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  • Lyle Burns

Influential Brand Elements: Sensory Appeal

This post is a part of our 10 Elements of an Influential Brand series where we cover the essentials to building a powerful brand. Follow this series to learn how to attract an audience, keep them engaged, and turn them into loyal fans.


Marketing is an experience. Your brand is an experience. And people take in information and experience things through all five senses.

Sensory branding is a type of marketing that uses the senses to connect with customers on an emotional level. The goal is to give your brand a deeper emotional connection by stimulating the senses, which in turn makes it more memorable and drives action.

The Power of Scent

Scent is an excellent memory enhancer for a brand. The section of our brain that processes smells is part of our brain’s limbic system, which is involved in memories and emotions.

An experiment was done, where test subjects were given pencils, some were scented with a tree oil and some were unscented. It was found that “that imbuing pencils with the unusual scent of tea tree oil dramatically increased research subjects’ ability to remember the pencils’ brand and other details. Whereas those given unscented pencils experienced a 73% decline in the information they could recall two weeks later, subjects given tea-tree-scented pencils experienced a decline of only 8%.”

In the retail industry, sensory marketing may show up through the use of scents in the store. For example, Lowe’s uses the scent of freshly cut wood, and Australian swimwear and clothing brand, Tigerlily, uses candles that smell like coconut and lime.

Food retailers may hide smells and accentuate another smell. For instance, Starbucks accentuates the smell of coffee in the store while hiding the smell of food that they sell. In Korea, Dunkin’ Donuts ran a marketing campaign where they had an atomizer that released a coffee aroma when the jingle played on busses, resulting in an 16% increase in store visits and a 29% increase in sales in stores near bus stops.

Photo Credit:

Outside of retail, Singapore airlines uses a floral and citrus scent on its planes to remove the smell of stale air, reduce anxiety, and improve the customer experience.

Casinos have also noticed that using a floral scent got customers to spend 45% more money.

Outside of scents, car companies like BMW have focused on amplifying engine sounds through car speakers to enhance the sporty feel. Many companies have melodic jingles that stay in a person’s memory.

As an artist, how can you incorporate scent into your brand?

Give Your Live Shows an Aroma

Consider making scents a part of your live show. Use an atomizer, diffuser, a cologne, or a spray. Connect a scent to a song and have that scent released into the crowd during that song.

An Australian Art Quartet did something similar to this for a series of concerts. Due to the nature of the concert they were able to hand out sheets of paper with each scent and inform the audience of which scent aligned to each song and the story behind it.

Photo of Australian Art Quartet | Photo Credit:

Companies have found that scents have increased sales significantly, so why not utilize scents at your merch booths. Light a candle, use incense, or spray a fragrance. You can go even further and create a special scent and sell a candle or diffuser oil as merch aligned to your brand.

If you’re going to use scents, remember to keep it simple. Simple smells have been found to be more effective.

Additionally, the scent should correspond with both the product (in this case your music) and, at times, the surroundings. So using a scent of freshly cut grass may not work as well in a dark, alcohol filled dive bar as it could in a greenhouse bar or a courtyard. Watch out for conflicting scents. Too many scents in one location can confuse the nose or just make things smell bad, which then creates a negative experience.

You have sound covered with your music. We’ve covered the benefits of using scent. Sight is naturally targeted with your overall visuals. So, the let’s cover touch.

Let Fans Connect with Touch

You can engage fans with touch by leveraging the merchandise you make and the packaging you use to ship it. For example, you can create your merch with an aligned look and feel, meaning that the item feels exactly how you’d expect based on the look.Think of a plush stuffed animals, it looks soft and when you touch it, it feels as soft as it looks. Or you can make the look and feel misaligned so the customer is surprised at touch. For example a phone case that looks plastic, but when you pick it up has a metallic feel, would be one that misaligned sight and touch.

Some brands have incorporated touch by making products, usually cosmetic and hygiene products, that heat up and let people know it’s working, even though many times the heat doesn’t have any utility for the product, it has psychological utility for the consumer.

What About Taste...

Now as for taste, there’s only so much you can do. If you have a song about a beverage or a food, then people can associate tastes. Maybe you have a food pairing guide to go with your music, that’s cool as well. The flavor of foods and beverages can be enhanced when your music plays. But as a musician, the focus of your sensory branding will probably fall mainly on the first four senses and less on taste.


Think about how you can innovate and redesign the experience you give fans by appealing to as many senses as possible. If you can effectively create an experience that appeals to multiple senses you will be more memorable to the audience, and you will connect with them on an emotional level. Emotion is the cornerstone for a fan’s experience with your brand. As an added bonus you might potentially sell more merchandise and music.

It’s not easy to effectively layer multiple sensory stimuli into a live concert. You want to balance all the senses so you don’t cause sensory overload. However, if you can find a way to subtly add sensory appeals, you can enhance the experience of your shows or music, which can go a long way in making you a stand out as an artist and brand.

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