Thursday, May 23, 2024

Mad Ave. Insights




Undoubtedly, you want to embed your brand in the hearts and minds of your target audience. Undoubtedly, you would like to achieve top of mind awareness, be one of the two or three brands they think of first in your category. Worthwhile goals.

So why aren’t you embedding your brand in their hearts and minds through their noses?

Or through their fingertips. Or their tastebuds.

Doing so will exponentially increase the power of your current marketing. Doing so could help inspire your target audience to ignore, even dismiss, your competition.

The process is called Sensory Marketing, the use of all five senses – sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste – to create emotional brand. It is based on neuroscience research into how the senses emotionally influence our decisions. And it is based on pioneer research by University of Michigan Marketing Professor Adhana Krishna, considered the foremost expert in sensory marketing.

And, it is based on Krishna’s asking, “Why does wine taste better in a wine glass than in an ordinary glass?”

Her answer to that and other questions has influenced companies of stature such as Rolls Royce, BMW, Dunkin Hines, Apple, Starbucks, Liberty Mutual – to name a bare few.

Krishna explains sensory marketing: “In the past, communications with customers were essentially monologues—companies just talked at consumers. Then they evolved into dialogues, with customers providing feedback. Now they are becoming multidimensional conversations, with products finding their own voices and consumers responding viscerally and subconsciously to them.”

Marketing has evolved today into relationship marketing, where consumers are participatory through reviews, and through advertisers seeking consumer views before and during the research and development stages of the product. Today, the advertiser must prove through his mission, purpose, and values that he is qualified to be the consumer’s vendor.

Marketing communications is primarily through the written or spoken word, which the brain filters for trust and for the relevancy of the message. Words trigger rational thinking; the brain must filter words of emotions to draw emotional images and feelings.

Sensory marketing is purely experiential. As neuroscience research has shown, it creates an emotional response subconsciously. If designed correctly, the brain does not filter or evaluate the emotion – the brand ‘sense’  goes deep into the storehouse of the mind, so that when triggered, the response is familiar, comforting, desired, rewarding. It becomes a positive, enriching part of the consumer’s life.


Neuroscience has also shown that sensory communications are not compartmentalized, but on the contrary, senses synergistically reinforce the messages delivered by all senses having a multiplier effect on perceptions. Each sensory stimulus reinforces the messages conveyed by all the others, producing stronger, more consistent, and more holistic perceptions. This integrated accumulation of sensory impacts improves the consumer’s perception, lodging it deeper into his or her memory. Multisensory perceptions therefore create faster product recognition. The message and the emotions rise quickly to mind, creating an experiential feeling of being enveloped by the product.


Apple is an excellent example of synergistic use of senses. The product technology screams ‘innovation.’ The product design screams innovation. The written, visual, and spoken communications scream innovation. The minimal, sleek, white store design and immersive experience process, being able to touch and use the products, screams innovation.

Hyatt Place uses the sense of smell to create a warm, comfortable, inviting experience. Hyatt Place’s signature scent ‘Seamless,’ consisting of a blend of blueberries, light florals, warm vanilla and musk, delivers “a sensation of welcoming elegance” throughout its three hundred locations. ‘Seamless’ has proven to enhance the visit experience and increase brand memorability for thousands of guests.

Scent conditioning systems are now found in homes, hotels, resorts, healthcare institutions, and retail stores. At Walt Disney World in Florida, visitors to the Magic House at Epcot Center are relaxed and comforted by the smell of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies.

Singapore Airlines deserves to rank high in sensory marketing for its patented scent called ‘Stefan Floridian Waters.’ Now a registered trademark of the airline, Stefan Floridian Waters is used in the perfume worn by flight attendants, blended into the hotel towels served before takeoff, and diffused throughout the cabins of all Singapore Airlines planes. The emotional experience in the lounge and in the plane generated by its trademarked scent is a strong reason it is rated one of the top airlines in the world.

Every time you pass a favorite bakery, a pizza shop, a restaurant, the fragrance triggers a positive emotion. That emotion is worth its weight in media advertising. You are experiencing it in a non-competitive environment. For however as long you let the feelings linger, it is strengthening the brand image and your relationship with the brand.

The Cinnabon chain, found in malls, powers up the use of your olfactory senses. Rather than pumping the fragrance of cinnamon or sweet vanilla frosting through their vents, they designed their stores so the ovens are near the front. Passersby get whiffs of fresh buns right from the oven.

Starbuck’s seamlessly meshes sight – the murals of famous author’s that dominate the walls and the comforting green color in its logo and elsewhere – with smell – it requires all stores to grind their beans in the store to produce the freshly ground odor (even though it would be less-expensive and more efficient to grind in one central location and ship to the stores) – with sound – the contemporary music that matches the taste of its audience. All stores combine the same senses in the same fashion, so no matter which Starbucks you visit, the emotional brand experience is reinforced.

Rolls Royce is famous for its ‘Rolls Royce Leather’ scent. Next time you test drive a Rolls, take a moment to appreciate its exclusively designed leather scent that incorporates the scent of plush carpeting, the camel hair headliner, and other scents that together create a feeling of extreme luxury. As Rolls Royce said in a famous ad in Architectural Digest, “This, in essence, is Rolls Royce” – the ad incorporated strips that produced the Rolls Royce scent. To emphasize its engineering and power, BMW amplifies the sound of its engine through its audio system.

(And, as a bonus for loyal readers, a recent study showed that the smell of oranges tended to calm the fears of dental patients awaiting major procedures. No more excuses.)

In addition to improving memory, smell can also enhance the effectiveness of ad visuals. For example, research by Adhana Krishna and her team showed  that scent in printed food ads increases individuals’ physiological (i.e., salvation), evaluative (i.e., desire to eat), and consumptive (i.e., amount eaten) responses to the ads. Thus, a scratch and-sniff strip can benefit ads, provided the strip reproduces the actual food smell.

There are a limitless number of retailers whose store design makes use of sensory marketing. Walk into Trader Joe’s, for example, and the offbeat signs, the ship’s bell that rings when a service help is needed, and the wacky-designed TJ Flyer all combine to tell you this is an off-beat food vendor with fresh, unique, off-beat products. Be prepared to have fun.

Touch is a sense that is difficult to achieve for the masses and at a distance. But touch produces powerful results. Medical research has shown that pleasant touching experiences cause the brain to release oxytocin, which leads to feelings of calmness and well. Research cited in Harvard Business Review shows that an actual interpersonal touch, such as a handshake or a light pat on the shoulder, leads people to feel safer and spend more money.

Other research has shown that touching and holding creates a “feeling of ownership” encouraging a buy decision. Major electronic retailers, such as Best Buy, have open boxes where customers can touch and hold their products. Apple even encourages customers to do the same with their high-end products.

Sensory marketing is game-changing marketing. You are developing and building emotional triggers that produce a purely emotional attachment to your brand. And you are synergistically enhancing every component in your marketing without increasing your media budget.

No matter how you look at it, incorporating sensory marketing into your marketing portfolio makes good sense.

And after all, you are sensible, aren’t you?

I know you’ve been impatiently waiting for the answer to Krishna’s question: Why does wine taste better in a wine glass than a regular glass?

The right glass with the right bowl shape will capture the delicate aromas and flavors of the wine itself. Much of taste is determined by bouquet, so you’ll get the maximum flavor with each sip. Different wines – i.e., Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, etc. – have different components that make up its bouquet.

It’s all in the nose.


Interested in developing your creative thinking skills to grow your business? Maybe even disrupt your business category? Subscribe to my “Unleash Your Creative Thinking” free email course. Email, with “Creative Thinking” as the subject.




Chanina Katz has over two decades experience in major Madison Ave. ad agencies developing highly successful strategies and award-winning campaigns for such blue-chip clients as Colgate, RJ Reynolds, Hilton, Home Depot, General Mills, KFC and many others in a wide variety of package goods and services businesses. He provides marketing services for a range of businesses, from start-ups to major corporations. He lectures on marketing and creativity. He can be reached at



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