Digital this. Mobile that. Blah, blah, blah and blah again!

Not since the days of the original dot com bubble, or perhaps the European tulip bulb frenzy of the mid 1600’s, has there been such a headlong rush to one type of commodity, one market or one type of business practice.

Realising that the days of mass market, TV-based, “talk at” advertising were numbered, so may of the big agencies have simply stuck to what they are comfortable with – even thought they couldn’t prove it really worked – and replicated the same old talk-at model. But via digital and mobile media instead.

The result? So much noise, so many bits and bytes, visual overload, information meltdown, brand bland. Blah, blah, blah!

Daily branded visual messages increased by 400% between 1971 and 1997. Imagine that exponential number now! It makes my blood boil when marketers dress up yet another digital or mobile campaign – which nobody cares about – as innovative consumer “engagement”. Really?!

Sure, some might be efficient at getting a share of the “audience” but so often it’s pure vanity to think that a pop up banner or a click through to a website is going to actually be given consideration time, change people’s emotional response to a brand or, more importantly, influence their buying behaviour. Pfaff!

When looking at what drives emotional response to a brand, my colleague, Martin Lindstrom, discovered that the senses were equally important to consumers in the relationship to brands (blue) but that marketing budgets were overspent on visual communications alone (green).

However, this becomes even more significant with a basic appreciation of how we process sensory stimuli in the brain.

The sense of vision is largely processed by the rational part of the brain called the cortex. With so much information bombarding our lives every day, the brain is superbly efficient at totally ignoring the vast majority of the visual stimuli it receives. If it didn’t, our brains would explode. Well, not literally but you get my point. In one ear and out the other.

Touch, sound and particularly smell and taste stimuli are processed by the brain differently. They bypass our cortex, bypass rational thought and lead to a direct instinctual response which affects our feelings and emotions and sticks in our memory.

And in the wider scheme of things, for most brands, a multi-sensory approach to real consumer engagement, through branded sensory experiences, represents free space. Brand unique. Customer love. Advocacy to friends. “Share with” not talk at.

So why is there still this blind belief in all things digital and mobile? Well you can search me. I just don’t get it. Is it fashion? Is it laziness? Or is it the huge vested interest that the big marketing agencies have in feeding their vast operational overheads and which are still firmly stuck in the past?

One thing is for sure, those marketers that have the courage to divert just a small part of their digital, TV and visual marketing budget into branded sensory experiences, which really engage consumers at a deeply emotional level, are seeing staggering results. This is where the real marketing innovators are lurking.

I hope that this post opens up a can of worms ……and that they gobble up the outdated tulip bulbs!

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About Simon Harrop
Simon is a sensory branding expert, such an expert in fact that you will often find him popping up on television and radio.

After building an internationally renowned agency focusing on communication through fragrance, he has now gone beyond just the smelly stuff and utilises his extensive sensory branding experience to guide and inspire brands and business owners.
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Simon Harrop
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Tel: +44 (0)7899 916331