Making Sense of Sensory Marketing


Sensory marketing is a form of marketing that appeals to consumers through all five senses. Indeed, we use our five senses: touching, smelling, hearing, tasting and seeing to send information to our brains to help us perceive and understand the world around us better.

So why should you consider using sensory marketing? Simply because sensory marketing can give brands a competitive advantage. In fact, sensory triggers can stimulate positive brand associations and activate subconscious purchase drivers (WARC Best Practice).

How does sensory marketing works?

Sensory marketing has a lot to do with customer experience. It addresses the instinctive ability of humans to make decisions based on sensations they receive from their surroundings. Even more, it’s about treating your customers in an intimate and personal way 1.

Marketers are using sensory marketing to influence their customers. In fact, they’re using it to engage their customers’ senses in order to affect their perceptions, judgments and behaviors 2.

Now let’s have a look how marketers can engage and utilize the five senses of their customers: touching, smelling, hearing, tasting and seeing.


Nothing is so healing as the human touch – Bobby Fisher

Interestingly, touch is the first sense to develop in the womb and the last sense one loses with age 2. Amazingly, the touch sense can amplify experiences when the other senses cannot be fully used. For example a blind person touching braille to read…

But, the touch sense is equally important for customers to evaluate products and make a buying decision. For example, how customers interact when buying furniture.  Here, their sense of touch offer them the capacity to perceive three-dimensional objects, which is very useful.


We are good at smelling. Indeed, humans have the ability to recognize as many as 10,000 different scent combinations 2. Therefore is the smelling sense of your customers a very important element to consider when you plan a marketing campaign with products where scents are important. In fact, scents help customers to memorize a brand. This helps to build brand awareness and also creates an image of a brand both temporarily and long term 1.

As you might have guessed; scents are very important in the restaurant industry. “Some restaurants may be content to let their coffee, croissants, bacon and other food and beverage items do the scenting for them”, says Robert Barnett in Modern Restaurant Management.


Did you know that our sound sense is constantly active and cannot be turned off? 1 It’s no wonder that most of the marketing communication messages that we get exposed to everyday contain sounds. That’s not all, even when one reads; one hears the word as well 2.

Astute marketers get their customers to associate their brand with a certain sound. Remember the sound when hear when switching on your Nokia phone? Listen to it again:

Could we ever forget that?


Tastes are mainly perceived through the taste buds on the tongue, although taste buds are also present in the palate and throat 1. And, if we’re thinking about taste, the first things that probably come to our minds are food and drink.

When advertising food, for example, most companies use ads focused only on the taste of the food. However, multiple senses (sight, smell, texture, and sound) together generate taste ads that mention these senses will have a stronger impact than ads that mention taste alone 3.

Remember, food or drinks can only taste good or bad for a customer. So if the food you’re serving are tasting good, you’re customers will have pleasant experiences, and tell their friends about it. And, visa verse…


Seeing is believing…

Among the human senses, the sight sense is the most prominent and most people trust their sight experience completely. Hence most of our decisions in daily life are based on sight impressions. In addition, the sight sense, through visualization as an experience trigger, can contribute to creating brand awareness and brand image.

If marketers can create an ad that shows products that look good and the pictures also illustrates their handiness, then viewers may imagine interacting with that product and can thereby increase purchase intention 3.

Using images in the online channel is especially important to affect the user’s perceptions, judgments and behaviors positively towards your business…

How to portray all 5 senses in the online channel

One of the weaknesses of the online marketing channel is that users can’t deploy all their senses directly to evaluate and interact with a product. Indeed, the touching, smelling and tasting of products can’t be experienced as if the customer has the product in her hand. So how can you solve this problem?

There are only two ways to stimulate senses on your website – words and pictures, according to Graham Jones ( He suggests the following:

  • Show images that demonstrate sensory gratification. The pictures should show the products in their natural surroundings, with people touching them, or even showing people smelling them.
  • Use sensory words to trigger mirror neurons. When you read a text which makes you feel something, your brain is actually producing those feelings inside you. So you need to create content that stimulate the user’s senses.

Kellie McGann suggests in how one should unlock all five senses in your writing:

  1. Write with sight. Ask yourself, “What am I seeing?” What do you really see? What do you not see? What does it mean?
  2. Write with taste. We sometimes neglect or even simply forget to describe the way something might taste or what that taste means. Kellie’s favorite way to describe what something tastes like is by use of a metaphor.
  3. Write with smell. Generally we categorize smells into two options: good or bad. Try describing some smells yourself.
  4. Write with sound. Have you listened to your environment? Have you listened to your characters’ environment? And have you unlocked what the sounds are really telling you?
  5. Write with touch. When writing about touch, the physical is very important to describe, but even more important is the invisible. The different aspects that are “touched” but not with your hands.


Our five senses have helped us from the beginning to survive and flourish here on earth. These senses are going nowhere.

Sensory marketing is a long overdue marketing tool that we can apply to help our customers to rediscovering the usefulness of their five senses to make buying decisions…

Read also: Improve your Customers’ Online Experiences by Knowing their Personality Traits

A Marketing Plan helps you to communicate the right content to the right audience.


1 Hultén, B., Broweus, N. and Van Dijk, M. 2009. Sensory marketing. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

2 Krishna, A. 2012. An integrative review of sensory marketing: Engaging the senses to affect perception, judgment and behaviour, Journal of Consumer Psychology, 22(3):332-351.

3 Krishna, A., Cian, L. and Sokolova T. 2016. The power of sensory marketing in advertising, Current Opinion in Psychology, 10:142-147.


  1. Feature image:
  2. Touching
  3. Smelling
  4. Hearing
  5. Tasting
  6. Seeing

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