Follow your nose to marketing evolution

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Advertising ain't what it used to be. Despite the fact that we're using more and more marketing resources, the returns on ad dollars are ever diminishing.

According to the Newspaper Advertising Bureau, in 1965, 34% of consumers in the U.S. could name the brand of a commercial aired during a show. Thirty years later only 8% can do so. By 2007 it's predicted 20% of consumers will be eliminating ads from their TV screens with devices like TiVo. It's time to rethink the entire process. Snappier graphics, faster editing, more-convincing testimonials or bigger and better discounts will no longer do it. Something new is required.

The answer came to me on a Tokyo street in the spring of 1999. A lady brushed by me and her perfume took me back to my childhood. It was extraordinary. For a moment the rush-hour crowds, the traffic and the high-rise buildings ceased to exist. I was instantly transported to the Danish countryside, smelling the same perfume that a friend of mine once wore. It stood to reason that if brands contained a scent, they could be equally powerful.

This epiphany triggered what was to become the world's largest study on our five senses in relationship to branding. With help and support from the international research institute Millward Brown, a team of 600 researchers undertook an intensive 18-month study across 13 countries. The findings have been nothing short of mind-blowing. We found that smell was the second most powerful sense for emotional connections.


Really? Yes. Two identical pairs of Nike running shoes were placed in two separate, but identical, rooms. One room was infused with a mixed floral scent. The other wasn't. Test subjects inspected the shoes in each room, and then answered a questionnaire. Overwhelmingly, by a margin of 84%, consumers preferred the shoes displayed in the fragrant room. Additionally, the consumers estimated the value of the "scented" shoes was, on average, $10.33 higher than the pair in the unscented room.

Smell is a powerful tool. Yet Fortune 1000 brands concentrate almost all of their marketing dollars on what we see and hear.

Incorporating smell into branding has already begun. In fact as far back as1973 Singapore Airlines broke through the barriers of traditional branding with its "Singapore girl." Staffers were styled right down to their makeup. Stewardesses were offered only two choices of color combination based on a specific palette designed to blend in with Singapore Airline's brand color scheme, which was clearly defined in the company's internal grooming manual.

But the sensory branding of the Singapore girl really reached its zenith at the end of the 1990s when Singapore Airlines introduced Stefan Floridian Waters. Granted Stefan Floridian Waters isn't a household name-but that's because it is an aroma, specifically designed for Singapore Airlines. Stefan Floridian Waters formed the scent in the flight attendants' perfume, was blended into the hot towels served before take off and generally permeated the entire fleet of Singapore Airlines planes.

Interestingly, few people can remember this unique smell if asked to describe it. Those who do describe it as smooth, exotically Asian and with a distinct aura of the feminine. However if you were to ask travelers who take a subsequent journey with Singapore Airlines about this unique smell, they all report instant recognition upon stepping into the aircraft. A smell that has the potential to kick-start a kaleidoscope of smooth comfortable memories-all reflecting the Singapore Airlines brand.

new-car smell

Slowly marketers of a whole range of products, from cellphones to clothes or cars, are realizing the power of sensory branding. Just take that gratifying new-car smell that accompanies the purchase of a car. The reality is that this smell comes in an aerosol container that is sprayed into the cabin of the car as it leaves the factory floor. It lasts for about six weeks. Our brand-sense study shows that 86% of consumers in the United States find the smell of a new car appealing-69% of Europeans feel the same way. Based on the fact that consumers felt "something" was missing, Rolls Royce has spent a considerable amount of time re-creating the "original" smell of a Rolls Royce-benchmarking against the classic 1965 model.

But smell is only one side of the story. According to the brand-sense study, 44% of all consumers stated that the sound of a new car is more important than the design. That includes the door. It's serious business. So serious that Mercedes-Benz has 12 engineers dedicated to the sound of opening and closing doors! Does it work? Check out the competing Acura TSX and you'll notice the perfect sound of an opening and closing door-even the feeling seems right. No wonder-the sound is artificially generated and even the vibrations in the door generated by electric impulses.

It is clear from our study that almost every industry has the potential to employ sensory branding-converting every possible touch point into a branded experience. Even the neglected details will become powerful tools. Like the simple ring of a Nokia cellphone. The Nokia tune has created an awareness similar to the Intel Inside tune, with more than 100 million consumers listening to the tune seven hours a year. There is only one difference between Intel and Nokia. Intel paid millions of dollars to create this sound awareness-Nokia paid nothing.

The potential for connecting with consumers via other senses is huge and under-used. It could be the edge that many businesses are looking for.

The research proved that the more senses a brand appeals to the more strongly consumers connect with that brand. Stronger bonding frequently translates directly into a willingness to pay higher prices. So next time you're focused on how your brand looks, ask yourself also how it sounds, smells and feels.

Martin Lindstrom recognized by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of the world’s leading branding experts. His latest book is "Brand Sense" (Simon & Schuster, New York).

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