Inspire Brand Loyalty Through the 5 Senses

After you read this sentence, close your eyes briefly and think about the creative elements of your last marketing campaign.

Now ask yourself these questions:

  • How did the banner ads taste?
  • Did the TV spots have a pleasant smell?
  • What was the texture of the emails?

These questions might seem absurd at first, but the point is that human beings engage with the world, and with brands, in ways that most pharma marketers don’t fully consider.

Of our five senses, sight plays the leading role in the lives of most people. But when brands engage the other senses, along with sight, they can powerfully influence brand perceptions.

So it’s important to take a look at three things:

  • Why you should consider a multi-sensory creative strategy.
  • How to apply it.
  • Brands that have deployed it successfully.

What Senses Can Do For You

In its famous study on this topic, research firm Millward Brown examined 17 brands across 13 countries to gauge how different senses affected brand perceptions and intent to purchase. Their “5! Senses” study formed the basis of Martin Lindstrom’s book, Brand Sense.

In a presentation of the research findings,1 Millward Brown researcher Nigel Hollis reported that:

  • If sensory impressions come to mind and they are positive and distinctive, then people are more likely to be loyal to the brand.
  • The more senses that come to mind, the more loyal people will be to the brand.

Also, the study showed that people don’t create positive sensory associations because they are loyal; instead, they are loyal because of their positive sensory associations.

In other words, combining multiple sensory stimuli delivers a more powerful impact than you would get using a single sensory experience.

Bring More Senses Into Play

Pharma brands benefit when they bring touch, smell and taste into each point of the customer experience. But you can also tap into the power of sound and sight in ways that stand apart from traditional approaches.

Here are a few opportunities to consider:

  • The product: If there is any opportunity for your marketing team to influence the taste, texture, smell or visual appeal of the product you are marketing, don’t waste it. Be an advocate for creating a distinctive, positive, multi-sensory brand experience with the product itself.
  • The package: How does it sound when someone opens your packaging? What smell greets them? Do the shape and feel of the package reflect the brand impression you’re trying to create? Do the visuals reinforce that impression? Don’t miss this opportunity to create a more valuable connection with your customers.
  • Creative evocation: Evocation simply means to call to the customer’s mind—to evoke—an impression or sense. Check out the example of the Folger’s coffee mug below. A clever visual invites people to smell coffee that isn’t there. Identify opportunities to tap into senses that your creative might otherwise ignore. Ask, “How does this email smell?”
  • Creative integration: There are opportunities within each tactic to integrate sensory experiences, but don’t limit those experiences to just one tactic. Instead, weave them across your tactics just like you integrate your messaging. For example, if your website creative evokes a sense of touch, then reinforce that sense in your other digital and offline properties to strengthen the connection with your brand.

A “Taste” Campaign Is Created

Take a look at a great example of guerilla marketing in the form of street advertising by Saatchi & Saatchi to promote Folgers coffee. Employing a normal part of New York City life—steam from manhole covers—and turning it into an eye-catching, head-turning piece of advertising epitomizes what guerilla marketing is all about.

This tactic illustrates beautifully the power of using one or more senses to evoke others. The visual of the coffee mug, coupled with the sight and warmth of the rising steam, invites people to imagine the smell and taste of the coffee and the feel of the hot mug in their hands. The leap from a visual to an emotional connection is short, attention grabbing and memorable.

This tactic also illustrates that you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars if you have a good idea. What is important is delivering your message in a unique and interesting way that is outside the context that consumers are used to experiencing.

Immersion: BRing It All Together

A multi-sensory approach does not necessarily demand creative that focuses explicitly on any one sense. Sometimes, you can engage all of them together.

For example, Astellas this year partnered with the PGA Tour to launch the “PGA TOUR Woman” campaign. At the heart of the campaign was the PGA TOUR Woman experience. Co-located with PGA TOUR tournaments, PGA TOUR Woman was a multi-sensory event focused on engaging and supporting women committed to taking small steps to stay healthy.


The experience started with Executive Women’s Day, at which attendees enjoyed a healthy gourmet lunch while hearing stories from female executives—women who exemplify the PGA TOUR Woman and her attention to health and wellness.

Attendees then visited the Astellas PGA TOUR Woman pavilion, where they had the opportunity to learn and compete via interactive touch-screen games and tools, and make a commitment to good health. They even got to experience life as a “news anchor for a day” by creating a special recording they could share with others. It was a truly immersive experience that engaged every sense.

Test and Measure

Sensory branding requires careful evaluation and planning, then execution accompanied by rigorous testing and measurement. So if you’re not already employing a multi-sensory approach to customer experiences, here are the key next steps:

  • Conduct a sensory experience audit to identify where and how you are engaging your customers’ senses in the brand experience. Assess the impact you’re having and your best opportunities to create experiences that are more intentional and impactful.
  • With a few opportunities identified, create A/B tests that enable you to compare the effects of engaging multiple senses versus focusing on just one or two senses.
  • Apply what you learn to refine your multi-sensory tactics and apply the strategy to additional points in the customer experience.


1. “Smelly Business: The Dollars and Scents of Brand Building,” Millward Brown, 2007.


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