How human senses are used to drive in brand recognition

With evolved sciences, the study of ‘Sensory marketing’ has grown complex and layered, but at the root of it all, the marketing technique is just a way for brands to interact in a personal manner with its consumers and to personify itself as an entity the consumer can relate to.

In this world of ever-growing competition, brands find it difficult to overcome the hurdle of being able to stay relevant. Especially in emerging markets like India, where local business and SMEs are competing head on with the international giants in several industries. In such a dynamic and competitive market, only the factor of memorability can tip the balance in favour of a brand. Thus, now more than ever, it is essential for brands to form strong identities and peripheral communications.

It is a common misconception that a brand is either perceived to be positive or negative by consumers and there is no ‘in-between’. But in reality, that’s exactly where almost all brands lie. With advancements in consumer behaviour research, it is common belief that purchases are made based on emotional decisions which is why a consumer must ‘feel’ about the brand in a certain way, rather than think about it. This is where the brands identity comes into play, and how it manifests into the market.

Brands go to great extents to juice out every drop memorability from their media and communications. Funny ads, quirky campaigns, jumping on the virality bandwagon, catchy jingles and more are some of the ways in which brands seek to be remembered. All of this is achieved through targeting the 5 human senses and here’s how that is done:


Sight or vision is the primary sense of a human being. Most of what we experience is influenced by what we see. Thus, making sight the most important sense to employ in communications. This has been in common knowledge, and which is why ads are dominated by imagery and visuals. Since as early as the 1940’s advertisers have been experimenting with colours and typography to arrive at the most accepted design language, this has resulted in a parallel study today. The study of what colours mean and what they make you feel. For example, the colour light blue is associated with the open sky by our minds and thus makes you feel cool and calm, similarly red is the colour of passion/aggression, purple is the colour of faith, so on and so forth.


Sound in itself is not considered to be a very impactful sensory tool, after all only 2% of what we hear is retained by our brains. But when coupled with imagery, sound is a medium that drives in the memorability. Humans are hard wired to form memories based on repetition and thus we’ve learnt to gain information from this unidimensional medium by the mode of repetition. Which is why one hears the brand name flash 6 times in a 1-minute long radio ad copy. While being a “secondary” sense, sound is not an ineffective tool, it what drives home most parts of the brand’s identity. There are several jingles out there to prove this, and a successful example would be the ‘Paytm jingle’ that plays every time you make a payment, and is probably playing in your head too right now. Apart from such marketing efforts, sounds of products are also factors that increase its memorability, such as the iconic Royal Enfield ‘thump’ that one can hear AND identify from quite a distance. Sounds like such are what drive the consumer’s perception towards a brand.


Although a very interactive sensory tool, touch happens to be the most underutilised in sensory marketing, due to the limitations of our media. But in specific favourable conditions, the sense of touch plays a pivotal role in our associations with the brand. This is where packaging as a field enters the picture. The tactile experience of a product greatly influences the perceptions about it and thus about the brand at large. If I associate a brand of noodles with a difficult time opening the packet, the brand has failed to employ touch as a driving factor.


The sense of smell is commonly used as a supplementary way of feeding information to the consumers. It is no coincidence that two stores of the same brand have a similar fragrance emanating when you walk past them. Smell unlike other sense is used to perpetuate a positive experience rather than focusing on creating memorability. This is to do with the fact that our olfactory senses use negative re-enforcement to memorize, thus only remembering the worst of smells, which obviously have negative impacts, and are certainly not desired by brands. This sensory tool is not only useful at large but is employed by the smallest of establishments, such as street vendors.


Strongly representing an entire brand based only on the sense of taste is extremely difficult, which is why here as well, just like the sense of sound, results are obtained by the mode of repetition. Food and beverage brands, maintaining their flavours and product qualities is not just a marketing gimmick obviously, but it is one of the factors that plays an important role in its memorability. Since consumable goods are end products, all of the senses along with taste can be used in marketing them. For example, Pepsi Cola and Coca cola as products are essentially the same product, dark coloured carbonated drink, in fact if placed out side of their packaging, one would have trouble identifying which is which purely on the basis of visual cues. This is where the smell and importantly the taste of the product comes into play. Both colas taste nothing like each other and are easily distinguishable for fan of the cola drinks, thus creating an identity for each.

With evolved sciences, the study of ‘Sensory marketing’ has grown complex and layered, but at the root of it all, the marketing technique is just a way for brands to interact in a personal manner with its consumers and to personify itself as an entity the consumer can relate to.

Each sense playing an important role in forming the brand’s identity and perception for consumers. With sight and sound incorporated in videos, a large-scale influence can be driven, whereas through the senses of touch, smell and taste, in retail, the driving push can be influenced.

‘Sensory marketing’ is a tool of influence and cannot be employed out of sync with each other. A well-crafted strategy in this field goes way further than random ideas. A great sensory marketing strategy is also what streamlines the existing opinion of a brand in the heads of a consumer through reinforcement on a psychological level. But there too there is a balance to maintain. You see along with all of the above senses, the most important sense the informed consumer of today possess is ‘common sense’. Making it even more important for brands to keep their communications genuine and their identities original.