What’s Sensory Branding and Why Is It the Next Big Thing

Woman immersed in a bath tub as an introduction image for a blog post about sensory branding

By Nine Blaess | 7:33 min

In this article
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents
    LinkedIn
    Facebook
    Pinterest
    X
    Email

    When we think of brands, we usually think of visual elements like logos or brand colours. But is that really all there is to a brand? As humans, we perceive the world with all our senses. Shouldn’t we be able to experience brands in the same way? Sensory branding allows your business to create more immersive and memorable brand experiences.

    Let’s find out what sensory branding means, why it has a promising future, and how your business can benefit from it.

    What Is Sensory Branding?

    Sensory branding is a marketing technique that aims to enhance brand recognition and differentiation by using various sensory stimuli.

    It acknowledges that our senses play a fundamental role in how we perceive and remember brands.

    By appealing to our five senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste), companies can create a more immersive and memorable brand experience that forge a stronger emotional connection with your customers.

    This deeper level of engagement can set your brand apart from the competition and create a lasting impression.

    For example, did you know that smell has a strong connection to our memory, particularly when it comes to places? Studies have shown we can recall scents with an impressive 65% accuracy even a year later. In contrast, our visual memory tends to decline to around 50% after just a few months. 

    The Science Behind Sensory Branding

    But what exactly happens in the brain when we process sensory information? Let’s take a quick look at the science behind sensory branding.

    Our brains process sensory information in different areas, including the thalamus, the cerebral cortex and the amygdala.

    When we encounter a sensory input, such as a sound, it travels from the receptor towards the thalamus, which receives it as a sensation. This sensation is then relayed to the cerebral cortex, where it is interpreted and assigned meaning.

    Finally—and maybe most importantly—the information reaches the amygdala, which processes our feelings and memories associated with that sensory input.

    So, when you incorporate multi-sensory stimuli into your branding, you can activate specific areas in the brain and create richer brand experiences.

    Now that we know the science behind sensory branding, let’s explore some techniques for implementing sensory branding, specifically:

    • Sonic Branding
    • Scent Branding
    • Tactile Branding
    • Visual Branding
    • Taste Branding

    Sonic Branding

    Sonic branding refers to using audio cues, such as jingles, sound effects, spoken slogans, and specific voices, to create a distinctive auditory identity for your brand.

    With podcasts and video content on the rise, sonic branding is becoming increasingly important for brands to cut through the noise and stand out from the crowd.

    Here are some ways your brand can use this tool:

    Jingles

    Jingles are short, catchy tunes used to promote a product or brand.

    These simple melodies can help create a strong association between the brand and the jingle in the minds of consumers.

    For example, the iconic Nokia ringtone is instantly recognisable and has almost become synonymous with the brand. Which makes it one of the company’s most distinctive brand assets.

    Sound Effects

    Sound effects can also create a distinctive brand identity.

    For example, the unique chime that plays when starting up a MacBook has become an iconic sound associated with the Apple brand.

    This sound, along with other audio cues, helps to create a consistent and memorable user experience across all of Apple’s products.

    Spoken Slogans or Taglines

    Slogans and taglines are short and memorable phrases used to promote a product or brand. A spoken slogan or tagline can become pretty distinctive.

    For example, “Because You’re Worth It” has become synonymous with the L’Oreal brand and reinforces the idea that the brand’s products are a luxurious and indulgent treat.

    Specific Voice

    The use of a specific voice can also help to create a distinctive brand identity, like Jake Wood’s distinctive voice in Geico’s commercials.

    Product sound

    Finally, the sound of the product itself can become memorable. Just like the familiar and iconic sound of opening a Coca-Cola bottle helps to shape the overall Coca-Cola experience.

    Scent Branding

    Scent branding, or olfactory branding, uses smells to create unique and memorable brand experiences.

    And it works.

    For example, studies showed that adding scents to Nike stores boosted purchase intent by 80% while infusing the smell of coffee at a petrol station increased coffee sales by a staggering 300%.

    Scent branding is commonly used in retail spaces, hotels, and spas but can also be applied to products and marketing materials.

    Here are some ways to use scents in your branding:

    Scented Environments

    Scented environments have become a popular sensory branding technique, especially in the hospitality industry, retail stores, spas, and other settings wanting to create a unique atmosphere.

    For example, Ritz Carlton is known for its signature scent of lavender and rosemary, diffused throughout its hotels.

    This scent creates a pleasant and memorable experience for guests, who associate it with the luxury and quality of the Ritz Carlton brand.

    Scented Products

    Scented products are another way brands can use scent to create a distinct identity.

    For example, the characteristic smell of Play-Doh is instantly recognisable and has become synonymous with the brand.

    Similarly, scented candles, perfumes, and other scented products can help to create a unique, memorable brand identity by engaging consumers’ sense of smell.

    Image source: Pexels[1]

    Scented Marketing Materials

    Scented marketing materials, such as catalogues, can also create a sensory experience for the consumer.

    For example, a brochure for a gardening supply company could use the fragrance of freshly-cut grass or blooming flowers to grab the reader’s attention and evoke emotions.

    Tactile Branding

    Tactile branding, also known as haptic branding, uses touch to make brand experiences more memorable.

    It involves incorporating textures, shapes, materials, and interactive features that appeal to our sense of touch.

    Especially after the pandemic, people crave tactile experiences more than ever.

    Did you know, that touch can even make us feel relaxed? Touching releases oxytocin, the “bonding hormone,” which stimulates the release of other feel-good hormones, such as dopamine and serotonin.

    Here are some ways brands can appeal to our sense of touch:

    Tactile Packaging and Other Printed Marketing Materials

    Packaging design and other printed marketing materials can greatly benefit from incorporating tactile branding elements.

    Using distinctive textures, shapes, materials or print techniques, brands can create more memorable and engaging experiences.

    For example, a food company may use rough, textured paper for their packaging to evoke a feeling of naturalness and rustic charm.

    Similarly, a high-end luxury brand may use sleek, smooth materials to create a sense of sophistication and elegance.

    Tactile Product Materials

    Product materials can also play a role in tactile branding.

    For example, the use of aluminium has become a distinctive and recognisable aspect of Apple’s brand.

    Similarly, luxury car brands may use leather, wood or chrome to create a sense of refinement and exclusivity.

    Tactile Retail Environments

    Retail environments are another way to incorporate tactile branding. Tactile materials in interior design can help create a sense of ambience and atmosphere.

    For example, a spa may use soft, plush materials and soothing colours to create a calming and relaxing environment.

    A sports store, on the other hand, may use rugged materials such as concrete and steel to craft a sense of energy and excitement.

    Visual Branding

    As you probably know, visual branding refers to everything that goes into a brand’s visual identity, such as a logo, brand typography, colour schemes or photography.

    Since visual branding is so widely understood and commonly practised, I will not go into it further here.

    Taste Branding

    Taste branding, or gustatory branding, refers to the use of specific flavours to enrich a company’s brand identity.

    While commonly used in the food and beverage industry, it can be challenging for other brands to appeal to our sense of taste.

    Nevertheless, some non-food brands have successfully incorporated taste into their branding, for example, lip balms that use distinct flavours, toothpaste, or even medicine.

    If your brand isn’t directly associated with taste, considering alternative creative options is worthwhile. Why not collaborate with another company in a cross-brand partnership?

    For example: 

    • If you’re a fitness brand you may collaborate with a beverage company to develop a line of performance-enhancing sports drinks.
    • An outdoor brand could team up with a craft beer brewery to produce a series of speciality beers that capture the essence of the brand.
    • A tech brand could collaborate with a coffee roastery to create a limited-edition tech coffee blend.

    The Future of Sensory Branding

    As more brands begin to incorporate sensory experiences into their marketing, sensory branding will become more sophisticated.

    Plus, the future of sensory branding is likely to be significantly shaped by new technologies and sustainability efforts.

    Virtual Reality

    The development of virtual reality technology will enable brands to create more immersive and interactive sensory experiences, allowing them to engage with their customers on a deeper level.

    AI and Machine Learning

    AI and machine learning will enable brands to capture and analyse even more data about customer behaviour and preferences. This will allow them to create more personalised sensory experiences.

    Sustainability

    Companies are increasingly expected to reduce their impact on the environment.

    This may mean using more environmentally friendly materials and processes in the future and sourcing their raw materials from more ethical suppliers.

    Sustainable brands may create sensory experiences that evoke positive emotions associated with nature, sustainability, and well-being.

    Getting Started With Sensory Branding

    To start incorporating a multi-sensory approach into your brand, consider these steps:

    1. Understand Your Brand

    Start by gaining a deep understanding of your brand’s values, target audience, competition and personality. Identify the key emotions and experiences you want to evoke through sensory branding.

    2. Identify Relevant Senses

    Determine which senses are most relevant to your brand and align with your desired brand identity. Consider how sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste can enhance your brand experience.

    3. Develop Consistent Sensory Elements

    Create a cohesive sensory brand identity by developing consistent sensory elements across different touchpoints. Work with specialists in each field.

    For example, Drop Music Branding focuses solely on audio branding. Don’t trust your visual designer with sound!

    4. Test and Refine

    Experiment with different sensory elements and gather feedback from your audience and stakeholders. Refine your approach based on the responses and adjust if needed.

    5. Integrate Sensory Elements

    Implement sensory branding elements into various brand touchpoints, including packaging, retail environments, digital platforms, advertising campaigns, and product design. Ensure a seamless and immersive sensory experience for your customers.

    6. Measure Impact

    Continuously evaluate the impact of your sensory branding efforts. Monitor brand recognition, customer engagement, and brand loyalty to assess if your sensory elements reinforce your brand identity effectively.

    Conclusion

    Sensory branding goes beyond visuals to create memorable brand experiences. By engaging all five senses, companies can form a stronger emotional connection with their customers and stand out from competitors. 

    Science shows that sensory inputs activate specific parts of the brain, leading to more impactful brand experiences. 

    You can use techniques like sonic, scent, tactile, visual, and taste branding to appeal to different senses and establish a unique brand identity. 

    The future of sensory branding looks bright. It will likely be influenced by virtual reality, AI, and sustainability efforts.

    To implement sensory branding, businesses should first and foremost understand their brand and build on a solid foundation.

    If you’re interested in the topic, I can recommend Martin Lindstrom’s book Brand Sense: Sensory Secrets Behind the Stuff We Buy.

    If you need help building your brand, don’t hesitate to reach out.

    Title image by Yaroslav Shuraev on Pexels 

    Nine Blaess

    Nine Blaess

    Hello, I’m Nine. I blend strategy and design to craft engaging brand identities and websites that celebrate the uniqueness of each business.

    Sign up for my newsletter and get my hands-on Brand Storytelling Workbook in return.

    Keep reading

    Brand Storytelling Workbook Mockup

    Join my newsletter!

    Receive regular branding updates and claim your free Brand Storytelling workbook.