Marketers need to flood the senses

Earlier this week I went to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes film in 3D. Although it was quite a good film, the 3D effects were formulaic – either that, or I have become much more demanding – expecting my senses to be wowed each time I go to the cinema.

The Secret Marketer

Then today I went to a local store and was struck by a smell that evoked memories of being a child and visiting a local toy shop over 40 years ago. It was a smell that to my mind I had not experienced since I was about six years old but it still provoked feelings of excitement and pleasure somewhere in my brain.

These two events hit me at how we as marketers have not really reaped the opportunities of modern technology to tease people’s senses – at least not in the way we might have expected it being done 20 years ago. Whatever happened to ‘scratch and sniff’ cards? For that matter, what happened to the idea of                                  hologram-type TVs?

I can remember working in retail marketing a few years ago and playing with pushing the smell of fresh coffee to potential customers walking past our store (not that we sold coffee). I can also remember my mother baking bread before prospective purchasers visited our family home that was up for sale. I even remember girlfriends from school soaking love letters in perfume.

In each case, the ‘seller’ was seeking to appeal to the nose to help achieve a positive outcome. But I am not seeing much of that today and certainly not in the online ecommerce world. Why is that? I cannot believe that technology is the sole reason. Is it that we as marketers have just got carried away with doing the ‘same old same old’ better rather than trying to push boundaries?

Is 3D as far as our imagination can go? How are digital marketers exploiting our taste buds? Why are we not prompting those nasal hairs to twitch in line with our latest product development?

The future’s bright… the future smells of oranges (and lemons).

Readers' comments (3)

  • Spot on; smells are incredibly powerful and have the potential power to evoke memories and leave a real impression. It's a case of harnessing that power in marketing today (Hollister springs to mind) and how to apply it to various mediums.

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  • I am so glad that more marketers are noticing that multisensory consumer experience should be the norm in marketing. There are already some companies that are applying certain aspects of it, e.g. adding signature scents, but not many who control all of the sensory stimuli that create consumer experience.
    My consultancy actually consults on the science behind sensory perception and consumer behaviour as well as helps design multisensory consumer experience. We are certainly seeing a rise in the interest from marketers as well as many positive reactions from customers. So thank you for being one of these voices that raises awareness about this incredibly useful tool: senses.

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  • Whilst I completely agree that the senses are an unexploited marketing tool, I do have my concerns. Would it be wonderful for our towns and cities to be alive with new sounds and scents? Or perhaps it would become overwhelming, and fade into the background like so many visual marketing tactics do. Sensory overload from the marketing industry could easily lead to a world where we spend our days trying to block our senses to prevent being constantly sold to. Just a thought.

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