Engage all five senses (and delight your customers) by creating sensory branding experiences. Get tips and ideas on how.
Sensory branding goes beyond merely emphasizing the visual aspects of a brand. Instead, brands who use this strategy strive to engage and captivate the senses of their target audience.
This approach aims to create a more profound and memorable brand experience. It can foster a stronger emotional connection with consumers. But, how can you implement this into your branding?
This article will start by defining sensory branding and discussing its pros and cons. Then, we’ll see how some of the most successful brands implement sensory branding into their strategy . . . and we’ll show how you can implement it into yours.
By the end, you’ll clearly understand sensory branding and how to implement it into your marketing strategy.
What Is Sensory Branding?
Sensory branding engages all five human senses—sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell—to create a multi-dimensional and immersive brand experience. By strategically activating sensory cues, companies evoke specific emotions, memories, and associations with their brand in the minds of consumers.
Sensory branding elevates a brand’s identity, fosters loyalty, and distinguishes it from the competition by leaving lasting impressions. Brands that master the art of engaging all five senses are better equipped to succeed in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Advantages of Sensory Branding
- Creates a unique and memorable identity: This makes it easier for customers to recognize the brand in various contexts.
- Has a powerful impact on brand loyalty: Customers are more likely to bond with the brand. This leads to repeat purchases, word-of-mouth recommendations, and positive online reviews.
- Creates a more profound emotional connection: Sensory branding triggers positive emotions and nostalgia in customers. This fosters a sense of familiarity and comfort with the brand.
Disadvantages of Sensory Branding
- Risk of sensory overload: While sensory branding aims to engage and captivate customers, you may overwhelm them with excessive sensory stimuli.
- Increased cost: Hiring a brand agency to create a solid visual identity for your brand can be expensive. Applying effective sensory branding strategies can require even more significant investment and resources.
How Does Sensory Branding Work?
Sensory branding strategically appeals to the five human senses to create a holistic and immersive brand experience.
Here’s how sensory branding works:
Sight is one of the most influential senses in branding. Companies design logos, color schemes, and visual elements that reflect their brand personality and values.
Consistent use of visuals helps customers recognize and recall the brand easily.
Audio branding includes jingles, sound logos, or even the tone of voice used in advertisements. Memorable and consistent audio cues can leave a lasting impression on customers in various contexts.
Taste and Smell
Texture and Touch
The tactile experience plays a significant role in physical products. Brands focus on the texture and feel of their products’ packaging and materials to create a positive sensory experience when customers interact with their items.
Sensory cues trigger emotions linked to memory and impact decisions. Brands aim to elicit positive emotions and nostalgic memories associated with their products or services, forging stronger emotional bonds with them.
Sensory branding often involves storytelling, where brands use sensory elements to convey their narrative and values. Stories help customers relate to the brand deeper and fosters brand loyalty.
Successful sensory branding relies on consistency. Brands ensure that sensory cues are integrated into all touchpoints and each marketing campaign.
This includes physical stores, social media platforms, advertising campaigns, or packaging, to reinforce their brand image and leave a lasting impression.
5 Examples of Sensory Branding
Let’s look at some real-life examples of successful brands who have implemented sensory marketing!
Apple is renowned for its exceptional ability to capture a multi-sensory brand experience. They seamlessly integrate design and functionality across products and digital platforms.
One prime example is Apple’s sleek and minimalistic website, which immerses customers in a stress-free and delightful journey. The visual aesthetics showcase minimalist yet elegant design, drawing customers in with clean lines, captivating imagery, and intuitive navigation.
The website’s soothing color palette and uncluttered layout creates a sense of calmness, allowing users to focus solely on exploring products and content.
Meanwhile, the website’s seamless functionality and intuitive user interface engage customers effortlessly, enhancing the overall experience.
This website mirrors the simplicity and elegance of their products and packaging.
By appealing to sight and touch, Apple creates a cohesive and immersive multi-sensory brand experience. This choice reinforces its identity and forges strong emotional connections with customers.
Starbucks maintains brand consistency through various elements. Its uniform color schemes and consistent use of the same type of music are a part of their big plan.
This coffee giant enhances the customer experience in several ways:
- The familiar color scheme, decor, and smell of coffee creates a sense of comfort and familiarity, making customers feel at home, regardless of the store’s location.
- Their stores’ consistent use of music helps establish a cohesive atmosphere, promoting relaxation and providing a soothing backdrop for social interactions.
- All their food and beverages are made the same at each location, boosting customer loyalty and satisfaction.
Starbucks fosters a reliable and predictable experience incorporating all the senses, ensuring customers can expect the same quality and service wherever they go.
More than that, the consistent brand presentation reinforces Starbucks’ global identity, making it a recognizable and sought-after brand worldwide.
3. Abercrombie & Fitch
Grab your flashlights . . . it’s time to enter the most mysterious clothing store on earth!
Abercrombie & Fitch was huge in the 1990s and 2000s, especially among high schoolers. To appeal to them, Abercrombie strategically incorporated sensory branding elements throughout their stores.
As customers approached the store, they’d find its blinds drawn and be greeted by the pulsating beats of loud music. Naturally, this would spark curiosity, exuding a sense of “coolness” and “exclusivity,” similar to a club.
As you step inside, the music would get louder, and you’d be hit with their signature scent. Surrounding you would be signature Abercrombie & Fitch clothing illuminated by bright spotlights.
Abercrombie’s multi-sensory branding worked until it fell under scrutiny for being overly exclusionary, among other controversies. However, there is talk of Abercrombie & Fitch making a comeback, with “lighter and looser” clothing than it once was.
71% of people find security in the Visa logo, so the company decided to take this further—a unique sound to signify completed transactions.
After a Visa cardholder uses their card, they hear a distinctive sound that lets them know their transaction is complete. This sound assures customers that their purchase has been securely completed, adding another layer of trust for Visa as a brand.
Starting with the iconic MasterCard logo, its vibrant red and yellow hues grab the user’s attention, evoking excitement, warmth, and optimism, which align perfectly with Mastercard’s mission as a trusted financial partner.
Like Visa, Mastercard also incorporates a sonic brand identity, which uses a signature sound and animation to let the user know they have completed a transaction.
This sound and animation may seem small and insignificant, but this fuses two senses at once (sight and sound) and creates a sense of trust and reliability among Mastercard users.
How to Create Sensory Marketing Experiences
We’ve looked at some sensory branding examples from popular brands that have successfully appealed to multiple senses through their marketing efforts. So, what are simple ways to create sensory marketing experiences, and what are some emerging trends?
We’ll look at all five senses to see what’s possible.
Here are some simple ways to make the most of your sensory branding efforts through visual elements:
- Visual Storytelling: Create captivating visual narratives through social media posts, videos, and ads that tell the story of your brand, connecting with customers on a deeper, personal level through selective visuals.
- Unique Packaging: Create innovative packaging that stands out on shelves and appeals to customers’ senses, incorporating interesting textures, embossing, or patterns to enhance the visual experience.
- Interactive Displays: If you have a physical store, stand out by implementing interactive and dynamic window displays that engage passersby. If you run an online shop, explore the possibility of creating an interactive experience there, like a quiz.
Here are some simple ways to incorporate sensory branding through auditory elements:
- Customized Welcome Sound: Create a unique and memorable sound or jingle when customers enter your physical store or website, instantly immersing them in your brand experience.
- Branded Ambient Soundtracks: Develop a free collection of soothing ambient soundtracks inspired by your brand’s essence, encouraging customers to engage with your brand through relaxing audio experiences.
- Sound-Infused Packaging: Integrate subtle sound elements into your product packaging (e.g., a soft jingle or a satisfying “pop”) to surprise and delight customers, leaving a memorable sonic impression of your brand.
Shutterstock provides a selection of PremiumBeat music across various genres, ideal for advertisements and videos to evoke the right emotion from your audience.
They also offer an SFX library to help you create unique sound effects, like those created by Visa and Mastercard!
Did you know that smell is the strongest human sense? Scents are known to trigger specific memories or generate intense emotions instantly.
Here are some simple ways to incorporate sensory branding through scent:
- Scented Business Cards: Design business cards, then infuse them with a subtle, unique fragrance that aligns with your brand’s identity, leaving a memorable impression on potential clients and customers. Scented business cards can be great for businesses selling fragrant items like perfume, flowers, or essential oils.
- Aroma-Infused Packaging: Enhance the unboxing experience by adding scented elements to your product packaging, offering customers a delightful surprise that reinforces your brand’s message.
- Signature-Scented Events: Create a signature scent for your brand and use it during promotional events, workshops, or trade shows to forge a strong emotional connection with attendees, leaving a lasting memory of your brand.
- Scent-Invoking Images: Be it a field of lavender or a salt water sea, some images have a distinct smell, because we’ve seen them in real life. Include images that evoke a nice sense of smell to add another layer of pleasantness to your branding.
Touch carries a lot of weight in the purchase-making process. Here are some simple ways to incorporate sensory branding through touch:
- Textured Packaging: Design custom product packaging using cost-effective materials like embossed paper or textured cardboard to engage customers’ sense of touch, leaving a lasting impression.
- Tactile Business Materials: Create business cards or flyers with raised textures or unique coatings to provide a memorable tactile experience during networking events or customer interactions.
- Interactive Product Displays: Set up interactive displays at your store or on your website. These allow customers to touch and feel the products and foster a deeper emotional connection with your brand.
Taste may be one of the most challenging types of sensory branding to incorporate into your marketing. You may think that taste can only be incorporated into brands focused on selling food and beverage products, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
IKEA is a perfect example of increasing customers’ chances of purchasing more by incorporating an in-store restaurant and having customers stick around for longer. IKEA restaurants perfectly align with their branding by primarily offering Swedish food. The company also discovered around 30% of IKEA customers visit the store just to eat.
Sensory Branding Is More than Meets the Eye
In a world where brand differentiation is becoming increasingly challenging, sensory branding emerges as a powerful and multifaceted tool that goes beyond just visual appeal.
Businesses can forge an unforgettable emotional bond with their audience by seamlessly intertwining taste, touch, smell, sound, and even motion. The subtle nuances of sensory experiences leave a lasting impact on consumers’ memories and foster a sense of connection with the brand’s core values.
By leveraging the full spectrum of human senses, businesses can craft holistic experiences that transcend traditional marketing approaches and forge an unbreakable bond between brand and consumer.
If you’re looking to dive into finding multimedia to tickle the senses, Shutterstock’s flexible licensing plans can help you do just that. With Shutterstock FLEX, you’ll have all-in-one access to our massive library, plus the FLEXibility you need to select the perfect mix of assets every time.
License this cover image via Maksym Fesenko.