Skip to main content

Five Insights from Multi-Sensory Marketing

For marketers, tactics designed to engage each of the consumer’s five senses can be a powerful tool for unlocking deeper connection with the consumer. 

man washing cranberries in stream

For centuries, marketers have innately understood the value of multi-sensory marketing. From the scent of fresh bread luring hungry customers into a bakery to the “plop plop, fizz fizz” sound of Alka-Seltzer releasing its healing properties, brands have used elements of multi-sensory marketing, but have generally lacked a systematic approach to engaging the senses.

In recent years, however, marketers have shown a renewed focus on forging emotional connections through all five senses—sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. And learnings from behavioral science suggest that developing strong multi-sensory strategies will become essential for winning consumer loyalty in the near future.

This week we’re taking a look at just a few of the behavioral science principles behind multi-sensory marketing and highlighting one interesting finding from each of the five senses.

Insight #1 SightVision is most important to consumers at the point of purchase and when getting familiar with the product. At later stages, other senses become more important.[1] Qualitative research of juicers found participants used vision to examine the function of the product and observe the shape, “so big… it’s so cute… the top is like a speedboat” and only touched when they found something special.[2]

Insight #2 SoundWhen music is familiar, shoppers reported longer shopping times, but actually shopped longer when the music was unfamiliar.[3]

Insight #3 TouchMerely touching an object results in an increase in perceived ownership of that object.[4] Higher levels of interaction with a product, by means of augmented reality, also has a positive effect on perceived ownership, regardless of the product type, affecting product attitudes and purchase intentions.[5]

Insight #4 SmellDistinctly scented objects enhance recall for other attributes of the object; both with and without a scent‐aid being present at the time of recall. In one study, when a pencil or a facial tissue was imbued with scent (vs. not), recall for the brand’s other attributes increased significantly—with the effects lasting as much as 2 weeks after exposure.[6]

Insight #5 TasteThere is a positive relationship between brand familiarity and taste…when people are familiar with a brand, they think it tastes better.[7] In one study, children tasted identical foods and drinks either in packaging from McDonald’s or from unbranded packaging. Children preferred the taste of foods and drinks they believed were from McDonald’s.[8]

If your firm has an interest in collaborating to explore multi-sensory marketing further, reach out to us at

[1] Fenko, A., Schifferstein, H. N., & Hekkert, P. (2009). Which senses dominate at different stages of product experience?

[2] Chen et al (2012). Sensory importance and emotions at early stage of product experiences-- A qualitative study of juice squeezer. In Proceedings of the 2011 Conference on Designing Pleasurable Products and Interfaces (DPPI ’11). Association for Computing

[3] Yalch, R. F., & Spangenberg, E. R. (2000). The effects of music in a retail setting on real and perceived shopping times. Journal of Business Research, 49(2), 139-147.

[4] Peck, J., & Shu, S. B. (2009). The effect of mere touch on perceived ownership. Journal of Consumer Research, 36(3), 434-447

[5] Brengman, M., Willems, K., & Van Kerrebroeck, H. (2019). Can’t touch this: the impact of augmented reality versus touch and non-touch interfaces on perceived ownership. Virtual Reality, 23(3), 269-280.

[6] Krishna, A., Lwin, M. O., & Morrin, M. (2010). Product scent and memory. Journal of Consumer research, 37(1), 57-67.

[7] Tihomir, V., & Ranko, S. (2003). The effect of the brand on perceived quality of food products. British Food Journal, 105(11), 811-825.

[8] Robinson et al (2007). Effects of fast food branding on young children's taste preferences. American Medical Association, Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.