Sense Sells: I-AM Sessions #2

Sense Sells was an evening of multi-sensory exploration that was attended by industry leaders from the worlds of fashion, food, hospitality and retail.

On the night we conducted an investigation exploring people’s reactions to different scents and collected some truly insightful responses. For example, for one guest the smell of bergamot essential oil brought to mind memories of the school washroom and being ‘scrubbed until they hurt’ while the same scent reminded another guest of a massage and this made them feel peaceful and relaxed.

The responses show just how powerfully evocative scent can be. Many of the scents brought up clear memories with strong emotional content. Lots of these memories related back to childhood showing that connections between scent and memory can endure over many years. This is because the olfactory bulb, the area of the brain that processes scents, is intimately linked to areas dedicated to storing memories and processing emotion. Scent therefore offers an important route for a brand to establish meaningful and enduring bonds with customers.

The main feature of the evening was a talk delivered by sensory consultant, Paul Schütze. Paul’s talk was packed with fascinating examples of the multi-sensory approach in action and offered several key take-aways:

It’s said that Dieter Rams’ Braun devices of the 50’s and 60’s were designed in such a way that you could use them whilst blindfolded. While beautiful to behold, those devices were also tactile and could be navigated by feel alone. Today, our interactions are dominated by glossy touch-screens and as a result, we are losing touch. So push yourself to think beyond visuals in a synthetic digital world. Through physical sensory engagement, experiences become embedded in memory.

Paul also argued that it’s important to modulate sensory experiences through transitions as over time people become desensitised to sensory inputs and consequently perception fades away. Systematically changing scent, music, acoustics or lighting introduces novelty and creates a series of memorable ‘sensory moments’.

He also suggested that we should experiment with unusual and provocative sensory combinations as unexpected marriages of sensory stimuli can often become greater than the sum of their parts. Furthermore, novel and imaginative combinations of sensory stimuli can be ‘owned’ by your brand. While some sensory stimuli come with pre-existing cultural associations, when combined they can become as distinctive and readily associated with your brand as your logo.

Brands can also be guilty of tunnel vision. Paul emphasized the importance of peripheral sensation as although it’s not consciously attended to, it forms a large part of our overall sensory experience. So take off the blinkers and increase the area of the sensory canvas with which you have to work.

The customer journey is punctuated by ‘moments of truth’. To create a truly memorable experience, we believe it’s essential to delight your customers at each of these key moments. Sensory engagement offers a whole new axis to work within along the customer journey. Remember: the experience you offer your customers will only be as strong as its weakest part.

The area of the brain that processes scents is intimately linked to areas dedicated to storing memories and processing emotion.