Use the 5 senses to stand out
from the crowd
Written by Shirley Lichti for The Record,
February 15, 2006
An interesting discovery was recently made
regarding how people perceive odours. It turns out that our noses
work better when we are standing up than when we are lying down
according to scientists at the McGill Institute.
Although this insight resulted from tests
using medical scanning machines, one article I read suggested subsequent
That's no surprise. Marketers are always
looking for new and compelling ways to engage with their target
audiences. Getting consumers to notice products requires breaking
through the clutter of thousands of other messages they receive
on a daily basis.
What might be surprising is how extensively
companies use sensory stimuli to increase customer involvement with
their products. They understand the power of the five senses - sight,
sound, touch, smell and taste.
Although colour is only one aspect of sight,
it can be very effectively used to break through the clutter.
With RRSP season in full swing, there are
lots of companies vying for attention. One direct mail flyer I recently
received stood out from the rest. It was printed in the most vivid
shade of orange and I didn't even have to open it to know immediately
that it was from branchless bank, ING Direct.
Some colour combinations are powerfully tied
to a company's image. For example, Kodak's product packaging has
such a unique look with its gold, black and red colours, the company
has been granted trade dress, a form of trademark granting exclusive
But don't make the mistake of thinking that
sight is the most important element of the five senses. Even dairy
farmers have long recognized the importance of music as a factor
in increasing milk production.
For consumers, sound can be every bit as
Harley-Davidson has created a unique culture
among motorcycle owners, who are fanatically loyal to the company.
Harley enthusiasts claim the rumble of their bikes is instantly
recognizable, different from any other motorcycle on the road.
This led company executives to take the unconventional
route of securing trademark protection for the distinctive sound
of Harley-Davidson's revving engine.
Smell is argued by some marketers to be even
more important than sight or sound. There are certain smells that
consumers find particularly gratifying.
Take the "new car" smell, for example.
Turns out, it's fake. Same goes for the leather smell in your car.
Research by automakers determined that consumer
preferences have changed over the years and we now prefer the smell
of artificial leather to genuine tanned leather.
The result is that both the new car smell
and the leather smell are sprayed into cars before they leave the
assembly line. Smell is such a powerful cue to buyers that many
used car dealers freshen up cars they sell with the new car scent.
Scent isn't just for expensive products though.
Most children in North America grew up with
Crayola crayons. Their distinctive smell still evokes feelings of
nostalgia for adults who have long since given up their colouring
books. As a result, Binney & Smith patented the smell of its
Crayola crayons to prevent others from replicating it.
Dr. Alan Hirsch, neurological director of
the Smell and Taste Treatment Research Foundation in Chicago has
been studying how odours affect people for decades.
In a Las Vegas casino, he discovered that
when a floral scent was pumped into an area where slot machines
were located, the amount of money people spent went up 45 per cent.
Of course, taste also plays a key role in
how we perceive products. And they don't always have to taste good.
Take Buckley's Mixture cough syrup. Their
slogan, "It tastes awful. And it works." has successfully
attracted both attention and users.
One of the most popular energy drinks on
the market, Red Bull, commands a premium price. So you'd think it
would taste really good. Yet one review on BevNet.com calls it "truly
painful to drink." Perhaps Red Bull took lessons from Buckley's.
When Crest introduced new flavours of toothpaste
- lemon ice, cinnamon and citrus - it supported the launch with
a tactile campaign. Full colour ads
ran in magazines that included a scratch-and-sniff area to allow
consumers to experience the new flavours.
Later scratch-and-sniff panels were added
to toothpaste packaging to help sway consumers at the point of purchase.
You may want to think through how you can
get consumers more involved with your product by triggering the
five senses. Products that deliver a sensory experience stand out
from the crowd.