How Sensorial Marketing Makes Better Brands

Intro

In today’s world, it’s impossible not to feel completely overwhelmed by digital stimuli. It presents a considerable challenge for marketers: how do you make your message stand out above the noise of constant digital chatter? 

Even though physical and digital channels are interconnected, the influence of sensory stimuli on consumer minds is often overlooked. Marketers have begun to address this gap by investing more of their resources into creating sensory experiences that move beyond a screen, increasing brand recall and customer perceptions.

Background

With digital fatigue among consumers rising daily, it’s getting harder to gain (and keep) people’s attention. Not only this, but time spent on smartphones has actually decreased over the past several years. According to Brandwatch, 12% of consumers surveyed reported that they were using social media less since 2020. (1)

This decrease in overall digital usage has forced marketers to take a more omnichannel marketing approach to their campaigns. Because today’s marketing environment is flooded with an overwhelming amount of information, there’s a much bigger chance that consumers miss singular messages. Incorporating sensory-engaging experiences into marketing campaigns adds more channels for messaging and increases the likelihood that you’ll reach your consumer while also increasing memorability.

Because most purchases occur after some time has passed after the initial marketing touchpoint, it’s critical to reinforce memory using physical and sensory-forward marketing tactics. According to Gary Witt, founder of the Marketing Psychology Group, “Often people remember pieces of your message but not necessarily the brand it’s associated with. The more memory traces you can create, the better.” The goal of these efforts is not to compete between digital and physical channels, but to integrate them for a holistic omnichannel marketing strategy.

Experienced marketers understand that a consumer’s shopping decisions are affected by more than just logical factors like price and product features. In fact, emotional impulses tend to primarily drive buying behavior. According to a study conducted by the Harvard Business School, approximately 95% of purchase decisions are made subconsciously (2). Since sensorial marketing tends to operate below the conscious awareness of consumers, it doesn’t face the same resistance from consumers as overt marketing.

Visual

In a study conducted by the University of Sevilla, researchers found that 90% of the information our brain processes is visual, so it’s no surprise that sight is the most effective sense when it comes to selling (3). Visually appealing first impressions are critical in provoking emotional responses in audiences. Marketing visuals, such as photos on social media, evokes sensory experiences more vividly than written text, engaging audience members by helping them envision themselves in that same experience.

Color

Regarding visual marketing strategy, no element has quite as much influence as color. Color choice can be highly influential in branding; there’s a reason why those “little blue boxes” all but scream at us that he went to Tiffany’s. Research has shown that color is the most recognizable brand attribute and sways the purchasing decisions of 85% of consumers (4). Another study reported that 62% to 90% of product assessments were subconsciously affected by color (5).

Because color significantly impacts consumer mood, marketers need to select colors that appeal to their target audience. They should also remember that different consumer demographics may react more positively to certain color choices than others.

Touch

Our sense of touch is the only one of the five senses that requires us to have direct contact with a subject in order to experience it. It also necessitates a mutual interaction—touching something means that something is also touching you. Because of its uniqueness, touch is fundamental to how humans process information. According to David Eagleman, a neuroscientist with Saapi, “We communicate and process far more information through touch than we’re aware of.”

Our sense of touch can be a driving force behind our purchase decisions. Numerous studies have revealed that simply touching a product can create a sense of ownership, boosting buyer confidence, and in some cases leading to unwanted purchases. (6)

This sense of touch can go beyond the direct subject we’re focused on. Incidental contact has been proven to affect how humans perceive certain items or people without directly touching them but touching something else. For example, studies have shown that warm touches, like holding a warm cup of coffee, can result in more positive evaluations of strangers, and physical warmth from a hand warmer can lead to increased cooperation in group activities.

Consumers can also have tactile experiences from touching print marketing materials, leading to a sense of ownership similar to handling the product itself. It’s another reason why opening packages and direct mail can affect how we perceive a product before using it. These printed media interactions become especially important when a product or service cannot be handled pre-purchase; they have the power to impact the customer’s valuation of your offering.

Print formats

Over 100 studies have confirmed that consumers have improved comprehension and memory when reading from print advertising materials as opposed to digital screens (even those consumers who are considered ‘digital natives’)(7). This gives marketers all the more reason to invest in print formats like boxes and catalogs when they’re trying to influence consumer decision-making. In a study conducted by the U.S. Postal Service, researchers found that physical advertisements elicited greater emotional reactions and engagement in brain areas associated with value and desire for products (8).

David Eagleman dug into this phenomenon further by conducting a study related to incidental touch. Consumers were presented with ads for various companies on three different mediums: high-quality coated paper, lower-quality uncoated paper, and online. Everything, except for the medium, remained the same for every ad. Ultimately, high-quality, coated paper was most effective for creating lasting knowledge and positive memories (9). Because of findings like these, companies are beginning to invest more in physical marketing materials.

Conclusion

In the current market landscape, it’s evident that relying solely on online marketing efforts can limit your company’s ability to reach its audience and put your brand at a disadvantage against competitors. To gain lasting market share, companies should invest time and resources into diversifying their marketing efforts across several channels. By integrating a combination of physical and digital marketing strategies, companies can effectively boost brand visibility and relevance. Engaging the physical senses of customers forges positive and memorable brand interactions, leading to experiences that cater to your audience’s behaviors and preferences.  

Sources:
  1. 2023 Digital Marketing Trends. Brandwatch.
  2. The Subconscious Mind of the Consumer (And How To Reach It). Harvard Business School.
  3. Sensory Marketing: The concept, its techniques and its application at the point of sale. ResearchGate.
  4. Sensory Marketing: The concept, its techniques and its application at the point of sale. ResearchGate.
  5. Impact of color on marketing. Emerald.
  6. The Effect of Mere Touch on Perceived Ownership. ResearchGate.
  7. Perceived Ownership and Touch. Sappi.
  8. 10 Reasons Why Catalogs Are a Marketing Powerhouse. USPS.
  9. How the Medium Shapes the Message. Sappi.
Alexandria Gillespie
November 16, 2023
Brand Messaging Advertising Branding