We're all familiar with the way a certain fragrance can transport us back to a time and a place in our lives. Indeed whole novels have been written on this premise, for any of you out there who've tackled Patrik Suskind's Perfume! Many of us get that same sensory flashback when we remove an LP from its cover - the smell of the vinyl and the crackle of the gatefold spine is hugely evocative. So it's little wonder that marketers are canny enough to tap into this same rich seam.
When you consider how consumers are bombarded with commercial messaging every second of the day, most of which engages with the senses in quite an ordinary way, it makes sense for brands to try and do something a little different. Sensory marketing is one way of doing this.
Marketing has a bit of a split personality. On the one hand it's increasingly turning into a science, built on big data and quite rightly proving its return on investment to shareholders, the board and to the City. But on the other hand there's no denying there's a whole load of art to making great communications campaigns. Sir Martin Sorrell might be batting for the science team with his recent Maths Men pronouncement but author Martin Lindstrom, a leading advocate of sensory marketing makes a fair point in his book, Brand Sense that brands are winning followers through harnessing the power of sensory marketing.
So what's it all about? Lindstrom sums it up by saying: "Compare [our] human filing system to an old-fashioned video recorder, which records on two separate tracks, one for image, one for sound. Human beings have at least five tracks - image, sound, smell, taste and touch... The more tracks on which you or I can record an experience, the better we remember it".
That observation makes perfect 'sense' but it's surprising how few brands take these lessons on board. If like me, you do however work with brands that recognise the potential of how they can be represented sensorially and are up for harnessing the power of sensory marketing then you can create some stunning campaigns that really do speak to consumers, create memorable events, and build tangible love for the brand.
Let's be clear however that we're not talking about the old scratch and sniff approach or the well-worn trick of home baking smells wafting among the supermarket shelves. We've come a long way since then. Great insight comes from one of our best-loved chefs and TV personalities, Heston Blumenthal. Heston delights the diner by confusing his or her senses. If you're ever lucky enough to eat at his restaurant Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental don't be surprised if you order a meat dish and it comes disguised as a fruit. Similarly some particularly gifted individuals, usually artists, have the gift of synaesthesia. They visualise smells, or hear colours or see sounds. I wouldn't be surprised if Heston was among them. Once again, we marketers can learn a huge amount from such people.
I've been interested in sensory marketing for a while now and was lucky enough to be given the chance to explore innovative opportunities with long-standing client, beer brand Desperados. We set ourselves the challenge of finding new experiences every year, adding more layers and raising the bar for our fickle and notoriously difficult to please 18-25 audience. If you've never tried Desperados, it's unlike other beers - a tequila flavour but sweet tasting, a citrus aroma and a tactile bottle that immediately sets it apart. Partnering with music festivals adds a further dimension to this energetic beer brand. Music on its own is everyday, but the Desperados way is much more sensorially rewarding.
We brought the brand to life at Field Day Festival in Hackney recently through the science of spectroscopy. A partnership with Bristol University helped us get to grips with its potential. And what potential! Imagine yourself moving through a domed space that ripples and pulses with a spectacular light show triggered by your very movement; bass notes and beats that resonate through one's entire body pumped out of giant speakers. The entire experience was orchestrated to disrupt, amaze and engage all of the senses. A citrusy aroma pumped through the dome completed the sensory onslaught. The concept was one thing, but to see it in action was mind-blowing.
Bringing the Desperados brand to life through spectroscopy was just one way to add some adventure and excitement to festival-goers' experiences and a bold and encouraging move for the brand.
There's so much innovation and exploration going on outside of traditional marketing approaches. People want something to talk about, something that enriches their everyday world and brands need to start using these new approaches if they are going keep the attention of promiscuous and fickle customers.