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Sensory Branding

Store & Packaging Design through the Five Senses

One of the first things we learn in science is the five senses by which humans experience the world: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. Though this is an elementary concept, you should heavily consider these senses within your branding. Sensory branding is the foundation of neuromarketing: a strategy brands use to engage the five senses within their products or services and better understand their customers.

Neuromarketing is the balance between marketing and neuroscience, how our neural signals interact with advertisements, branding, products, and pricing. The senses are a gateway to customers' feelings and emotions; this is also a gateway to their decision-making complexes. These same complexes will be the predecessor for how loyal customers can be to a brand. (Harvard Business Review)

Storefront design, commercial interiors, packaging, and even online content can create a multisensory experience by adapting the five senses within infrastructure and marketing. This article explores how you can use your branding to engage with each of the five senses to connect more deeply with your audience.

“As you might imagine, our brains are adept at filtering out irrelevant information. Emotion gets out attention through our senses-which then influence our decision-making processes. Brands that create an emotional connection to consumers are much stronger than those that don't- it's as simple (and complicated) as that.”

- Martin Lindstrom, Buyology

Sense of Sight

Sight is the most considered aspect of branding. The human eye is a complex organ responsible for all visual information that your brain will process. Our eyes can be intrigued by specific colour palettes, shapes, and imagery. When things are presented in an aesthetically pleasing way, they pique our interest. Though visuals are subjective, and opinion can vary from person to person, there is psychological reasoning behind consistent views. For example, leveraging people's associations with each colour when choosing palettes by using colour psychology can create a stronger connection with your brand's message.

As an example, flower shops utilize marketing through the sense of sight with minimal effort. Most of us cannot help but stop and take a second look at the beautiful storefront of a flower shop. Within them, there is a multitude of different plants and flowers that range in colour. For example, roses are a flower that comes in various colours, each with different meanings. Red roses signify love, while yellow roses signify friendship. Flowers and plants bring humans joy, whether for a gift or yourself. Although sight is not the only sense used in inspecting plants, the overall aesthetic of flower shops can be beautiful and trigger certain emotions that encourage purchasing these items.

Sense of Hearing

The use of sound is a potent tool in marketing. Humans communicate through speech and can feel deep emotions through music. With the digital world increasingly prioritizing video content, it is essential to have a sonic brand strategy. Using the sense of sound when designing brand experiences can be invaluable in enhancing the atmosphere your visuals are creating.

When walking into stores and restaurants, much of the time, music will be playing. The genre and style should be carefully selected to create an atmosphere for shoppers that aligns with the brand's identity. When used strategically, a business can invite its ideal audience into its spaces through sound and repel people who would not resonate with their product. Service providers, like spas, can enhance their client's experience by creating an appropriate sonic atmosphere.

Sense of Touch

Touch marks the moment you physically bond with a product or service. Whether the packaging or the product itself, the quality and sensory design matter deeply to create a wonderful interactive experience for your customer or prospective buyer.

The glasses company Warby Parker has welcoming storefronts where you can quickly grab a pair of glasses off the wall and try them on. This interior design strategy helps shoppers test the look, feel, and quality of the product, connecting more strongly with it than if they were only to see it online or locked behind a glass case.

Another example illustrating how we can be profoundly intentional and strategic about packaging design is Apple: the company that sparked the idea of unpacking as a phenomenon. The visual design is minimalist and heavily embraces how things feel. Apple's iconic sensory experience is marked by the expression of the absence of eye-grabbing colours and images. It is beautifully understated and direct, reflecting the brand's ethos and products. Slight changes in materiality, like the matte white boxes detailed with shiny and slightly embossed imagery, add tactile interest to the packages' surface. When someone unboxes an Apple product, they experience the friction designed into the extended cover that must be pulled off, slows the reveal of the product inside, adding a second of anticipation.

By creating a delightful feeling product, interactive storefront design, and satisfying unboxing experience, you can connect more deeply with your brand's audience through their sense of touch.

Sense of Taste

Taste can entice an audience as humans love (and need) to eat. We become attached to how things taste and have built positive associations with certain flavours. A common yet effective way of using taste marketing is through samples of foods and beverages. The initial taste of something will help a consumer understand the food or beverage product viscerally. For example, ice cream shops will often offer samples to take the risk off of buyers who are not sure which flavour they will like, increasing sales.

Marketers can also utilize taste outside of the food and beverage industry. Movie theatres sell popcorn, though their primary service is to display a film. We know we can watch movies at home, but we pay a premium for theatres to enjoy the multisensory experience they provide. Snacks play a significant role. For much of society, an association has been created between buttery popcorn and the enjoyment of a film.

Sense of Smell

Scents can support creating a brand experience through relevance in memory and nostalgia. When you are attracted to another human, a big part of this desire is their scent— and the same sense contributes to falling in love with certain products and services.

Bakeries are marked by the sweet and comforting smell of bread and pastries baking. We associate these smells with pleasure since they have been accompanied in the past by eating something delicious. This smell may also connect to a multitude of other personal experiences. Perhaps you had a grandparent who baked for you when you were a child, so the pleasure association is bolstered by the power of nostalgia.

Businesses outside the food industry, like retail store Muji and wellness brand Sage, curate their shopping experience by setting up diffusers inside their shops. These two brands often even place scented diffusers outside their storefronts, inviting people in. Many clothing retailers, like Anthropologie, have implemented lighting candles throughout the store for a similar effect.

This has a direct result in pushing the sales of diffusers, essential oils, and candles. However, it also has the indirect benefit of creating a delightful shopping experience and a welcoming atmosphere due to the use of intentional fragrances.

Creating a multisensory experience for your customers will strengthen your brand. Regardless of your product or service, whether you have a brick-and-mortar store, send out packages, or exist only online, there are strategies you can use to engage more senses when people interact with your brand. If you would like to discuss this further, reach us at, and we'd be happy to consult you on your multisensory branding strategy.

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