Sensory Marketing Is the Next Frontier in Mobile Advertising

Mobile Ads Must Appeal to Users' Emotions through Sight, Sound and Touch

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As mobile usage accelerates, we're seeing more marketers and more dollars flowing into this platform. But for all its promise, mobile ad technology still hasn't realized its full potential. Aside from location-based targeting, which can only be done effectively in mobile, all other mobile ad offerings are just smaller, less-effective versions of desktop ad units. Mobile user interactions and mobile device hardware are unique; therefore, our approach to mobile advertising needs to be unique. In order for mobile advertising to fulfill the promise to create immersive user experiences and thereby engage people on an emotional level, sensory marketing is the next frontier.

To accomplish this, mobile ads must feature contextually relevant, rich creative served through delivery mechanisms that facilitate memorable levels of engagement. Seems straightforward enough, so why do we continue to deliver the exact opposite? A recent Forrester report showed that 57% of U.S. adult smartphone owners who see in-app ads think that the ads interrupt their user experience.

To prevent this trend from continuing, we shouldn't forget the basics of brand advertising. Brand marketers are storytellers who engage people by appealing to their emotions. So in today's mobile world, mobile ad tech has to unlock device utility to enable the medium (i.e. mobile ads) to enhance digital brand marketers' emotionally charged narratives.

One way to achieve this is by embracing sensory marketing for mobile ads.

What is sensory marketing?

Sensory branding is a marketing approach that has been in use for decades. It empowers brands to forge emotional associations and connections with people through multi-sensory experiences such as sight, sound and touch, which solidify positive feelings, thoughts and opinions about a brand.

Sight is the most stimulated sense in sensory marketing for obvious reasons -- the majority of us can recognize Coca-Cola by its red and white logo. Marketers are also utilizing sound to complement sight, because positive sounds are a great way to inspire lasting memories that tug at people's heartstrings, such as a catchy tune, jingle or song associated with a brand. Who didn't fall in love with Oscar Mayer's "My Bologna Has a First Name" jingle from the 1970s? Who doesn't recognize Intel by its" Leap Ahead" music theme?

Sensory marketing goes beyond just advertising, too. Research has shown that sounds influence people's moods when shopping and can positively impact their purchasing behavior. This is why wine stores play classical music to inspire a quiet, reflective mood that complements the product, while a bar might blast rock music, which has been proven to drive more beer consumption.

Sensory ads can facilitate emotional connections

The beauty of mobile is that it empowers the digital ad industry to reinvent branding units, including formats that facilitate emotional connections with real people. The platform gives us a chance to figure out how brands can enhance the user experience and drive connections in a new way, all while tapping into sensory marketing.

Mobile hardware natively contains sensory elements that stimulate people's emotions and create memorable, engaging experiences. In fact, smartphone users have already been pre-conditioned to respond to sight, sound and touch. The first thing a user does when her phone vibrates is look at it. Assuming they don't take it too far, marketers have a big opportunity to leverage that pre-conditioned user response.

For example, mobile ads that inspire users to move or twist a device and those that are enhanced with sound and vibration will strengthen digital brand marketers' ability to connect with viewers. Sensory features make the ad viewing fun, stimulating people's emotions.

Here's an example of a sensory ad marketers might leverage within a mobile game. Let's say someone is engrossed in playing a mobile crossword puzzle. When the user has solved a particularly challenging question, the app could vibrate and sound a "reward" tone, then provide the user with a branded ad and coupon to reinforce the positive moment. Another real-life example is Showtime's ads for "Homeland" on the network's mobile app. The ads deliver vibrations that correspond with action scenes, such as bombs exploding. Both of these types of sensory ads create highly immersive and memorable experiences.

Sensory marketing must engage -- not disrupt -- the mobile ad user experience

But there are dangers with this approach. Brands must be careful not to disrupt and annoy viewers. They should partner with ad technology vendors that have thoroughly vetted sensory marketing features and have tested the mobile products to ensure they're additive to the user experience. Ad tech vendors that incorporate sensory marketing should have an in-depth understanding of how specific sounds and vibrations -- including the duration, frequency, tone and volume -- can influence people's specific emotions in their mobile ad products before they come to market.

It's time for mobile marketers to embrace sensory ads. Doing so will ensure that people are more engaged, brands' ads are more memorable, and their efforts will produce true people-to-brand connections as a result.

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