What is sensory marketing?

Sensory marketing is a marketing strategy that leverages the senses of sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste to evoke a positive response in the consumer and thus guide purchasing decisions. In this article, we examine how to implement a sensory marketing strategy, analysing some examples of brands that have wisely exploited the senses to promote their products.

What is sensory marketing

Sensory marketing leverages the five senses to ensure a memorable experience and therefore obtain a positive response from the public. In practice, by appealing to the senses, this marketing strategy aims at evoking positive emotions that lead to action. In fact, as we have already said when talking about neuromarketing, provoking emotions in the consumer is particularly important because they can lead to action, change our perception of a product, act as a social signal and are completely spontaneous.

Sensory marketing, which is in fact a branch of neuromarketing, exploits evocative images, scents, sounds, noises, tactile and gustatory experiences to create an associative link with a brand or product, so that these elements act as a trigger to activate the memory of the consumer, even at an unconscious level.

Now let’s see how sensory marketing can be exploited for each of the five senses and some practical examples.


The sense of sight is certainly one of the first to be stimulated and which can be exploited to capture the attention of a consumer.

Colours, density, contrast, luminosity are all elements that activate our receptors and stimulate visual memory. It is not for nothing that we immediately notice if any element of the packaging of our favourite cereals is changed.

Think also of airlines and the clever use they make of colours to stand out on the market, starting with the uniforms of hostesses and stewards.

This is why having a brand image is essential for any brand that wants to create a link between a specific style and colour and its name.


Do you ever smell a specific scent and immediately associate it with a moment in your life or with a person?

Brands as well can leverage olfactory memory to stimulate this cognitive response. One of the first brands to do it was Abercrombie & Fitch: entering one of their stores means being immediately surrounded by a specific perfume (which is also for sale) that brings the brand to mind as soon as you smell it.

Another example that demonstrates the effectiveness of olfactory stimuli is given by Dunkin’ Donuts’ 2012 Flavor Radio campaign.

The brand wanted to target Seoul commuters during their morning commute to work, installing coffee aroma diffusers on some buses, which were activated by the brand’s jingle. When the Dunkin’ Donuts commercial (and therefore the jingle) played on the radio, a coffee aroma wafted through the bus. The radio commercial ended by reminding passengers that the shop was right next to the bus stop.

More than 350,000 people have been subjected to the campaign. The result? Dunkin’ Donuts patrons increased by 16% and sales at shops near bus stops increased by 29%. Dunkin’ Donuts has succeeded in its attempt to associate the need for a morning coffee with its brand.

The mere fact of spreading a certain perfume in our company headquarters could end up making that perfume identifiable with the brand, imprinting it in the olfactory memory of those who visit us.


As we have just seen with the example of Dunkin’ Donuts, in addition to smell, it is also possible to exploit people’s auditory memory.

Jingles, pings, specific sounds are used to stimulate the memory linked to a brand or product.

Netflix is well aware of this. Through the campaign “The Sound of Stories”, it exploited its iconic “tu-dum” to skilfully promote the platform without ever explicitly naming it: it simply used a sound that by now everyone associates with the start of a movie or TV series on Netflix.

Supermarkets are also subtly harnessing the power of sound and music to stimulate consumer action. Genre, volume and rhythm are not chosen at random, but specifically to entice people to relax and linger among the shelves – an action that usually pushes people to buy more than what was originally on the list. It is no coincidence that during the Covid period, when entrances to supermarkets were limited and the goal was to do the shopping as quickly as possible, the music was turned off in many stores.

Even clothing stores exploit the influence of music to arouse certain emotions. Just think of shops like Bershka (which target is young and party-loving), where shopping is done to the rhythm of loud dance music.


Perhaps Apple was among the first brands to implement a strategy that leveraged the sense of touch, developing an in-store experience concept that allowed people to literally touch the products. The possibility of touching and interacting with the technology before purchasing it is certainly an important added value, which helps create an imprint with the product.

Texture, shape, weight and even temperature are all elements that, especially when it comes to product design, can make the difference in activating the consumer’s memory and guiding purchasing decisions.


Perhaps the most difficult sense to associate with a brand is that of taste, but some companies have been able to astutely associate a taste with a particular experience.

This is the case, for example, of Ikea and its Swedish meatballs: there are people who go to the store just to eat them, so it is very likely that whenever they feel like eating Swedish meatballs they think of Ikea and, why not, maybe take a tour of the store while they’re there.

The same can be said of several beverage brands, like Coca-Cola and Corona. The first created the famous “Taste the Feeling” campaign, which plays on enjoying a certain feeling (and therefore on associating a certain moment of joy, fun, conviviality with the consumption of Coca-Cola).

“’Taste the Feeling’ brings to life the idea that drinking a Coca‑Cola – any Coca‑Cola – is a simple pleasure that makes everyday moments more special. […] ‘Taste the Feeling’ employs universal storytelling with the product at the heart to reflect both the functional and emotional aspects of the Coca‑Cola experience”, explains Marcos de Quinto, then Chief Marketing Officer of Coca-Cola.

Corona has also succeeded in associating a certain emotion with its brand, becoming the beer par excellence for happy hours on the beach.

Summing up

In a world saturated with ads, infiltrating the consumer’s subconscious is a necessary measure: it is precisely there that most of the purchasing decisions take place.

To do this, it is necessary to build an emotional bond with the consumer and therefore associate one’s brand and products with a specific emotion or experience.

Sensory marketing and, more generally, neuromarketing come to our rescue: with the right amount of wit, we can really set ourselves apart from our competitors, even on a sensory level.

What do you think of these strategies? Can they really make a difference?

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After graduating in Languages at the Università degli Studi di Milano, my interest and curiosity towards the digital world led me to pursue a career in this field and to get a Specializing Master in Digital Marketing. Today, I am responsible for the definition and application of marketing and communication strategies for both EOS and the ipcm® magazines. In my free time I travel, I read a lot and I binge-watch TV series. A place to visit at least once in your life: Oman. Must read: Lehman Trilogy by Stefano Massini. What you should binge-watch next: Mr. Robot.

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