brand identity

Why brands need to think beyond the visual

Research carried out for the ground-breaking book, Brand Sense, by my co-director, Martin Lindstrom, reveals just how important each of the senses are to consumers in their relationship to the brands they love. In this research, the largest of its kind ever carried out, we asked thousands of consumers across 20 countries about brands in numerous categories, which senses were either very or somewhat important in their relationship to those brands.

On the left of this chart you can see that this relationship is quite balanced across each sense. And yet, look on the right at the relative spend of marketing budgets across each sense for a typical brand. There is a huge over emphasis on visual communication with only 4% of marketing budgets dedicated to smell, taste and touch! This represents a significant opportunity to communicate with consumers in ways that are more meaningful to them.

It is why a multi-sensory approach is so important. Your brand experience can appeal to the powerful senses of taste, smell and touch in a way that will leave competitor brands far behind you.

But the over-reliance on visual communications is more significant than that. Modern digital technology means that we are exposed to visual branding almost everywhere – TV, internet, YouTube, social media, smart phones and digital screens even in toilet cubicles. There is no getting away from visual brand messages.

The average child living in the western world is exposed to over eighty thousand TV commercials a year and this represents just a fraction of the total visual brand communication. It is estimated that branded messaging increased by over 400% over a 30 year period from the mid 1960’s. Is it any wonder that recall rates for TV advertising has plummeted from 34% in 1967 to 8% in 2003. These are the latest figures we could find, probably because it’s a figure that the advertising industry doesn’t want you to see.

Don’t be fooled that it’s because advertising on the internet is now more efficient and effective. Click through rates for on-line advertising dropped 11% in 2011 alone. And try walking down any main road in any city or down a typical supermarket aisle and count the number of visual brand messages vying for your attention.

Is it any wonder that we have become so adept at ignoring so much of this visual noise? Perhaps that’s partly why about 80% of new products fail and are withdrawn within one year of being launched. In some categories that figure is as high as 95%. In other words, only one in 20 products survive their first year. What a waste.

But once you understand how the senses are processed in the brain, the problem becomes even worse.

Or the opportunity to do things better becomes even greater.

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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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If you have any questions about sensory branding then please get in touch, we'd love to hear from you.

Simon Harrop
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Tel: +44 (0)7899 916331