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How to Use the 5 Senses to Build an Emotional Connection With Customers

By Steve Randazzo – Founder & President, Pro Motion Inc.

Why does the smell of old books and musty carpet remind you of your first grade reading circle? Why does the sound of a passé pop song remind you of your first date?

5senses_steve-thumbMemories, emotions, and senses are all tied together. The same region of the brain that processes the five senses is also partly responsible for storing emotional memories.

Did you hear that, marketers? Your customers are more likely to remember and act on advertising that ties in many, or all, of the five senses — not just one or two of them.

Getting consumers to immerse themselves into an event or marketing experience is what we strive for every day, and engaging the senses is a necessary ingredient for driving high levels of perception and persuasion. Anyone who wasn’t hungry but still bought popcorn at the movie theater definitely knows the truth of that. Your senses are constantly detecting subtle hints that drive curiosity and lead to action.

How to Win With Senses

Some senses, such as sight, sound, and touch, are fairly easy to stimulate through experiential marketing. Taste and smell, on the other hand, can be tricky — especially if you aren’t in the food business.

There are a million directions you can go, but let’s take a look at how Tractor Supply Co. created a winning experiential marketing event that creatively roused as many senses as possible:

  • Sound: Tractor Supply Co. set up a sound system and played country music during the event. Not cry-in-your-beer country — upbeat music that created a fun and inviting atmosphere. They also had an emcee on hand to announce events and introduce videos and demonstrations.
  • Sight: Large signage, an appealing layout, and big-screen monitors projecting flashy visuals easily satisfied this sense.
  • Touch: Touch screens and video games were helpful in providing attendees with something to do with their hands. Tractor Supply Co. also created an interactive “runaway pig lasso” game for customers to play.
  • Smell: The company incorporated hay bales and wood shavings into the event, providing rich, simple, and authentic scents that filled attendees’ nostrils. Intense, complicated smells can distract audiences, so they stuck with simple scents that had contextual relevance.
  • Taste: Taste was the only sense the company didn’t have on site. Perhaps fresh jerky wouldn’t have been a bad idea, but this is a good example of why it’s important to remain authentic with experiential marketing. Don’t force the stimulation of senses that don’t have anything to do with what you’re selling.

Based on history and science, it’s safe to conclude that the more senses we can appropriately engage, the longer a consumer will stick around and the better — and deeper — his or her experience will be. But it’s key to make sure each sensory stimulator is authentic to your brand and what you stand for. Consumers need to walk away understanding your mission, your product, and how your product fits into their lives.

The Rules of Sensory Engagement

Experiential marketing is still marketing, so the usual rules still apply: Know your brand, what differentiates it from the competition, and what story it’s trying to tell.

Above all, any experience you create must be authentic and match your brand. Your exhibit shouldn’t smell like delicious bacon if you’re selling vegan products. Your exhibit shouldn’t be blasting heavy metal music if it’s marketing a peaceful resort. Your booth shouldn’t be cluttered and disorganized if you’re marketing a product that prides itself in being clean and organized.

Be creative in your approach. Your consumers will appreciate unique, clever experiences more than the same old marketing tactics. Think of experiential marketing like a fortune cookie: You can touch it, hear it break apart, smell it, taste it, and see the message hidden inside — and hardly anyone ignores them for these reasons.

If each sense pulls in the same direction, you can create a deep, emotional connection between your customers and your products. And if you can make your event linger in their minds, noses, ears, mouths, and stomachs, you’ve created a successful, long-lasting impression.

How have you engaged the five senses to build an emotional connection with your customers?

By Steve Randazzo – Founder & President, Pro Motion Inc.

Steve is the founder and president of Pro Motion Inc., an experiential marketing agency located in Missouri. With over 30 years of experience in the industry, Steve has long-standing relationships with big-name clients, including Tractor Supply Company, Duck, Fiskars, Citgo, the NBA, The Walt Disney Company, and Hewlett-Packard.