We’re all used to the concept of visual branding; getting the logo, company colours and font to connect with the customer, creating a cohesive style for stores and offices. But for some time now, this is being enhanced, and in some ways superseded by sensory branding.
Consider walking into any branch of Hollister. The stores have a very strong identity whether you’re shopping in Dubai or Glasgow – the same beach hut exterior, dim lighting, evocative scent, music and, of course, the same Californian inspired clothing.
Enveloping the senses in this way evokes a feeling, a sense of belonging, which Hollister customers enjoy and return time and again for. Of course, the experience is not to everyone’s taste – and that’s equally important. Hollister customers are teenagers and young adults who are economically able to enjoy the brand’s image.
Anyone outside that niche probably finds the store’s signature scent overpowering, the dim lighting irritating, and might question the price and individuality of the clothes themselves. But they aren’t the target market. Similarly, the hushed tones, subtle music and delicate scents used by upmarket hotel chains are probably an anathema to the majority of young people, but they aren’t the hotel’s target market. Their target group are business people and prosperous holidaymakers.
This maturation of sensory marketing has sped up over the last decade. A car manufacturer has worked on creating a certain sound when a door shuts. This sound has been developed to become synonymous with quality in the ears of its customers.
Retail units of global brands are carefully planned to place both auditory and aroma points to encourage purchases of certain items, usually items with a higher price tag. And at the very edge of technology there are very personalised sensory marketing techniques being trailed in the world’s bigger cities. Cameras can capture images of people walking towards a store and that data can be fed back to a computer. Images and sounds are selected to appeal to the customer profiled, and as they walk past the store their senses are engaged in the hope they’ll walk in and make a purchase.
Online things are getting just as interesting. Recently a marketing company encouraged visitors to a web site to take a sip of any brand of whisky while visiting different coloured ‘rooms’ on their site (where the promoted whisky brand was being prominently displayed at all times), and giving feedback on their experience. This helped the branding company see how colours and textures impacted on the visitor’s enjoyment of whisky generally, while the repeating of the name of the branded whiskey probably led to many visitors going out and trying it in real life.
All this is expensive, but it doesn’t mean the smaller business can’t harness some of the big company’s sensory marketing tricks. Again, it’s down to research. Find out how it’s being done by the bigger companies, and replicate it to your own budget. Sensory marketing is proven to work around the world; it taps into deep parts of the human brain, working on an almost subliminal level. Done well, a little Dubai company can use sensory marketing as effectively as the global brands.