Category:  Media Industry

The Five Senses in Branding

We are overwhelmed all day, every day, with branding. Without moving, I can see the Cisco logo on my office telephone, the shiny Samsung print on my laptop, the small tribute to Logitech on my wireless mouse, and the embossed letters on my purse spelling out “Guess.” I can occasionally hear the familiar tune from iPhones as people receive emails and text messages around the office. I feel the unmistakable softness of my American Eagle jeans and I taste my Trident gum, that happens to taste similar no matter what flavor you buy. I can smell the brand of detergent I used to wash my clothes over the weekend. All of these examples are the result of branding techniques.

Sight is the most popular and simultaneously the most overused sense in branding. The visual branding I recognize sitting at my desk is greater than the other branding stimuli all put together. Sight is, however, more than a logo. Logos once were the only technique businesses would use in branding. Now successful companies are taking advantage of colors and shapes in branding their products. Tiffany’s is a paramount example of the use of color. The blue color used in Tiffany packaging is iconic and easily recognized by every woman in America. With regard to shapes, there are many dietary examples. Woman are more likely to associate their weight loss and weight loss products if the bottle represents the shape they aspire to have.

Smell is the most underrated sense in branding because smell is our most emotional sense. Smells bypass our thought process and produce an immediate reaction. When you walk into your favorite clothing store, can you recognize the scent? That is no accident. Most stores pump a familiar and often emotion-evoking smell through their vents, causing customers to react without having to think. Gain is largely involved in branding with scents. People remember Gain from their childhoods and continue to use Gain as an adult because they recognize the smell and it reminds them of home. Procter & Gamble is also guilty of playing on customer’s nostalgia. It adds the scent of Vick’s to its Puff tissues to remind people of feeling better. The scent reminds people of using Vick’s to feel better as a kid, whether they realize it or not. 

Sound in branding is often accompanied with visual stimuli. Hearing a jingle or tune will contribute to recognizing a brand. Intel has the most recognized sound. It plays it in conjunction with every commercial and it can be recognized without a mention of the company or without seeing the company’s logo. Some of the best brand sounds are found in movie studio companies. Even as an adult I can remember sounds from movies as a kid: The Metro Goldwyn Mayer lion before The Wizard of Oz, the Warner Bros harp sounding before every movie involving Scooby Doo, or the famous Walt Disney intro that marks the beginning of The Little Mermaid, my favorite movie as a kid. Branding sounds don’t just appear in commercials, but also in products. Apple has an iconic text tone that is easily recognizable, but it is seldom addressed in a commercial. Another popular tune is the Xbox boot-up tune. If you are an avid Xbox user, you will expect and want to hear that sound when you turn on a video game consol.

Touch and taste are not as easily used in branding through advertisements and exposure. Touch branding occurs when a company repeats a certain fabric or feel in its product. Repeated touch will remind you of the brand you are using. Colombia and North Face are both excellent examples of touch branding. They both have an iconic fuzzy feel that also keeps you warm. When appealing to touch through branding, clothing stores will often display shirts on tables within reach, so that consumers can touch them and discover the feeling of the fabric.

Taste is even harder to advertise because you require multiple samples for taste testing a product, as opposed to a product branded to appeal to touch. Taste, however, is unique among brands when it comes to a food. Skippy and Jif have their own unique tastes that help people recognize their brand. Taste is harder to detect in some products, especially colas. If unlabeled, people may not be able to detect the differences between generic cola, Pepsi or Coca-Cola.

Senses are all around us and involved in all brands, some more than others. They help us recall a brand or induce a feeling that helps us consciously or unconsciously choose a product. Without appealing to our senses, products and brands will not thrive.

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