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Cool sensory marketing tricks and ideas for your digital marketing campaigns

24 September, 2014


According to Marketing Week, sensory marketing could be worth £100m to brands. But what is it, how does it work, and how can sensory experiences be translated for digital marketing campaigns?

What is sensory marketing?

Sensory marketing appeals to people’s emotions through the senses: touch; taste; smell; sight and sound. As the senses are closely related to emotions and memories, sensory marketing allows brands to connect on an emotional level with customers and create lasting memories through positive associations with the brand.

A great example of this process in action will be taking place in Leeds this weekend.

Why will Leeds taste and smell great this weekend?

This Friday sees the arrival of the biggest festival of street food in the world right here in Yorkshire.

For the love of food festival

For the Love of Food takes place from Friday 26th to Sunday 28th September 2014. For three days, Millennium Square in Leeds will be filled with the sights, sounds, smells and tastes from the UK and Europe’s best street food traders as they compete for the prestigious British Street Food Awards 2014 title. There’s even a British Street Food app.

Regular readers will know how much I love cooking and eating great food.

I recently wrote this blog about why I think running social media campaigns is like hosting a great dinner party. And Yorkshire Post interviewed me about my cooking for the “My passion” feature earlier this year.

It will come as no surprise, then, that I will be out and about this weekend in Leeds, sampling the food on offer and getting fully involved in the sensory celebrations. (If you are too, do say hello!)

But why do great tastes and smells have such a powerful positive effect on people and how are marketers using this to engage with us on a deeper level? Is there anything we can learn from sensory marketing to improve our digital communications campaigns?

The collective power of sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch

Scents and tastes can evoke memories, emotions and even a hormonal response. We’re all familiar with being transported straight back to our school or college days just by hearing a song on the radio. Or being repulsed and forced to leave a room by a foul odour. You might even be aware of supermarkets pumping air from the bakery round the store to make us feel hungry for fresh bread.

But why does this matter? Well, research shows that the more emotionally engaged someone is when they experience something, the more likely they are to remember it. This has powerful implications for advertising. We have all been moved by charity fundraising adverts on television, and by Christmas viral video campaigns.

Here are ten other sensory marketing tricks that companies use to fire up your olfactory glands.

Sensory marketing and digital technology

But how does this relate to online or digital marketing, where you can’t control the retail space your customer inhabits?

The argument is that scent marketing or experiential advertising beats digital marketing hands down in terms of customer memory and rate of response.

But what if you could do both?

There are already some pretty cool examples of how the digital and sensory worlds can be brought together.

Back in 2011, a group of tech savvy graduates created an air freshener that squirts scent every time they were retweeted on Twitter.

And the trend has continued.

Last December saw a flurry of excitement over a new iPhone attachment that produces a popcorn scent when you play a game. Ingenious!

iphone popcorn

Image courtesy of

While this technology has yet to facilitate a mass market trend towards “scented” sensory mobile phone gaming, we are seeing increasing levels of multi-sensory interactivity in gaming generally. Gamers are now able to connect up via headset to talk to others around the world and have a much more physical gaming experience through vibrating handsets and armchairs, or 3D headgear.

But how does all this relate to your digital marketing campaigns?

Whether or not you can afford to invest in sensory digital marketing technology, there are lessons to be learned here.

How to incorporate sensory marketing ideas into your digital marketing campaigns

People experience their world, learn and create memories in different ways; and the senses are really important in this process. By understanding this process, you can create content for your website, blog, ecommerce product pages or digital marketing campaigns that appeals to everyone.

A common and widely-used learning style model is Fleming’s (2001) VAK model, which suggests that most people are either (a) Visual learners, (b) Auditory learners and (c) Kinaesthetic learners.

  • Visual learners think in pictures and learn through seeing. Photos, infographics, pictures and charts are good ways to present content for these people.
  • Auditory learners think in words and learn through listening. They learn best from listening to lectures and discussions, so audio clips and videos are important content for these people.
  • Kinaesthetic learners experience the world around them through movement and touch. Their memories are often closely linked to emotions or sensory experiences. This group of people seek a higher degree of physical interaction so sensory marketing and experiential advertising techniques are particularly appealing to them.

It is important, therefore, to create content for your website, blog and social media pages that appeals to all learning styles and works on all the senses.

Here are some ways you can do this:

  • Ensure you have a mix of written content, viral videos, photos, and webinars in all your campaigns
  • Think about how you describe your products online: have you considered how they look and feel as well as their functional benefits?
  • Is there something physical you can direct them to in order to experience some aspect of your product or service offline as well as online? For example, “This blanket feels like stroking the soft hair underneath a cat’s neck.
  • For each customer interaction, think about how you will engage them emotionally through each of the five senses
  • Appeal to past memories. For example, “Do you remember the excitement of the first time you were kissed?”
  • Considering each of the senses can bring about some great variety in content and some interesting responses. For example: What does this statue in [an art gallery] smell like? Come visit us to see!”

I hope this has inspired you to get creative with your campaigns and delve into the world of sensory experiences!

Have I made you hungry for more ideas?

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