Recent decades have seen a move away from a focus on mass marketing toward an increase in relationship and micro-marketing, including experiential and event marketing. However, the new paradigm shift is a result of the emergence of multisensory and other forms of neuromarketing, which differ from their predecessors in that their focus is the five human senses and the way these are processed in the brains of individuals.
Rather than relying primarily upon visuals and audio, as does the vast majority of traditional marketing and advertising, multisensory marketing and advertising (MSMA) seeks to communicate with each of the five human senses.
There are two main ideas behind this. Firstly, each human sense that is ignored is an avenue of communication not being utilized. Secondly, no marketing or advertising operates in a vacuum, so there will always be, for example, sounds and smells present; only not necessarily the ones most conducive to the marketing or advertising activities taking place.
With this in mind, MSMA makes use of cutting-edge technologies in combination with tried and tested methodologies to incorporate elements of sight (optics), sound (audition), smell (olfaction), taste (gustation) and touch (haptics). In doing so, it is able to communicate with individuals on a deeper, more fundamental level, creating truly immersive environments, greatly increasing emotional engagement and sending recall rates through the roof.
Research by the Sense of Smell Institute indicates that while people’s visual recall of images sinks to approximately 50% after only three months, they recall smells with a 65% accuracy after an entire year. Similarly, a study carried out at the Rockefeller University shows that in the short term we remember just 1% of what we touch, 2% of what we hear, 5% of what we see, 15% of what we taste and 35% of what we smell. Compelling evidence, to say the least.
By its very nature, experiential marketing has been more multisensorial than traditional mass marketing. We are all familiar with the concept of enabling and encouraging potentials to actively engage and interact with brands, products and services; the difference between letting customers experience benefits for themselves, as opposed to being told about them. Mental connections to brands are indeed strengthened by physical interactions. And yes, an individual’s actual experience of said commodities can be an incredibly powerful tool in marketing them; driving sales, improving brand image and perception, winning and increasing customer loyalty as well as raising awareness.
However, the question is, are these personal experiences making use of the full potential of each of the human senses, where relevant? In my experience, the answer is no.
Most experiential marketing involves visual and tactile elements. Things one can see and touch. The experience may also include audio of some sort – perhaps some music or a voiceover. If there is a product involved that can be sampled, there may even be something to sniff and/or taste.
What if the campaign does not revolve around something that can be eaten or drunk, smelt or tasted? Does it warrant inclusion of fragrance or flavor?
It is obvious that if we are marketing a bar of chocolate, it makes sense, in an experiential setting, to afford participants the opportunity to smell and taste the product. Similarly, if a campaign wants to put consumers in mind of a rainforest, it follows that a carefully selected tropical scent will help to achieve this. This is all rather straightforward as the olfactory elements here are congruent with what is being marketed.
What you may not be aware of is that certain scents, at face value wholly unrelated to the subject matter, have the power, when delivered correctly, to affect consumers’ moods, judgements and sense of well-being, as well as how they perceive and feel about the brands, products, services, environments and people they encounter in its presence; not to mention how long, accurately and to what degree they recall that experience.
For example, did you know that wearing certain floral-spice fragrances can reduce a woman's perceived weight by as much as 7%? Or that in the presence of certain citric aromas, men often perceive women around them to be on average 6 years younger than they actually are?
I am certainly not advocating that anyone should want to be perceived as weighing less or appearing younger. However, as a marketer one would have to be missing a sense or two not to realize the value of such cognitive biases, even if they are, as in these cases and as is often the case with olfaction, culture-dependent.
Furthermore, it is possible to deliver scents whereby they communicate directly with the subconscious, without the conscious mind ever being made aware. One can even target a scent at the subconscious, whilst simultaneously delivering an altogether different message, still through olfaction, to the conscious mind of the same individual. With such tactics, the incredible can be readily achieved and truly immersive experiences generated.
Although I have focussed somewhat on olfactory marketing here, it is important to realize that the most efficacious approach is a multisensory communication strategy, making use, wherever possible, of each of the five human senses. An experiential installation incorporating an element of fragrance and/or flavor coupled with a low-volume ambient soundscape is likely to be more effective than any single one of these elements featured in isolation.
What I would like to witness is a conscious shift in the culture of experiential marketing that acknowledges the huge untapped resource of MSMA and seeks to adopt its technologies and methodologies, already being used with astounding success in retail for over a decade, to elevate the experiences being offered to people. What a great way to move the industry forward into an exciting new phase of its evolution.