The Power of Sensory Marketing


Carat Strategy Director, Alex James, recently attended one of the world’s largest cosmetics tradeshows – Cosmoprof North America – and got more than a whiff of the power of sensory marketing.

If you work in or on a make-up business, Cosmoprof is essentially the cosmetic equivalent of Comicon, minus the cosplay; a festival of big names, landmark product launches and game-changing innovation that announces the industry trend agenda for the upcoming year.

One of the biggest discussion points for Cosmoprof 2015 was the power of sensory marketing, which makes perfect sense given the cosmetics industry’s focus on transforming the sensory experience, particularly sight and scent.

Obviously sensory marketing is currently being used by a variety of brands across a breadth of industries – from ice-cream to casinos – as a way of immersing consumers deeper into the brand experience and influencing behaviour.

The cosmetics industry is certainly no exception; Cosmoprof even had their own signature scent – fig and coriander with cedar and sandalwood tones for anyone interested.

Sensory marketing is not, in essence, a new concept. The power of smell and its role in memory creation, for example, has long been understood. According to Air Aroma, when feminine scents like vanilla are diffused in women’s clothing stores, sales figures double. Scent, in particular, is also very strongly linked with memory due to its powerful ability to stir emotions.

What piqued my interest beyond all that, however, was how emerging macro consumer trends, were influencing the growth, evolution, and importance of sensory marketing, namely: 

  1. Emphasis on Experiences over Assets

  2. The Growth of Intuitive Technology

Emphasis on Experiences over Assets

A major point of discussion at Cosmoprof was the modern consumers’ increasing predilection for experiences over assets – an obvious challenge for any retail brand. Granted, this trend is anchored in Millennials – Business Insider (Sept 2014) found that 78% of Millennials would rather spend money on an experience than a thing – however it is becoming increasingly evident across the board.

A brand’s credibility and the affinity consumers have for it is now heavily influenced – driven, even – by the total experience that brand creates and facilitates. In response, marketers have had to evolve to consider the full comms experience their audience has with their brand, well beyond the product itself; it is becoming a multidimensional conversation.

For example, Marriott Hotels have created the ‘Teleporter’ – an immersive virtual holiday experience using Oculus Rift to allow guests to virtually explore holiday destinations, such as Hawaii. Its “4D technology” enables teleported guests to physically feel aspects of the environment they are in, for example, installed heaters can simulate the sun on your face, while a water sprayer can make you feel the sea spray hitting your skin.

The Growth of Intuitive Technology

Another hot topic at Cosmoprof was the predicted speed of technological innovation over the next decade, particularly in the realms of intuitive technology.

New tech like Smile Suggest, a Google Chrome extension that bookmarks pages that make you smile, shows that technology is rapidly becoming more intuitive, behaviorally-led, and focused on the emotional outcome of the user.

Speakers at Cosmoprof predicted the retail space of the future will have evolved to include mood-sensing technology instore, meaning we will be able to create a tailored brand experience based on people’s moods. Imagine if the scent, soundtrack and lighting in a store could be instantly adapted in response to the fact you’ve had a bad day and need a pick me up? It’s all suddenly starting to look very ‘Minority Report’.

What this means for marketers:

The prevalence of both these trends is essentially creating the ‘perfect storm’ for the continued rise (and rise) of sensory marketing. We know consumers want a multi-dimensional brand experience, and the amount of technology available to create and personalize these experiences is only increasing.

So, while sensory marketing might be seen as a ‘nice-to-have’ right now, in the future, it looks set to establish itself as the status quo.

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