Marketing the sensory experience
The author's biography, which cites numerous research papers, books, conferences, a research laboratory and a professorship at the University of Michigan, also describes Dr. Krishna as "a sensuist, who enjoys drinking second flush Darjeeling tea in porcelain cups, collecting figurative art prints, listening to a-tonal jazz, cooking foods with strong aromas, and gardening without gloves." After reading that, it's easy to understand why the book is such an enjoyable read, whether you're a student, marketing professional or just someone who finds this area of psychology interesting.
There are also, of course, some useful lessons in here for retailers.
We all know, for example, that background music is a great way to enhance the mood of a store, furniture showroom, design boutique or market showroom. What you may not know is that ambient music can also influence a shopper's perception of time. Slower music causes people to spend more time browsing, and the effects are completely subconscious -- when questioned, most people can't recall whether or not music was even playing in the store they just left.
In television and radio advertising, music helps viewers better process the commercial's message and become more involved with the product or ad. The internet, however, creates a new challenge since most people surf the internet with sound disabled. Plus, Krishna notes, web surfers may perceive sound as an annoyance, increasing the likelihood of a negative reaction and the chance that they'll navigate away from ads, thus calling for a new approach to auditory signatures - logos, jingles, slogans, noises, music, etc.
This field of study, known as audition, also reveals things like higher-pitched female voices (in telemarketing) lead to more sales than lower-pitched female voices. Some researchers theorize that certain voices are appealing because voice pitch is related to hormone production and serves as a signal of sexual readiness, even if the listener is of the same gender as the speaker.
The pace of speech matters, too. Listeners tend to think speakers with higher rates of speech are more knowledgeable, but they remember more of what they just heard if the rate of speech was slower. In addition to giving more processing time, faster speech (and too much information) can cause listeners to "zone out."
Interestingly, Krishna's research suggests that ambient scents have been shown to increase spending, and shoppers think they have been shopping for a shorter time when an ambient scent is present as opposed to none. Yet, the effect vanished when background music was added, "suggesting that too much stimulation can negatively influence customer spending." This is where the concept of congruence comes in, a theme that runs throughout the book - the scent must be congruent with the environment in which found, like music ... based on age, gender, ethnicity, target demographic and the nature of the product being sold.
Attention is also given to the correlation between scents and memories, and how marketers incorporate those emotion-invoking scents in packaging, product design and advertising. An interesting example is the case of the Westin Hotel chain, which provides pens with scent-infused grips to increase brand awareness with hotel guests - if the guests take the pens with them and use them again, they're provided with another exposure to the scent and the memory of their stay at the Westin.
In the television and internet arenas, the technology to transmit scents does not yet exist and must be suggested using auditory and visual cues, the latter on which most sensory marketing has traditionally focused. Krishna reminds us that some colors are scientifically proven to be calming and relaxing (blues), while others are stimulating and exciting (reds), yet colors are perceived differently across cultures.
She also discusses her findings on "vision biases," the actions and choices a person makes based on their perception of distance, size and amount. In a mall, for example, people assume the shorter path to be the straight line between two points instead of the path that takes them around curved spaces or walkways past other stores - think of it in terms of those zig-zag lines at amusement park rides that make the lines look shorter than they really are. When it comes to assessing volume, the human mind overvalues height more than width -- drinks in tall thin glasses appear bigger than short wide glasses.
A similar science extends to the use of package design to manipulate the shopper's perception of a product's weight. Images that appear in the upper or left portions of a package convey lightness while those in the bottom or right sections convey the idea that the package and its contents are heavier.
In the section dealing with the study of the sense of touch, we learn about haptic interactions, and the difference between something called autotelic touch (touching something for the sake of enjoyment) as opposed to instrumental touch (touching something to get information). An autotelic touch is stroking a piece of cloth to feel its softness; an instrumental touch is picking up a piece of fruit to determine its ripeness.
Using tests that involve a touch scale, a person is deemed to be a "high autotelic" if they see little difference in the quality of water served in a flimsy paper cup. A "low autotelic" thinks the flimsy cup will negatively affect the taste of the water. Low autotelics were willing to pay more for water packaged in a sturdy glass bottle - their judgments of taste are more affected by haptic properties. High autotelics are able to ignore the haptic cues that should not be relevant to their judgment - they're happy with the less expensive flimsy container.
Krishna's book focuses on a number of marketing concepts, both old and new. The Law of Contagion, which implies that consumers are less likely to buy an item once it has been touched by another person, dates back to primitive times. In today's world, the most perfect example of an environment that is carefully controlled to stimulate every one of the senses is a casino - from the lights, colors, sounds and food, to the aromas and slight elevation in the oxygen level (to boost alertness and cause a feeling of exhilaration).
Sensory marketing has made great advancements over the past decade, but it's still in its youth. Scientists and academics continue to conduct experiments that explore the interaction between the senses, things like sensory overload, the properties of voices and the interplay between color and shapes. Researchers are looking more closely at scent preferences based on gender, ethnic background and age, and the effects of scents that are perceived at the subconscious level. Taste, Krishna said, remains one of the most frequently misunderstand senses, as it is better understood as an "amalgamation of all of our senses," because it's affected by cues from all the others: visual, auditory, touch and scent. Most meals are designed not just for taste, but also for aroma and visual appeal.
Many retailers will be putting all five senses into overdrive in the coming weeks as the holiday selling season kicks into full force. In Home Accents Today's October issue, Illinois retailer Mary Rosemeyer shares the components for a holiday open house that should delight even the highest autotelic. How are you turning up the sensory experience in your store this holiday season?