Designing Multi-Sensory Experiences for Your Brand Activation | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

Designing Multi-Sensory Experiences for Your Brand Activation

By Ray Sheehan

Sights and sounds have always been part of branding and marketing. However, modern brand activations need to include a multi-sensory experience for customers and potential customers. By using sensory marketing efforts, you can appeal to a wider range of customers and better influence purchase decisions and brand loyalty.

Using senses within marketing can be a powerful way to engage with people and endear them to your brand. Think about companies like Disney, which use sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch at their parks to create lifelong memories for their visitors.

Using multi-sensory marketing often creates a full experience for customers — one that they do not feel is shoved in their faces, but instead designed just for them. Their fond memories, purchase decisions, likes, and dislikes are tied to those experiences and the senses they use to experience them.

Creating a Customer Journey

Marketers need to create a customer journey through activation of the five senses. Marketing professionals must decide what they want to happen with their customers throughout the process of brand activation. What are they trying to achieve and what is their main objective? What senses speak to those objectives? Whether a marketer is trying to improve their brand reputation or bring a customer through their sales funnel, activating all five senses in a multi-sensory brand activation experience can be an effective way to reach those objectives.

The five phases:

Marketers should break down each of the five senses and figure out how to integrate their brand into those senses — or integrate their senses into their brand. It helps to do a lot of research and determine what assets are needed, what sensory activities would best resonate with their target market, and how to use them in their marketing plan.

  • Sight: Sight has been used in marketing and brand activation since the dawn of modern advertising. Logos, commercials, print ads, colors, and mascots paint a visual picture of a certain brand. There are visual clues to brands that stick with us forever. Most people can visualize the Coca-Cola logo or Tony the Tiger, for example. Visual cues are crucial for purchase decisions and brand loyalty. For instance, 65 percent of people are apt to remember information if it is paired with an image. Images are also how you get people to share your brand online. If you want people to remember your brand, think visually!

  • Touch: Human beings are tactile by nature. Touch helps human beings figure out their surroundings from a very early age. It also drives purchases. The feel of sand between one's toes can make them plop down money on a vacation home, or the softness of a pair of pajamas can make consumers buy multiple pairs. Brands that may not feel that touch is an important part of their marketing may want to research the value of touch and think outside the box to offer opportunities for touch to influence their target market.

  • Taste: Taste is a significant part of multi-sensory and experiential marketing. How many of us are old enough to remember the "Cola Wars" of the 1980s, where Coke and Pepsi battled it out over whose formula was better tasting? It was all about taste.

    Your brand doesn't need to be a food or beverage to use taste in a multi-sensory marketing experience. Brands that want to entice customers during the holidays can integrate a holiday-themed drink or snack into a campaign. IKEA is one non-food brand that uses taste inventively with their famous meatballs — the smell of which wafts through the store, drawing people through each floor and to the restaurant once they're hungry.

  • Smell: This brings us to smell. Smell can be very persuasive — or a deterrent — so it can be important to choose the right smells to unleash upon your customer base. One good example of smell used in marketing is Abercrombie & Fitch, whose unforgettable scent permeates everything in their stores.

    Smell creates an atmosphere, a brand vibe, and makes places inviting. Different scents can evoke different responses, such as lavender for calmness or savory scents that can induce hunger. Smell can be an effective part of multi-sensory brand activation, as long as it is not overdone.

  • Sound: Sound can drive group reactions or bring about fond memories for people. The canned laughter in sitcoms is a type of marketing that uses sound. When you hear the laughter of others, it can sometimes cause a chain reaction that leads you to laugh. Music is a significant part of brand activation. If you choose the right music to go with your branding, it can become ingrained in people's minds — or even part of the world zeitgeist ("I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing," anyone?)

By integrating multi-sensory marketing approaches, you can allow customers to fully engage with your brand and products or services. Human beings automatically use their available senses when they interact with people, places, or things. Taking advantage of your market's natural inclination to use their senses can help solidify your brand in their minds.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Ray Sheehan is founder of Old City Media.