Sensory marketing: How advertisers get you interested in their products or services

sensory marketingThe world of advertising can be a complex and intricate business, and it takes advantage of our senses and emotions to a much greater degree than we normally think. We often brush off ads as temporary product pitches, but according to new research, they are designed to stay in our mind and convince us on a psychological level that we need products or services.

The field of advertising

The advertisement industry is forever changing, always looking for new ways to get people to buy products. It may use a catchy tune or sex to make items more attractive to a certain demographic. Its methods may seem crude, but at the end of the day, they work.


A new study out of Brigham Young University and the University of Washington finds that advertisements that trigger more distal sensory experiences, such as sight or sound, lead people to delay purchasing. This was found to be in stark contrast to more proximal sensory experiences, such as touch and taste, which lead to earlier purchases.

“Advertisers are increasingly aware of the influence sensory cues can play. Our research dives into which specific sensory experiences will be most effective in an advertisement, and why.” said lead author Ryan Elder, associate professor of marketing at Brigham Young University.

The study involved more than 1,100 participants and was carried out through four lab studies and a pilot study.

Experimenting on consumers

One experiment involved subjects reading one of two reviews for a fictional restaurant. One review focused on taste and touch, while the other focused on sound and vision. They were then asked to make a reservation at the restaurant on a six-month interactive calendar.
Those who read reviews focusing on taste and touch were found to be significantly more likely to make a reservation closer to the present date.


Another experiment had subjects read ad copy for a summer festival taking place either this weekend or next year. There were two versions of the ad copy: one emphasized the taste of the food available and the other emphasized the sounds.

When asked when they would like to attend, those participants who read the ad copy about taste had a higher interest in attending the festival this weekend. Those who read the ad copy emphasizing sound were more likely to want to attend next year.

“Sensory marketing is increasingly important in today’s competitive landscape. Our research suggests new ways for marketers to differentiate their products and service, and ultimately influence consumer behavior. Marketers need to pay closer attention to which sensory experiences, both imagined and actual, are being used,” said Elder.

Author Bio

Mohan Garikiparithi got his degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade before he shifted his focus to the field of health communications. During his active practice he served as the head of the Dept. of Microbiology in a diagnostic centre in India. On a three-year communications program in Germany, Mohan developed a keen interest in German Medicine (Homoeopathy), and other alternative systems of medicine. He now advocates treating different medical conditions without the use of traditional drugs. An ardent squash player, Mohan believes in the importance of fitness and wellness.


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