• Transform magazine
  • June 05, 2020


Is your brand making sense?


Steve Keller, CEO, iV Audio Branding

Brands are everywhere.

With the advent of transmedia, the battle for consumer attention is more than a fight for recognition and recall. Engagement has become the new parlance of brand design, driven by research demonstrating that successful consumer engagement doesn’t just change the way people think and feel; it shapes their behaviour and changes the way they buy.

When it comes to creating deep, emotional connections, nothing is as powerful as an appeal to our senses. Enter, then, the world of sensory branding, where proven analytical techniques are used to create stronger brand preferences through sensory engagement. It’s a world where, literally, the brands that make the most sense win.

We’d like to think that our brand choices are rationally based, weighing product values and comparing benefits. Yet research shows that our choices are more a function of implicit processes that occur in a matter of seconds, driven by what we perceive through our senses. Phil Barden, author of ‘Decoded: The Science Behind Why We Buy,’ suggests that when it comes to distinguishing between brands, “Perception and experience are all there is, so our value propositions need to be perceivable and experienceable through the senses, otherwise the impact on the autopilot [i.e. implicit processes] will be severely compromised.” In the end, it’s the consumer’s sensory experience of a brand that creates the lasting impressions and memories that will influence their future choices – and affect our bottom line.

Les Binet and Peter Field, in their groundbreaking study, ‘Marketing in the Era of Accountability,’ analysed 996 advertising campaigns over the course of 30 years, covering 700 brands in 83 different categories. The results were irrefutable. When compared to rational messaging, brands that connected with consumers emotionally yielded twice the profits, had greater impact and delivered more long-term effects.

In the face of such evidence, it would be foolish to ignore the senses in our branding efforts. Yet when it comes to sensory branding, we have traditionally focused only on what we see.

In their global study linking branding and sensory awareness, Martin Lindstrom and research agency Millward Brown found that 83% of all brand communications only appeal to our sense of sight. Yet, while the visual experience of the brand may be critical at the point of purchase, hearing eventually overtakes sight as a more important trigger for brand differentiation and relevance. Our sense of smell is a powerful memory trigger, with the olfactory bulb in our brains linked with the amygdala (the center of emotion) and the hippocampus (the center of memory). Touch offers us an opportunity to physically connect with a person or product. Aradhna Krishna, author of ‘Customer Sense: How The 5 Senses Influence Buying Behavior,’ found that taste is, “Not so much a combination of receptors firing from our tongue as an amalgamation of all of our senses…that combine to form a perception of an object in our mouth.”

Why, then, should we focus on only one sense, when we have four more at our disposal? That question is even more relevant when we consider that the more senses we use to communicate brand identity, the more powerful that communication becomes.

Dr Charles Spence, head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at Oxford University, has discovered that as our sensory experiences are aligned and combined, the effects are “super-additive.” There is a synergistic effect of adding multiple sensory stimuli to a human interaction. In other words, using multiple senses to communicate brand identity doesn’t just add to brand impact – it multiplies it exponentially.

It’s important to remember that emotional engagement is a means to an end, rather than an end in itself.

There’s no question that sensory branding can change the way people think and feel about your brand. However, the goal of sensory branding isn’t just emotional engagement. Behavioural goals and habit formation are sensory outcomes that can bridge the gap between brand intent and consumer response. Build your sensory branding with those outcomes in mind.

The contemporary marketplace provides multiple points of connection where consumers can experience a brand through their senses. Brands should take advantage of these opportunities, focusing on communicating brand identity and value propositions through the use of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. In doing so, they will reap the benefits of enhanced brand experience, increased profits, longer term effects, multiplied impact and behavioural results.

Steve Keller at iV Audio Branding is moderating a panel discussion on how sensory branding influences consumer perception and buying behaviour at the Transform conference. Speakers on the panel are: Dr Charles Spence, world famous experimental psychologist at the University of Oxford and Martyn Ware, producer of 3D audio technologies and founder of illustrious. To see more about the conference click here.


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