The rise of sensory marketing

Author: Redazione Date: 15 February '23 Category: Marketing & Communication
“Nothing is in the intellect that was not first in the senses.”

Sensory marketing and olfactory branding

Marketing has always been about connecting with customers and creating an experience that leaves a lasting impression. However, in recent years there has been a shift towards an entirely new approach.

Once, in advertising, the emphasis was solely on visual and auditory cues to attract customers. Advertisers used flashy images and catchy jingles to sell their products, but they realised that something was missing.

At the beginning of the 2000s, a new trend emerged in the marketing world, called sensory marketing, a technique that aims to engage the customer in a deeper way, harnessing the power of all five senses to create a memorable and emotional experience.

Later, they began to explore the world connected to the sense of smell and it turned out that this was particularly powerful, as it was strongly connected to the limbic system (our emotional brain, ed.), and therefore able to evoke strong memories and emotions. The sense of smell had remained unexplored and the experts realised that this could be a huge opportunity. Hence the birth of what we know today as olfactory branding.

Sensory marketing as an emotional connection

Sensory marketing is a technique that has become increasingly popular in a wide variety of sectors, starting with the luxury industry. This is because traditional forms of marketing, such as advertising and promotions on social channels, are becoming less effective in a world where consumers are bombarded with an overwhelming amount of messages. By appealing to emotions and memories, on the other hand, brands can create a deeper and more meaningful bond with people, establishing a real emotional connection. The objective of sensory marketing is to influence the buyer’s choices by evoking sensations and associations to influence their purchasing decisions. Unlike standard advertising, selling through sensory stimulation aims, in fact, to probe the subconscious part of the brain. In this way, brands are sure to leave a stronger impression on people.

Just think that, as consumers, we like to believe that we are autonomous in the choice of the purchases we make, but this could not be further from the truth. We are much less rational than we think, and our purchases are – almost – all subconscious decisions.

By using different sensory cues, such as sight, sound, smell, texture and taste, companies can thus create absolute and distinct experiences, which influence our subsequent actions towards them and, above all, remain imprinted in our mind and memory, consequently leading us to establish a strong bond with that specific brand.

The sense of smell in the service of marketing

Many prominent international brands now offer experiences using the form of sensory marketing that has gained most popularity in recent years: olfactory branding.

According to a study on neuromarketing conducted by Rockefeller University, our ability to remember sensory experiences is 1% for touch, 2% for hearing, 5% for sight, 15% for taste and as much as 35% for smell.

The olfactory sense, as already mentioned, has powerful effects on memory, mental states, mood, dreams, emotions and even consumer perceptions and behaviour.

The use of fragrances to create a distinctive brand identity that accurately reflects its values and is appealing to the target audience is becoming increasingly popular as a means of creating an indelible and meaningful sensory experience. Moreover, each fragrance is unique and difficult to imitate, thus offering an additional competitive advantage to companies that use this technique effectively.

An example of a brand successfully using olfactory marketing is Rolls Royce. Every time a customer brings his car into a dealership, the interior is perfumed with wood and leather fragrances that give it a ‘new’ smell. This evokes in the owner memories of when he bought the car, stimulating in him that ’emotional’ bond established with the brand.

Today, this form of marketing, as well as olfactory branding, are an integral part of many people’s strategies. Companies finally realise the power of engaging all the senses of customers and use this to generate from the experiences the likelihood of return and further loyalty.

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