Anyone familiar with marketing understands that a brand extends well beyond a logo and graphics. As humans, our biology is very visually-oriented and we evaluate our world in great measure by how we see it with our eyes. Thus, we often rely on design, graphics, logos, and other visual media to establish a strong brand positioning in the minds of audiences. And our modern society has grown accustomed to recognizing (and filtering) visual messages, and we start doing so at a remarkably young age. However, we have other senses in addition to sight, and brands that employ them create new avenues into people’s lives.
We are taught very early that we have five senses that include sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. When brands leverage these other senses along with visual/sight, it can add another subtle but powerful connection with its audience and circumvent the ‘filters’ so many of us have developed. In fact, studies show that when combining multiple sensory stimuli, you get a more powerful impact on consumers than you would using a single sensory experience, e.g. graphics. For example: taste (the tang and fizzle of original Coca Cola), touch (Isotoner gloves – a snug fit and now you can touch your ‘touch screen’ with them), smell (Cinnabon – have you ever smelled it in a mall before you ever saw the kiosk/store?) and sound (the comforting start-up sound of an Apple MAC, recognized even when you don’t see the computer).
When creating, refreshing or extending your brand, consider a multi-sensory approach where reasonably possible. Something as simple as a ‘sound logo‘ like NBC or Intel’s ‘Inside’ logo can be quite powerful when consistently and thoughtfully applied. Consider everyday things also. For example, what do people hear when placed on hold at your company? That can have a big difference on what kind of brand impression (and response!) you get. What about scent and smell? The sense of smell bypasses our logical brain and goes right to our memory and emotional part – it is powerful. Have you considered what your office reception smells like? how about the scent of your product? or store? How we relish the smell of a bakery or bagel shop when the bread is just coming out. And what about the sense of touch? Some companies, like Volkswagon are spending considerable attention and resources to align their brands with touch so their product feels like a natural extension of their customers. On a more everyday level, what is the weight and texture of your business cards? do they have raised ink or texture?
Some people may not know that we also have other senses, that include temperature (thermoception), kinesthetic sense (proprioception), pain (nociception), balance (equilibrioception), time, acceleration (kinesthesioception), and magnetoception (direction). Innovative companies may take advantage of these as well – things could get interesting….
The key to leveraging the senses, other than sight, in branding is to be open and adopt opportunities which can establish a multi-sensory experience. Doing this in unexpected ways can also create additional impact. For the particularly unusual combinations, market testing would be highly recommended. However, whether the idea is a scented appliance, textured packaging, flavored toothbrushes, or singing fresh-smelling dishwashers, by creating unique sensory ‘mash-ups’, your brand will stand out in the eyes of your audiences.