It’s tough not to get a warm and fuzzy feeling when you smell pancakes cooking in the morning or when you reach out and touch the coziest blanket. We’re all human, after all. Our reactions to sensory input are associated with the feelings we assign to the things around us. A sparkly piece of jewelry catches the eye, the thought of something soft entices you to touch it, and the chorus of a catchy song will stay in your head all day long. Humans are hard-wired to sense the world around them. And sensory experience is something that is sorely missing in today’s marketing.
Why a Sensory Experience is Essential in Marketing
Ever feel bothered when a salesperson is too pushy? The pressure created during this reaction creates discomfort and can breed distrust. Utilizing touch and other senses as part of your marketing strategy can help to eliminate the pain of high-pressure sales and has been scientifically proven to create a positive association between your brand and your consumers.
Findings by the Harvard Business Review center on ‘embodied cognition’—the idea that we perceive the world through our senses, and without our conscious awareness, those bodily sensations help determine the decisions we make. While this is a very intriguing concept, what does it have to do with marketing? According to Mood Media, 40% of people rank the possibility of being able to touch a product to be the most important factor when choosing a store. Plus, Touching what we’re buying creates a 62% chance we’ll make a purchase.
Going Beyond Talk to Touch in Your Marketing
It’s a digital world—from shopping to entertainment to managing our daily schedules. With so many online customer interactions, how do we move beyond talk and engage our customers’ senses? Here are a few things to consider.
Design with Purpose
Humans are buying a record amount of stuff online, making it harder and harder to create impactful marketing that engages the senses. Even when you can’t place your product into your consumers’ hands, you can still mimic the hand-held experience for the buyer.
Visualizing a product held by someone else’s hands allows us to imagine our own hands holding the item. A research paper released in February 2022 looked at 4,535 Instagram posts between four companies with tangible products that could be displayed in one’s hands. Of the posts that contained a product, 43% portrayed hands in physical contact with the item. Those posts had an average of 65% more engagement than those that did not. That’s because of the Endowment Effect. This effect refers to an emotional bias that causes us to view items we own as having a higher value than they are (often irrationally so).
Thought Co. reports that “90% of all snap buying decisions are based on the colors of products or branding alone” and encourages companies to be thoughtful about their color choices and the appearance of products. Selecting your colors with purpose can imbue your designs with a sense of texture to lure in those scrolling through social media. Combining visualization with an impactful design that utilizes color and texture can result in increased engagement and, ultimately, increased sales.
For physical items, incorporating the visual perception of texture with a haptic (or touch-based) one creates positive sensory associations and turns otherwise typical interactions into an experience. The above-mentioned Harvard Business Review article notes the use of foil in Hershey’s products. The shining foil and the sound of removing the chocolate from its wrapper are memorable experiences for the consumer. “Such influences are subtle—and that’s exactly why they are so powerful. Consumers don’t perceive them as marketing messages and therefore don’t react with the usual resistance to ads and other promotions.”
Regarding tactile marketing, utilizing specialty embellishments is a great way to add a haptic element and help customers genuinely connect with your product. (Check out some of our design tips here!)
Create Opportunities for Touch
Companies such as Apple have been using their physical locations to create sensory opportunities for customers for quite some time. If you’ve ever walked into an Apple store, you know that you can touch, scroll, slide, and feel all of their products, an in-store that is uniquely associated with their brand. Do you ever see people aimlessly strolling the aisles at Target? They’re likely feeling the clothing or picking up a candle to see how they like the smell.
Product samples are an excellent way for marketers to create a sensory-filled brand experience. Consider attending conferences or events that allow passers-by to reach out and touch what you have on display. If these options aren’t available, you can always send three-dimensional direct mail (3DDM) to get your products directly into their hands.
According to Thought Co., touch in marketing even creates a chemical reaction. “Medical research has proven that pleasant touching experiences cause the brain to release the so-called ‘love hormone,’ oxytocin, which leads to feelings of calmness and well-being.” In effect, touch can help your customers fall in love with your brand. Creating a sensory experience helps set your brand apart from others, increases ROI, and enhances the likelihood that customers will remember you – and come back again and again.