Appeal to consumers with sensory marketing

Competition for consumer attention and dollars is immense, so marketing resources must be used to maximize sales and customer satisfaction.

An area often overlooked, yet cost-effective and a way to stand out from the competition, is what is known as sensory marketing— using one or more of the five senses to trigger a physiological reaction that accelerates consumer decision-making and increases their intent to purchase. Let’s break them down.

Smell: Pleasant scents help improve perceptions of product quality, consumer satisfaction, purchase intent — and can improve sales. They can raise a consumer’s willingness to pay and result in a more memorable product or shopping experience by impacting their moods and emotions.

The effectiveness of scents depends on immediate situational contexts and local culture. Infusing products with scents like lavender can encourage a sense of relaxation; a rose scent can convey positivity/romance, etc. Milder scents are more effective than those that are overwhelming. Congruent scents, where the scent matches consumer expectation (a pizzeria that smells like pizza), perform the best.

Simple smells act faster since they’re easily identified. Many upscale airlines and hotels use complex scents to bolster their sophisticated image and boost consumer memory of their product/service. Restaurants can channel food scents toward prospective customers at strategic times to raise sales, but constant circulation of food scents can substitute for food consumption and lower purchase intent.

Touch: The feel of products and their packaging communicates and increases perceptions of quality. A velvet box, a bow on a giftbox, or fancy tissue paper in packaging convey superior quality. According to research, holding a pleasantly warm beverage encourages consumers to trust the advice they subsequently get from service providers. The warm beverage triggers feelings of physiological well-being that bolsters trust.

Sound: The distinctive clicking sound of an iPhone being locked was engineered as an audible confirmation that the locking was successful, establishing the effectiveness of iPhones to complete tasks. Sound can enhance perceptions of product effectiveness. Opening a Lay’s potato chip packet makes a distinctive pop that assures of the freshness packed within. In retail atmospheres, music enhances consumers moods/spending and extends their stay. Research indicates that the sound of a brand name can impact consumer perceptions of speed, dimension, efficacy, etc.

Taste: An unusual additional ingredient can increase perceptions of uniqueness and quality. The stinging sensation from mouthwashes is a planted cue that establishes the product is working.

Sight: Colors in brand logos have a psychological impact on consumer perceptions. White can indicate purity, black can indicate power, etc. Perceptions of color depend on the surrounding culture. Shapes influence consumer satisfaction with purchase amount. Pizzas are sold in circular form and not squares because the perception is there’s more volume in a circle, even if the area is identical. Size of bottles, coffee mugs, etc., can affect perceptions of product volume, and, hence, customer satisfaction. Innovative visually appealing packaging can also increase purchase intent.

Sensory marketing can work alongside traditional marketing methods to help businesses establish their uniqueness from the sea of competitors. ●

Somali Ghosh is an Associate professor of marketing at Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management

Somali Ghosh

Associate professor of marketing
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