Establishing the look of a brand is vital, but it’s much more simple and tangible than designing the feel of a brand. The feel has been an ambiguous assumption of what consumers subconsciously associate with a particular company or store. Sensory marketing is now allowing brands to establish, down to the most obsessive detail, exactly what their brand feels like.

Advertising had long been a soapbox where brands shouted their value. Over time, that has evolved into two-way communications with instant feedback through social media and the web. Consumers consciously post feedback via blog posts, comments, status updated and reviews. The next step in advertising’s evolution will be simulating a reality in which consumers are engaged with a brand subconsciously.


Hundreds of articles can be found on the opportunities surrounding virtual reality and technology, like the Oculus Rift, which is opening a new frontier for marketers. Sensory marketing should not be overlooked. Since virtual reality is still a few years away from being a mainstream product, sensory marketing is a huge opportunity for any brand trying to stand out in the over-saturated media landscape of today.


In South Korea, Dunkin’ Donuts leveraged the powerful, inviting aroma of coffee into a guerrilla advertising effort on public buses. Every time the Dunkin’ Donuts jingle played on the radio; small air fresheners lightly sprayed the scent of coffee into the air. Drilling down into the subconscious thoughts of consumers and what drives them into their stores worked. In stores located near bus stops, sales went up 29% and the number of visitors to those shops went up 16%.


This comes from a wave of new scientific research on how the senses impact behavior. An experiment from the University of Colorado at Boulder revealed that people holding warm drinks had warmer perceptions of strangers than those holding cold drinks. Another study from Yale showed warmer ambient temperatures drove conformity in crowds.


If sensory marketing can be this effective, why aren’t we seeing more of it? It’s subtle, targeted, and most importantly you can’t skip over it. Consumers can ignore any other form of media in front of their eyes and ears, but targeting their senses that aren’t preoccupied will spark curiosity.


Unlike virtual reality, where consumers won’t be able to afford it for another few years, sensory marketing is already a viable option to reach consumers. Sensory marketing isn’t a tactic of the future; it’s a tactic of right now. How far will the creative industry take this new approach? We can’t wait to find out.