Multi-sensory experiences will be crucial in attracting consumer attention in 2016. In a world where digital devices dominate, engaging consumers by stimulating their senses beyond purely visual or audio advertising has the potential to be incredibly powerful.
Virtual reality to connect online and in-store experiences
One of the biggest trends in 2016 will be the increased use of virtual reality technology, including those with added sensory experiences involving taste and smell. The number of virtual reality shopping experiences will also increase as online users move around the store, try products and then describe and review the items online using filmed live reviews.
Among the retailers looking to make its online and social media experiences more immersive is Asda. For Halloween it worked with Google, YouTube and Carat UK to create a fully immersive and interactive 360 YouTube video that was shoppable.
“It has been designed for smart phones and tablets because this is where most of our customers spend their time interacting with our brand,” says Chris Chalmers, Asda’s senior director for digital and direct communications. “For some customers we’ve trialled a fully immersive in-store experience where they can view the video through Google Cardboard,” he adds. Google Cardboard is a virtual reality platform developed for use with a fold-out cardboard mount adapted for a mobile phone, and is being marketed as the “affordable way” to experience VR.
4D cinema predicted to take off in 2016
The big screen has already received a sensory makeover with the opening of Europe’s first 4D cinema in Milton Keynes in February 2015. But more investment is expected this year in 4DX cinemas, which include rocking seats that move with the on-screen action, while viewers are hit with wind, water and smells that relate to the plot.
Cinemas have long promoted how the big screen visuals and high quality audio offer a sensory experience, combined with the shared social element of enjoying something with other people.
Digital Cinema Media’s research with Millward Brown called ‘Building Box Office Brands’ reveals how advertisers can benefit from this sensory environment, especially as people have spent money to pay attention to what they are seeing in front of them.
Video direct mail making an impact
Odeon Cinema’s commercial director Andy Edge is looking to send out sensory business cards incorporating high definition video this year as part of his direct mail activity to promote the sensory environment of cinema advertising. “This can be pricey technology but costs will come down and it does give you great cut through, especially in the B2B market,” says Edge. “We would target senior marketing directors with the video content cards to demonstrate the cinema experience.”
Using a “multi-sensory mix” such as the combination of video with print can help people to remember a brand’s message, according to experts. Consumers need to remember what they’ve experienced for a brand to make an impact, says neuroscientist Araceli Camargo, one of the multi-sensory experts used by storytelling and experiential agency We Are Fearless.
“This is where multi-sensorial stimulation plays a role. The more ‘enriching’ an environment, the more the brain and central nervous system are engaged,” she says. “The more engaged we are, the more likely it is we will recall an experience.”
The challenge for brands is how to get the multi-sensory mix right, says Gemma Calvert, a neuro-marketing consultant and visiting professor at the Nanyang Business School in Singapore. The visual sense is so dominant in most humans, marketers often neglect other sensations such as taste and smell, yet these can get them the consumer engagement and brand recall they want, she says.
“Every day is a multi-sensory opportunity for brands and in a crowded marketing environment marketers must go beyond the visual. In fashion, for instance, there is so much emphasis on how clothes look but much less on how they smell and feel, which would really engage consumers,” Calvert adds.
Dr Cathrine Jansson-Boyd is a reader in consumer psychology at Anglia Ruskin University and a specialist in the sense of touch. She says some consumers are more tactile than others. These people tend to be more conscious about what they are touching and more aware of the weight or texture of specific items they are considering buying.
“Touch is very powerful and when it comes to direct mail, marketers should focus on whether a surface is rough or smooth to grab the recipient’s attention,” she advises.
Using taste and smell to evoke memories
She adds consumers love to receive a sensory reward and she picks out the campaigns run by McCain Foods in recent years. These have deliberately set out to evoke memories and excite consumers’ taste buds and nostrils.
The company has released the aroma of baked potatoes from bus shelters and rewarded passers-by with a coupon when they gave a high five to a hand on a poster if they were having chips for tea. Last October McCain installed a pop-up restaurant in London called Sunday Best to promote its new frozen roast potato. 2016 will also include a campaign with a sensory dimension, says McCain’s marketing director Mark Hodge. “You need to think about how your brand can surprise and connect with people,” he advises. “You must know when the consumer will be most receptive so you have their attention. With bus stops, we were reaching people when they were waiting to go home and thinking about what would be nice to eat when they got there.”
Tim Lumb, insight and effectiveness director at marketing body for OOH Outsmart, cites one of his favourite posters of last year as Danish brewer Carlsberg’s beer-dispensing billboard sited on London’s Brick Lane. “Digital OOH networks are multi-sensory and with the development of touch technology things are moving fast. Stimulating the senses more creatively generates social shares, great PR and awards,” he says.
More brands will invest in sensory experiences this year but marketers need to remember how consumers can react differently as particular senses are more dominant in different people. Nevertheless, there are few more effective ways for a brand to not only be noticed, but also remembered.