While we have heard the phrase, "mastering the senses", in hundreds of martial arts themed action movies and have nodded obediently in agreement (only to forget its significance once the movie is over), the truth remains that the majority of us are true blue slaves of the five senses. We can easily be seduced to commit the most illogical and impractical act by anyone who can artfully manipulate anything in our surroundings to appeal to any or all of our senses. Doesn't that explain humanity's obsession with looking good, smelling great, coating almost everything that regularly brushes against our skin with materials that feel good to touch, gourmet food, and melodious music? This also explains why products that improve and enhance all these sensory experiences find such a huge market in us despite, a lot of time, not making any practical or economic sense. Now, we may not admit or acknowledge our 'sensory slave' status but marketers and brand pundits sure do. They use this knowledge to tap into the subconscious of the consumers in order to exploit these chinks in the armor of the latter's personalities and turn them into revenue.
What Is Sensory Branding?
Sensory branding is a branding strategy that fashions the brand message and personality in such a way that it targets the consumers' senses to draw them in, touch a personal chord and make the individual consumer relate more strongly with the particular marketer's or manufacturer's product or service. For instance, a food brand may be developed around its taste, color, texture, and aroma. All marketing and advertising campaigns will be designed to uphold these sensory characteristics of the brand to make the product appear more tempting and appetizing and lure people to try it. If the product itself also lives up to its brand persona and brand message, such sensory branding will only add fuel to the fire of the product's success by aligning the marketer's promise of quality and sumptuousness with the brand's sensory appeal. To put it differently, sensory branding is nothing but using the literary device, Imagery, in a practical, commercial situation.
Branding to Engage the Senses
Our perception of the world around us is dependent upon the way our 5 senses absorb and send information about it to our brain and how the brain interprets such information. The brain decodes and classifies information from the 5 different sense organs in 5 different ways -- visual (from the eyes), auditory (from the ears), olfactory (from the nose), gustative (from the tongue and taste buds on it), and tactile (from the skin). The visual environment occupies the lion's share of a brand's communication pie as it is the most responsive environment. A clever branding expert can use the visual medium optimally to engage all five senses of the target audience by harnessing colors, brand message wordings, logo design, etc., effectively.
For instance, the visual wholesomeness of an organic food retail brand can be captured by using various shades of leafy green, fruity orange, yellow and red, earthy browns for organic spices and condiments, etc. While vivid and packing variety, these colors and shades also communicate the ideas of freshness and taste, which the brain associates with the concepts of 'healthy' and 'delicious'. The brand message can include words like 'crunchy', 'juicy', 'pulpy', 'aromatic', 'zesty', etc. to engage the auditory, tactile, and gustatory senses by alluding to, say, the sounds that is made when you bite into a fresh apple. 'Juicy' and 'pulpy' allude to the texture of the product and these words engage the sense of touch (here, mouth-feel). 'Zesty' associates the brand with the flavor of organic condiment while the brain associates the word 'aromatic' with all the pleasant, benefic olfactory memories it has stashed away over the years.
The auditory sense occupies the second largest share in the brand communication pie. The advertisement campaigns of a brand can employ both visual and auditory cues in a complimentary manner to engage the audience and leave a more lasting image of the brand's persona. This technique is used optimally by tourism industry brands by way of audio-visual campaigns featuring clips of delightful tourist spots that include the visual beauty as well as the natural sounds of the place such as the sound of waves (a seaside vacation spot), sounds made by birds and animals (natural parks and jungle safari destinations), etc.
A very good example of sensory branding is the 'Aamsutra' campaign run by PepsiCo for its fruit flavored soft drink brand, 'Slice'. The imagery is perfect -- a fairytale-like orchard setting, a dreamy beauty seduced to the brink of delirium by the thick, yellow-orange, fruity, aromatic ambrosia-like liquid bursting out of a ripened mango and landing right on her lip. You can almost smell a faint aroma of ripe mango when you watch the advertisement. There are other mango flavored drink brands available in the market that score no less than Slice in the departments of taste and packaging but after watching the Aamsutra ads, I find myself drawn towards this particular brand when scouting the neighborhood grocer's cold storage unit for something to drink on a hot summer afternoon. I never had this kind of bias before -- I would pick the nearest bottle of mango flavored soft drink on the shelf irrespective of the brand. But after watching Slice's Aamsutra advertisements, I have developed a bias towards the product over a ground as intangible as mental perception -- this bias is not based on any actual or hypothetical, tangible statistical parameter such as, say, thirst-quenching index! That's how effective sensory branding can be if done intelligently.