Sensory Branding


Continuing our survey of neuromarketing books, we recently finished Brand Sense – Build Powerful Brands through Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight, and Sound, by Martin Lindstrom. This data-packed volume was published in 2005, and is based in part on a global research project by Millward Brown which studied the relationship between branding and sensory awareness.

Lindstrom’s basic point is simple – brands that appeal to multiple senses will be more successful than brands that focus only on one or two. These appeals can be part of the brand’s advertising, like using a distinctive color and logo in a consistent manner, or part of the product itself, like a phone ringtone or the fragrance of a soap product. He points to Singapore Airlines as the pinnacle of sensory branding. They not only employ the more common consistent visual themes one might expect from an airline, but incorporate the same scent, Stefan Floridian Waters, in the perfume worn by flight attendants, in their hot towels, and other elements of their service. Flight attendants must meet stringent appearance criteria, and wear uniforms made from fine silk which incorporate elements of the cabin decor. They strive to make every sensory element of their customer interaction both appealing, and, equally importantly, consistent from encounter to encounter. Lindstrom credits Singapore Airlines’ perennial position atop travelers’ preference rankings to these efforts.

One key element of Lindstrom’s marketing prescription is what he calls, “Smash Your Brand.” In essence, he wants a brand to be identifiable even when parts of the marketing program aren’t there. If your logo is removed from your product or your advertisement, would it still be instantly recognizable as your brand? Is just a color enough to signify your brand? Of course, few brands have the power to claim a single color as their exclusive look, but the point is that marketers need to think beyond their logo as the sole consistent element in their branding efforts.

Recent Neuromarketing Book Reviews

How Customers Think
Why We Buy

Sensory Branding

Emotional Branding

Neuromarketers will find Lindstrom’s discussion of the less common marketing senses quite interesting. Smell in particular is potent in bypassing conscious thought and creating associations with memories and emotions. He notes that only 3% of Fortune 1000 companies have given thought to using smell in their marketing or branding, despite the claim that 75% of our emotions are generated by what we smell.

Interestingly, auto companies aren’t the stodgy behemoths one might expect when it comes to sensory branding. Indeed, they are in many ways the most advanced pioneers in the field. In the late 1990s, Daimler Chrysler had already established a department whose sole purpose was to improve the sound of their car doors. And that wonderful new car smell that’s so enticing in the dealership? Today, it’s largely a manufactured artifact. Lindstrom reports on the efforts at Rolls Royce to improve customer satisfaction with their new vehicles by duplicating the “new car smell” of a 1965 Silver Cloud. An olfactory analysis found over eight hundred distinct elements, with expected ones like leather and mahogany but also including things like underseal and felt. Ultimately, the scent engineers came up with a mixture to duplicate this heady aroma which is now applied below the seats. Even though the synthetic materials that must now be used to build Rolls Royce cars for safety and other reasons no longer release much in the way of detectable odors, every new Rolls Royce owner can enjoy the same new car smell that previous generations experienced.

Lindstrom provides a list, determined by focus groups on multiple continents, of the top 20 brands that most effectively leverage multiple senses in their branding efforts. The leaders are,

  1. Singapore Airlines
  2. Apple
  3. Disney
  4. Mercedes Benz
  5. Marlboro
  6. Tiffany
  7. Louis Vuitton
  8. Bang & Olufsen
  9. Nokia
  10. Harley Davidson

No list of winners would be complete without a list of losers, and Lindstrom also lists some of the major brands that are doing the worst job of developing sensory indentities:

  1. Ikea
  2. Motorola
  3. Virgin
  4. KFC
  5. Adidas
  6. Sony
  7. Burger King
  8. McDonalds
  9. Kleenex
  10. Microsoft

Most marketers, of course, lack the budget or staff of these large corporations. Nevertheless, this book will appeal to even smaller scale marketers. With the plethora of examples of effective and ineffective sensory branding, any marketer should be able to come up with ideas to impact a firm’s brand identity. He provides a six-step process to audit one’s existing sensory brand identity, to create sensory synergy, and implement a sensory branding strategy. Even firms that can’t afford a “door slam” department will no doubt spot flaws in their current sensory branding and find ways to do better without breaking the bank.

  1. Nicole says

    First of all, thanks for this nice article, but as an seo and web marketer, I want to know that how can we create this type of effect for our portals, websites and other online products? Is it possible or not?

  2. Roger Dooley says

    Sensory branding over the Web is necessarily limited right now, but certainly visual and sound elements can be designed to match the brand’s overall sensory approach.


  3. Williampreet Singh says

    thanks for the informative article can you suggest what all senses one should include in for a fashion apparel outlet for girls. and i am a MBA student and doing my research on Sensory marketing and its impact on consumers can you provide information that could be helpful for me. if possible you can email me also. or provide your email id. thanks


  4. Roger Dooley says

    Williampreet, I don’t have any particular insight into the girl’s fashion market, but in general the more senses that one appeals to the greater the impact.

    The real question is HOW to appeal to the various senses… I would think, for example, that one might use music appropriate to the age range of the customers and also the style of the apparel. Preppie looks might get a milder sound track than clothes that are more cutting edge, for example.

    Good luck with your research, William.


  5. Williampreet Singh says

    thanks a lot i got some idea now .. keep updating these type of articles.

    good luck for your future cheers…

  6. Eline Depover says

    Hello Roger and participants of this website,

    As a Belgian Masterstudent in International Businessmanagement, studying in Spain and France, i’m doing my research on Sensory Branding and Emotional Branding in the Colour Cosmetics Industry. My researchquestion is whether these types of branding have a real influence on the loyalty towards this products or not. Can you give me some researchtips or information about this subject?

    Thank you in advance!


  7. Anand Sindhav says

    Hello Roger,

    I love to read on Brand Sense or Sensory Branding. I am from India. My elder brother game me reference of Mr.Martin. He is 5 years ahead in brand world.

    I like to know about Indian future of Sensory branding whether any company is doing such thing?.

    Anand Sindhav
    Sr.Client Service Executive
    Radiant Media Convergence Pvt Ltd
    Rajkot, Gujarat, India

  8. LukaszOlszewski says

    there are already solutions that allow egagement of more than 2 basic dimensions, ie. public places internet caffes (or special boxes) that pulverize scent/ aroma. You can also appeal to other senses idirectly. You can find your differentiation developing shape of your logo and comunicate it more intensly..

  9. Sarah says

    Martin Lindstrom is the guru of sensory branding. Is anyone else recognised as a sensory branding theory expert?

  10. Robert Lowe says

    Do you have any examples or ways I can prove this during a presentation to my company? I am trying to find a couple real world examples I could use to show that this really works to an “old” thinking CMO.

  11. Roger Dooley says

    I think Lindstrom’s book would be a good place to start looking for examples with some detail. His latest book, Buyology, gets into some of that too. Color, for example, may be more potent than logos in some situations.

    Good luck, Robert!


  12. Venelin says

    Great article very helpful, but can you provide some more information about the lists with the “losers” and how exactly they fell to make the sensory branding ? (especially I want to know about Adidas).

    -Thanks in advance!
    Best regards!

    1. Roger Dooley says

      Venelin, I don’t have the book handy, but in general the firms listed as failures either failed to use multisensory appeals in their marketing or were inconsistent in those dimensions.


  13. Beau Vanderheyden says


    I read your book and it was very interesting.
    I’m a student at the University in Ghent (Belgium) and I’m looking for some creative ideas in case of sensory marketing in the food industry (it is a Retail for people who have a restaurant).
    Can you suggest some ideas or give me some inspiration?

  14. Komal says

    Hello sir,
    First of all thanks for posting such a fruitful article.
    I am a researcher working on Brand sense and its impact on any company’s success.
    Therefore I am interested in such articles if you have any. And also I would like to know about other authors who have worked on either sensory branding or on Senses to improve any companies social status.


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