoke). Yes, some smells may be off-putting to a small portion of the population, but by choosing and highlighting one, that smell becomes incorporated into the brand identity — and the audience’s memory. Also in the vein of selective smells, be sure to check your outdoor sewer vents before you consider outdoor seating at your restaurant. Nothing says “appetite killer” like the scent of a sewer.
Consider your industry. The sense to leverage can depend on your industry and, more importantly, your targets’ state of mind while engaging with your product or brand.
For some, it’s safety. Mercedes has kept drivers inside the lines for years with a vibration alert that lets them know when they are fading over the dividing lines. Likewise, Volvo has a red light indicator to let drivers know when another vehicle has entered their blind spot. Or take the movie industry: imagine watching your favorite action film in a theater — without surround sound. Not good.
So, the next time that great burger smell hits you on the sidewalk, think about the sense factor. How can you use it to shed light (but not the fluorescent kind) on your brand or product by appealing to your audience’s senses? Be deliberate about all the senses activated during engagement — it should be a priority.
By Doug Austin
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