Sensory Marketing


Photos taken by me: Photo on Flickr


Sensory Marketing was a final choice of my Master’s dissertation. I knew that I want to write about consumer behaviour and roaming around topic directed me to sensory cues and its influence on consumers behaviour in retail environment.

[Excerpt from my dissertation] The aim for the research was to understand customer’s shopping behaviour  stimulated by the sensory cues within the retail environment. The research project focuses on human senses and their susceptibility to be stimulated by retailers. It will also investigate differences in stimuli perception in food (eg. grocery shop) and non-food environment ( eg. clothing shop).

Sensory Marketing is a quite new field of Marketing which evolved from experiential marketing. It involves understanding customers from deeper, more emotional side and demonstrates how human brain works. Stimulation of particular sensory cues may direct people to undertake particular actions. As human senses are accompanying people from ages it is exciting to explore them more and understand how we can apply them in modern marketing. It is so amazing to have a look how people perceive and encoding sensorial messages surrounding them.

Krishna (2010) defined sensory marketing as ‘marketing that engages the consumers’ senses and affects their perception, judgment and behaviour’, however from a research perspective, ‘sensory marketing implies an understanding of sensation and perception as it applies to consumer behaviour ’(p.2).

Increased interest and implementation of sensory cues within the retail shopping environments give evidence of great impact on consumer behaviour and perceptions of goods and services. The sense of sight has been presented as most powerful one, especially for recognizing changes in environment, thus it is the most common sense to be stimulated. Sound is linked to emotions and feelings, moreover it impacts brand interpretations and could be used to stimulate peoples’ moods (Hulten, 2015). Smell is related to pleasure, it is also responsible for creating associations and evoking memories (Aggleton and Wasket, 1999). Tactile sense is  closely related to motivations that drive people to touch. Research on touch, identifies product attributes that support touch and also outlines the linkage between touching and buying behaviour. Taste, on the other hand, is the most distinctly emotional sense and often interacts with other senses.

conceptual framework of sensory marketingframework upgrade

Does touch matter ?

According to Peck (2007), touch does matter !

People touch products for many reasons, for instance to buy the product, to obtain non-haptic product information such as visual, olfactory, auditory and gustatory. By this way customer assesses condition of the product or what does it contain and then decide what to choose.

In tectile experience material is the most important feature. Softer and more natural products always win in emotional aspects what was observed in Grohman, Spangenberg and Sprott (2007) research. On the other hand, artificial materials are perceived as cold ones.

Touch might not have any informational value:

Peck and Wiggins (2006) noticed that people touch products not only to get information but to hedonic experiences also. Their research gave evidence that touch can be used as a persuasive tool in marketing especially for individuals more open to emotional touching (high need for touch), in consequence enhancing their emotional feeling by  giving an opportunity to assessing brand logic or values (Peck and Chiilders, 2003a) and increase willingness to purchase a product (Peck and Childers, 2003b). Moreover, Peck and Shu (2009) demonstrated that even mere touch of the object cause stronger feeling in ownership and higher willingness to pay more.


The sense of smell is well known for creating emotional connections and strengthening bond with brands. It might be use to draw people’s attention or tempt them to come closer as a part of pleasurable retail experiences.


  • Increase profits (Jeffries, 2007)
  • Is important in the perception of flavors: we would not recognize flavor between the Sprite and Coca-cola without smell (Herz, 2007)
  • Evoke memories and well-being (Hulten et al., 2009)
  • Are learnt rather innate
  • Ambent scents are applied to achieve various goals
  • Have not been researched yet, however there is evidence that they influence mood, product evaluation, expenditures, memory and time spend on shopping.
  • Reduce anxiety and stress (Hulten et al., 2009)
  • Can evoke memories and emotions (Herz, 1998 & 2000)
  • Pleasant scents improve evaluations Spangenberg et al. (1996)
  • Especially congruent both feminine and masculine in clothing shops influence larger expenditures Spangenberg et al. (2006) and time spend on evaluation Mitchel, Kahn and Knasko (1995)


Every day we are bombarded with auditory information, where majority of that is pure marketing activity. We are swamped with audio advertisements in radio or television, even weather forecast, morning news, opening computer or phone emits sounds unique for specific brands to distinguish each other. Advertisers focus on unique sounds and music as it catch customers attention, impact mood and help us to remember brand name and key information.

Music is a powerful tool. It helps to create long-lasting influence on customers unconscious and conscious actions. It also affects emotions and behaviour. Ackerman’s (n.d) study showed that music can trigger some emotions for a mass of people or express our inner feelings.

Ambient music is commonly used by retailers as it easily stimulates consumer behaviour. It influences mood, time spend in store and expenditure. Study of North et al., (1999) proved that French music played in the background increased French wine purchasing, whereas German music impacted German wine purchasing. Classical music

Classical music tend to strengthen pleasure and pop music increased arousal (Kellaris and Kent, 1993). Milliman (1982) proved that the tempo of the instrumental background music influence shopper’s pace and in result time spending in store. Slower music, slowed customers, hence they spent more time on shopping and purchased more, where diners found to spent more time at restaurant (Milliman, 1986).

Soars (2009) also gives evidence on longer dwelling when music is tailored to the place. Bruner (1990) demonstrated that well-known hits or music developed to the occasion influence mood, draw attention and evoke positive responses. Moreover, auditory sensory cues are able to stimulate mood, as Hulten (2015) demonstrated in his study, where music quieted children, relaxed them and drove to reducing stress of their parents and spending more time in the store.


Taste plays a vital role in our lives by providing humans with food sensations. It is also linked with other senses (Hulten, 2009).

Sense of taste as a chemical sense is dependent on other ones and its experience must be supported mostly by smell (food aromas ), vision (aesthetics and color), audition (sound of cracking) and touch (temperature, texture) (Krishna, 2010). In other words, taste is entire sensory experience that results from the product being put into the mouth (Hulten et al., 2009).

Interplay of taste and vision has a huge impact on customers as product color reveals flavor and in result increase taste intensity (DuBose et al., 1980).

Krishna and Morrin (2008) noticed effect of haptics on taste. Their study demonstrated that water from firm bottles was perceived to have better taste than water from fragile bottles.

Wensink  et al., (2001) explored secrets of descriptive food labels and suggested that they not only enhanced attractiveness of the menu and favourable attitudes towards taste experience but also increased sales and intentions to return. Study Wansink et al., (2005) widened outcomes to more positive comments, food with evocative and descriptive names is more appealing, is highly rated and more nutritious. Furthermore, ‘reduced-fat’ or ‘light’ attributes influence opinion positively and negatively. In products which fat plays a vital role and stands for pleasantness, ‘reduced-fat’ label formed negative opinions, however solution was to put real fat content instead (Kahonen and Tuorila, 1998).


Sight is a dominant human sense and in fact ‘most of our decisions in daily life are based upon sight impressions’ (Hulten et al., 2009, p. 87).

Many people treat sight as a most trustfulness sense as it is responsible for salient impressions like perceiving contrasts, colors, sizes, hues and dimension of things. Hence, optical system as a first will notice any changes occurring in marketing environment around us (Hulten et al., 2009).

Facts in relation of sight and sensory marketing:

  • Rectangular packages influence customers’ product perceptions and buying intentions Raghubir and Greenleaf (2006). They pay more for different shapes !
  • Warm colors draw people’s attention Belizzi (1983)
  • Colors might be associated with particular brand values and identities (Hulten et al., 2009)
  • Packages made with material difficult to open, for instance polyvinyl bags, are perceived to represent higher food quality (McDaniel and Baker, 1977)
  • Customers pay attention to functional and physical features of food packages (Venter et al., 2011)
  • Pictures on packages catch peoples’ attention
  • Colors have social and cultural significance. Red represents sex, green stands for nature and yellow signalize caution. (Hulten et al., 2009)
  • Different levels of light may differentiate places and catch customers’ attention (Hulten et al., 2009). Customers spend also more time when brighter light was applied. Lighter illumination produce arousal, pleasure and customers are more likely to approach the product (Summers and Hebert, 2001)


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