The Fantastic Five

The relationship between brand engagement and the five senses

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When it comes to brand engagement, experience seems to be the recipe for success. Technology has had a beneficial side effect: it has sharpened the desire for what is real; what can be experienced. Physicality and experimentation are currently overrated aspects if we consider consumer mindset. Inevitably, to experience something, it boils down to the five senses. If we summon experiences that inhabit our memory, it is easy to see that they are related with the domain of the senses: what we saw, heard, tasted, smelled or touched. Images, songs, flavours, aromas, textures, recollections of sensory experiences, all converted into mental and emotional responses. This explains the role ergonomics plays in retail, F&B (food and beverage), hospitality, and corporate events, among others. Enshrined in holism and a science no longer restricted to workplace environments or object design, the focus is now on user needs and wellbeing, and therefore on user experience.

Brands that choose to be present in physical spaces without doubt have to consider what kind of sensory experiences they can, and must, deliver to their users who may become consumers. And if the experience is about feeling, what about the fantastic five? What can we say about the five senses!? First and foremost, considering that overall experience will be an outcome of all sensations experienced, it is still possible to magnify each sense, allowing it to support a more far-reaching remembrance.

When it comes to brand engagement, experience perceived through the five senses seems to be the recipe for success
Flower show at Chantilly. Photo Chantal Garnier, Unsplash

TASTE: In the Portuguese language we use the word “taste” to refer to something that we appreciate or value (“gosto”) but “to taste,” which is spelt the same way, also means the sense of taste (“gosto”), written the same way. Could the Portuguese language bear testament to the importance of the palate in the pleasurable relationship with what surrounds us? The palate’s close link with sight and smell allows us to differentiate flavours and textures but it is also deeply interconnected with sociocultural interactions. It’s easy to perceive in the context of food retail stores or F&B—having a direct impact on sales—but any business can take advantage of it. Inviting customers to taste or drink disinhibits and works as an icebreaker, furthers communication making them feel more like guests than mere consumers.

SIGHT: Seeing allows us to evaluate and conceive quality standards and gauge environment conditions: space, movement, forms, colours, lighting, and images, among others. Through observation, customers will lend attributes not merely to physical spaces but also to the brand itself. Visual merchandising is closely linked to sight and is associated with four key aspects: impact (highlighting of the surrounding environment); attractiveness (aesthetic references); interpretation (understanding the message); and coherence (brand identity).

SCENT: A smell can be a shortcut to memory, and memories evoke emotions. We associate odours with objects, people, places, or moments. This powerful sense has, in recent decades, been highlighted in marketing strategies. Fragrances and odours can today be true corporate tools, as long as they sit well with the business category. Infusing a space with a scent can be one of the least expensive solutions to engage customers in that space’s environment.

TOUCH: The skin is the largest organ in our body. Tactile perception is indispensable for understanding what surrounds us. Touch plays a key role in our assessment of an object or material. We assess something when we touch it. Sometimes sight impels touch, as if merely looking isn’t enough. We like to touch the products we buy, we feel the temperature; texture; stiffness, flexibility, and even weight. Perhaps touch explains why so many online businesses want to be physically present. It is known that encouraging the customer to manipulate an object or product allows them to establish an emotional reaction with it: “it can be mine.” A physical store enables touch, which increases sales. In other kinds of businesses such as restaurants or hotels, the weight of cutlery; the thickness of the glass; and the softness of the towels or sheets will be aspects that enhance how we value the experience.

Inevitably, to experience something, it boils down to the five senses
Sight impels touch. Photo Charles, Unsplash

HEARING: The sounds around us are unequivocally propitious to motivate a mood or state of mind by arousing feelings and emotions. Sound has been analysed as part of a set of consumer behaviours, such as time spent, mood, and movement, among others. Sensory stimulation through hearing can transform a brand´s concept into sound language, and should not be limited to customised playlists, it may also be sounds that reproduce certain environments, such as the sound of the sea in a bikini display, or the sound of birds in a camping shop. In a spa, music is expected to help people to relax. In a restaurant, music can amplify what we taste, or contribute to enhance the type of cuisine. Sound—interconnected with other aspects—can direct attention to a particular product or highlight the space’s environment.

In physical spaces, these five superheroes make a difference. Like a team, they can be trained to conquer people´s attention, respecting the three allied ergonomic aspects that must be considered as three “C” superpowers: comprehension, comfort and contact.

Main image: Sensory experiences inhabit our memory. Photo Are R, Unsplash

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