One of the most interesting drivers of this trend has been the extent to which our online experience fuels offline behavior. Despite stimulating the imagination, the online world does little to satisfy the primal need for stimulation by touch, smell, taste and tangible human experience.
The entertainment industry has been quick to respond to demands to push emotional and sensation boundaries. The new generation of 6-D cinemas include seats that move and fragrance jets that allow audiences to experience even greater sensory thrills. The explosion of 3-D TV and 3-D technology has provided a new way for people to enhance the visual experience and make them feel alive. In many ways entertainment is moving towards a reality not unlike 'the feelies' in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.
These sensory-enhancing techniques are filtering into brand communication with the rise of multisensory brand experiences. At the recently-opened Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, visitors are invited to experience multisensory immersion into the sights, sounds and smells of Ferrari's Italian heritage and rides that simulate the G-force of Formula 1 racing. Pioneering brands are focusing on all aspects of the multisensory brand experience. Nissan plans to launch in-car aromatherapy forest air conditioning, which will deliver scents that assist in maintaining alertness and deliver vitamin C to help hydrate human skin. What's interesting about these examples is the extent to which they demonstrate how physical sensations are able to create deeper emotional connections by activating people's primal needs and desires.
Taste thresholds continue to expand, particularly in the food and beverage category, where previously intense (sour, spicy, bitter) or exotic flavors have been adopted by the mainstream. U.S. spice company McCormick has reported a 70% increase in sales of its extra-hot chipotle pepper since its launch five years ago. People are now far more receptive to extreme flavors -- such as Dominos' "The Revenge" pizza with jalapeno and mustard -- so much so that they are experienced as badges of status, particularly among men. The extremely hot and sour kim-chi flavor is proving increasingly popular, even outside its home market, Asia, where it is a popular flavor for convenience foods and snacks.
Even bartenders are mixing ginger and jalapeno in their cocktails. Expect to see more extreme tastes on mainstream menus, with more ordinary food products being given an extreme taste makeover. Some argue that our growing thirst for extreme flavor is being driven be an aging population who are seeking taste sensations to pep up taste buds and olfactory nerves.
Meanwhile, a new generation of food artists such as the U.K.'s Bompas & Parr, makers of jellied desserts, are pushing boundaries with innovative food installations-cum-entertainment experiences specially designed to play to all five senses. Bompas & Parr's Complete History of Food, produced in July, took over an entire building and included flooded dining rooms, giant sugar sculptures and dinner in the belly of a dinosaur, topped off with cocktails by sponsor Courvoisier. Over the next few years, expect to see more examples of multisensory branding as companies find new ways to push boundaries and stimulate and connect with consumers.
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