The place had old look – the furniture were old , stylish and the waiters wore typical Indian look, the ambience took me back to the old days. A soothing instrumental music permeated through the hidden speakers and the aroma of soft brewed coffee wafted around. It was the subliminal branding created by the Indian Coffee House (ICH) that attracted coffee lovers from the city. Recently, I was bemused by the brand tactics of a hotel in Kathmandu – they played traditional Nepali tunes and as I entered there was a fresh smell of roses all around.
Might be they have taken cue from what marketers are practising in the West. Some supermarkets in Northern Europe are connected to bakeries by hundreds of meters of pipeline. These pipes carry the aroma of fresh bread to the stores’ entrances. The strategy works. Passers-by are struck with hunger and drawn inside the shop. A major British bank has introduced freshly brewed coffee to its branches with the intention of making customers feel at home. The familiar smell relaxes the bank’s customers.
The marketers have suddenly turned to the two remaining senses that most of them had ignored for such a long period. In the past they were busy satisfying the touch, feel and see aspects of brand. The product was meticulously created and cleverly packed. The colours, graphics and design – they sold the entire brand.
The latest theory claims that successful brands simply must have their own distinctive odours. If we can associate our product with an appropriate smell, consumers can be touched at a deep emotional level, making them loyal.
The notion first took hold in the Nineties, when Singapore Airlines took the help of Stefan Floridian Waters, a distinctive scent, to boost its corporate identity. The scent was suffused inside the aircraft, mixed into flight attendants’ perfume, even dripped on to passengers’ hot towels. The intention was to prompt familiar, warm memories when passengers boarded the plane. And it worked wonders!
But smell isn’t the only sensory effect that brands are manipulating. In the automotive industry, advances in acoustic design have enabled the manufacturers to engineer, with great precision, how a door will sound as it closes. Thus, the soft opening doors have replaced the screeching sounds. The white goods industry has capitalised this concept to the hilt. Now the dishwashers and mixers never hurt your ears. And every buyer looks for the goods that produce pleasant sound!
Some websites have captured the ABCs of sensory branding. When you visit those sites, you listen a particular sound that is quite appealing and makes you unknowingly visit that site again and again. I wonder why Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) hasn’t turned to this emerging trend. The sound of birds chirping, rivers cascading and breeze whizzing will give the visitors a feel of Nepal in wild. It will surely draw hordes of visitors to our country.
In Brand Sense, author Martin Lindstrom predicts that the world of marketing is about to witness “seismic shifts” in the way in which consumers perceive brands, analogous to “moving from black and white television…with mono sound to high-definition color screens installed with surround sound.” “The more senses you appeal to,” he says, “the stronger the message will be perceived” – largely because the “subtle, pleasant and insidious” nature of multi-sensory branding entices customers without their being aware of it.
So, are you ready to tickle all the five senses? Join Martin and his horde of followers to create a niche for your brand.
This article was published in a business school newsletter.