Sensory Marketing

Author: Marissa – New Business, Experience Strategy

What is sensory marketing?

Everyone is talking about spatial and it's easy to explain why. Unlike digital experiences which primarily rely on visual and auditory stimuli, spatial and haptic encounters tap into the tactile, proprioceptive (the sense of self-movement, force, and body position), and sometimes olfactory senses. And as humans we all want that.

By incorporating touch, physical movement, and immersive environments, these experiences create a more holistic and memorable brand interaction. However, sensory marketing which is the foundation for retailtainment and experiential marketing is a lot more serious than just being touchy feely. According to Rhonda Hadi, Associate Professor of Marketing at the University of Oxford, there are new ways of increasing the customer’s engagement through haptic design.

She explains that because the science behind sensory marketing mimics the real world and is grounded in human behavior, it won’t be a short-term fad. In addition to this, she also claims the next 25 years will see a further rise in sensory marketing as the general trend in the marketing industries, referencing ancient marketplaces in days of yore where you’d pick up, touch and smell the product.

With all this in mind, where should you start?

If you want to make a brand explorable, let consumers explore with all their senses. Any form of pop-up, be it an entertainment center or experience, will allow for this. Pop-up centers are compact and immersive spaces designed to provide entertainment and leisure activities in retail stores, malls, airports, OOH and trade shows.

These centers typically offer a range of experiences, such as gaming, themed environments and customized interactive ways of product exploration. Due to their flexibility in roll out, they are an ideal way to get started and even more so when you take virtual spaces into consideration.

When the next iterations of Apple Vision Pro are available for a broader audience with - and here are my predictions - some location based apps and a multi-player function, then the blending of a virtual based layer atop a physical interaction will allow for unlimited customized content and a truly immersive VR world which includes haptic feedback.

Here are some topics to consider before kicking off:

Accessibility ?

During spatial design planning never underestimate the human factor. People in public always behave differently than when they are interacting with a screen in private. Make your experience accessible and intuitive for customers. Users may be apprehensive about interacting in public, and you want to avoid making them feel overwhelmed. Instead, increase the level of complexity within the interaction points like a game.

Consistency ??

The consistent visual adoption of your brand’s key topics and values are paramount. Ensure all the sensory elements align with the theme and purpose of the micro entertainment center. Consistency in sensory cues creates a coherent and immersive experience, enhancing the overall impact.

Seamless Integration ?️

Integrate sensory elements and IOT experiences as smoothly as possible within the entertainment center’s layout as well as the brand media environment and infrastructure. The experience might begin in a pop up or micro entertainment center — but preferably grows and expands throughout multiple digital customer touch points. These can include social media channels and user generated content (you might consider streaming the event via Twitch), influencer activations or reward points which are able to be redeemed in-store.

Outcome ?

What is the main outcome you want to achieve for your brand and what do your customers expect? Keep this in mind and think about what can be designed to exceed that.

An excellent example of this was when M&M’s created flavor rooms which allowed visitors to explore different tastes then vote for the next flavor to be released. This instantly put the customer in the role of brand ambassador.

Invest in prototyping!

To come up with innovative concepts, you need to be rapid prototyping. This can be done in virtual simulations or hands-on mini exhibits. There is no better way to proof your concept and this will save time and money in the end. Spend a little now to save a lot later.

Ideally, whichever partner you choose to realize your project can cover all this off at once, from consulting to design, development and fabrication. Remember the old adage ‘too many cooks spoil the broth.’ Having multiple partners increases the time and energy that needs to be expended managing the event and can cause vital information to slip through the cracks.

How do you measure success?

I'm not going to lie. Measuring the effectiveness of spatial and haptic brand experiences can be a bit tricky, as it involves assessing both tangible and intangible factors. Sure, utilizing sensors and tracking devices can provide quantitative data on participants’ behaviors and interactions during the experience but it is not the be all and end all.

For instance, motion sensors or heat maps can assess the level of physical engagement and movement, while eye-tracking devices can track participants’ gaze and attention. But what’s even more effective is the use of the IOT device itself to gain data; like Disney is doing it with their RFID wristbands. These not only contribute to the complete visitor experience but also allow for the collection of data on ride preferences, food purchases, and real-time location, which helps them optimize the park experience and personalize current and future interactions with visitors.

Open your mind and field of vision. Stop looking solely at your highly scalable KPI driven virtual online experiences and sales channels. Take a look at the real world, where humans actually reside. The future exists beyond online and it’s a massive source of income. It will be a mix of real world experiences and augmented ones, which will shape lasting brands who are investing in both. If you are doing that then you’ll stand out and win big.