Marketing to the senses

Part 1 of 3 in a series of posts related to marketing to the senses.

As humans, we have five senses: sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch. Marketers have basically been playing to those senses since the need for promotion began. Let’s take a look at some examples:

LIFE - The Right Stuff, 1959
Source: LIFE - The Right Stuff, 1959

Sight. LIFE magazine sold millions and millions of copies by focusing on stunning photojournalism. Without that focus, some of the most iconic photos of all time would never have been seen.

Sound. Bose is so obsessed with producing and delivering great sound that it doesn’t publish its scientific research on the electrical or acoustic performance of its products. Instead, Bose considers the human experience the best measure of performance. Audiophiles will always debate who delivers the best audio quality, but we can all agree that Bose is thinking about the consumer first.

Taste. Most food and beverage brands try to dominate this sense, but few have done it like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s French fries, or KFC. The story goes that only two of Coke’s chemists know the secret formula of their syrup and that only eight people total have ever known it. Whether myth or reality, the story allows Coke to own “taste” among the soda brands.

Folgers Ad
Folgers "Wakin' up" ad

Smell. One of the first brands that comes to mind for smell is Folgers and its well-known tagline: “The best part of wakin’ up is Folgers in your cup.” [Retro commercial here] Advertising told us that Folgers “crystals” smelled delightful in the morning, and I think we believed it.

Mr Whipple
Mr Whipple for Charmin

Touch. Iconic advertising like “Don’t squeeze the Charmin” helped this brand capitalize on the sense of touch. [View commerical here] No one could take “touch” away from Charmin after these spots aired. Today, touch is just as important. Whether you love it or hate it, Apple also has mastered the art of “touch” with its iPod, iPhone, and iPad products.

Marketing to these senses isn’t just for adults. Youth marketers should also take a hard look at which sense their brand can claim.

Which youth brands do you think are doing a good job at owning one of the five senses? Comment below.

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About Jason Bakker

Jason Bakker is a native Minnesotan and has been working in the area of youth marketing for nearly a decade. He currently works with Minneapolis based Campus Media Group as the Director of Marketing and is responsible for following trends in the ever-changing landscape of youth culture and media usage, and for consulting advertising agency and national brand professionals on how to develop integrated marketing programs that reach college youth.

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