Sensory Branding – Using the Five Senses to Build Extraordinary Brands
By Martin Lindstrom, author of BRAND sense
Advertising ain’t what it used to be. Let’s face it. Despite the fact that we’re using more and more marketing resources, the returns on our advertising dollar are ever diminishing. According to the Newspaper Advertising Bureau, in 1965, 34 percent of consumers in the U.S. could name the brand of a commercial aired during a show. Thirty years later only 8 percent are capable of doing this. By 2007 it’s predicted that 20 percent of consumers will be eliminating ads from their television screens with devices like TiVo. It’s time to rethink the entire process. Snappier graphics, faster editing, more convincing testimonials or bigger and better discounts will no longer do it. Something new is required.
The answer came to me on a Tokyo street in the spring of 1999. A lady brushed by me and her perfume took me back to my childhood. It was extraordinary. For a moment the rush-hour crowds, the traffic and the high-rise buildings ceased to exist. I was instantly transported to the Danish countryside, smelling the same perfume that a friend of mine always wore. It stood to reason that if brands contained a scent, they could be equally powerful.
This epiphany triggered what was to become the world’s largest study on our five senses in relationship to branding. With help and support from the international research institute Millward Brown, a team of 600 researchers undertook an intensive 18-month study across 13 countries. The findings have been nothing short of mind-blowing. What was revealed was that the second-most important sense that connects us emotionally, is in fact smell.
Surprising – if so read this: Two identical pairs of Nike running shoes were placed in two separate, but identical, rooms. One room was infused with a mixed floral scent. The other wasn’t. Test subjects inspected the shoes in each room, and then answered a questionnaire. Overwhelmingly, by a margin of 84 percent, consumers preferred the shoes displayed in the fragrant room. Additionally, the consumers estimated the value of the “scented” shoes was, on average, $10.33 higher than the pair in the unscented room.
This raised an important question: why is it that Fortune 1000 brands concentrate 95 percent, if not more, of their resources and energy on what we see and hear?
Branding is essentially about building emotional ties between consumer and product. Studies show that 75 percent of our emotional behavior is generated by what we smell, and not by what we see or hear. Given the role our senses play in our emotional behavior it is surprising how little attention there has been given to our three neglected senses.
Incorporating smell into branding has already begun. In fact as far back as 1973 Singapore Airlines broke through the barriers of traditional branding with their Singapore girl. The staff was styled right down to their make-up. Stewardesses were offered only two choices of color combination based on a specific palette designed to blend in with Singapore Airline’s brand color scheme which was clearly defined in the company’s internal grooming manual. However the sensory branding of the Singapore girl reached its zenith by the end of the 1990’s when Singapore Airlines introduced Stefan Florida Waters. Not your average household name, to be sure, but Stefan Floridian Waters is an aroma. An aroma, which has been specifically designed as part of Singapore Airlines. Stefan Floridian Waters formed the scent in the flight attendants’ perfume, was blended into the hot towels served before take off and generally permeated the entire fleet of Singapore Airlines planes. The patented aroma has since become a unique and very distinct trademark of Singapore Airlines.
Interestingly, only few people can remember this unique smell if asked to describe it. Those that do, describe it as smooth, exotically Asian and with a distinct aura of the feminine. However if you were to ask travelers who take a subsequent journey with Singapore Airlines about this unique smell, they all report instant recognition upon stepping into the aircraft. A smell that has the potential to kick-start a kaleidoscope of smooth comfortable memories – all reflecting the Singapore Airlines brand.
Slowly every industry from cell phones to clothing and car brands realizes the power of utilizing the five senses when building solid brand. Just take the that gratifying new-car smell that accompanies the purchase of a new car. The reality is that this smell comes in an aerosol container which is sprayed into the cabin of the car as it leaves the factory floor. It lasts for about six weeks. The BRAND sense study shows that a huge 86 percent of consumers in the United States find the smell of a new car appealing – 69 percent of Europeans feel the same way. Based on the fact that consumers felt “something” was missing, Rolls Royce has spent a considerable amount of time re-creating the “original” smell of a Rolls Royce – benchmarking against the classic 1965 model. They’ve set out to achieve the same “feel” as the old model in their new models.
But smell is only one side of the story. According to the BRAND sense study, 44 percent of all consumers stated that the sound of a new car is more important than the design. That includes the door. It’s serious business. So serious that Mercedes-Benz has 12 engineers dedicated to the sound of opening and closing doors! Does it work? Check out the Acura TSX model and you’ll notice the perfect sound of an opening and closing door – even the feeling seems right. No wonder – the sound is artificially generated and even the vibrations in the door generated by electric impulses.
It is clear from the BRAND sense study that almost every industry will adopt the concept of sensory branding – converting every possible touch point into a branded experience. Even the neglected details will become powerful branding tools. Like the simple ring of a Nokia cell phone. The Nokia tune – installed on all cell phones as they leave the factory has created an awareness similar to the Intel Inside tune – with more than 100 million consumers listening to the tune seven hours a year. There is only one difference between Intel and Nokia. Intel payed a millions of dollars to create this sound awareness – Nokia paid zero.
The power of our senses is substantial higher that what the world of advertising and branding has leveraged so far, generally neglecting the opportunities presented by our other senses.
So, will the effects of advertising be increased if we harness more senses into the equation? In short, let me summarize more than 10,000 pages of BRAND sense research and my book by simply saying, Yes. When applying this information to a branding context, the general rule of thumb is that the more senses a brand appeals to, the stronger the message will be perceived. Interestingly, stronger bonding directly translates to higher prices that consumers will be prepared to pay. So have this in mind next time you discard the value of our five senses when enhancing the power of your brand.