Immerse your Senses

The rise of multi-sensory experience design

Two-dimensional experiences are no longer enough to satisfy a customer or to provide stand out for a brand. Even three-dimensional ones are struggling to cut it as individuals place increasing value on hyper-relevant, first-hand experiences that add value to their lives.

As the world seemingly takes a series of wrong turns, consumers are looking for a way to escape the norm and push the boundaries of their social lives. Increasingly, the route they are taking to achieve this is through an expanded range of sensory experiences. Sensory experiences define our being and experience of life. As such, multi-sensory encounters have the ability to provide a truly all-encompassing, emotive experience implanting long-lasting sentiment amongst consumers.

When offered by brands, this can be the starting point of a journey that ultimately increases consideration and advocacy. Of course, any brand can attempt to engage customers through sensory experiences and, indeed, many have. But it’s the experiences that are a truly organic extension to the brand or product, and those that are the most successful. These demonstrate the most creative flair and tell the best stories in order to be remembered by consumers. This has spawned a group of agencies and suppliers who promise to help brands create such unique moments – ‘multi-sensory experience design’ as Bompass & Parr call it. There’s more and more evidence that such an approach works.

Way back in 1982, Milman found that slow music increased customers spend time in supermarkets by 39.2%, Nike has found introducing scent into their stores increased intention to purchase by 80% and Diageo showed that changes to the multi-sensory environment increased enjoyment of whisky by up to 20%. There are a number of tools and way to implement multi-sensory experiences, particularly through the advancement of VR & AR technology, but some of the most tangible and, perhaps, pleasurable experiences to date lie with brands playing with our sense of smell, taste and touch.

A recent project saw us commission Smith & Sinclair, a team of ‘alcohol and confectionary’ innovators for a top-secret client project. This sought to provide new ways for consumers to enjoy confectionary products that enhance their experiences by engaging with their senses. Think products such as edible fragrances and lickable artwork installations and you’re in the right sort of sensory territory. Bompass & Parr worked with Vodafone, in partnership with the Mayor of London, to create the world’s first multi-sensory firework display for London’s New Year’s Eve. Revellers seeing, smelling and tasting clouds of apple, cherry and strawberry mist, peachsnow, ‘floating oranges’ – thousands of enormous bubbles filled with Seville orange flavoured smoke and edible banana confetti. The chosen fruits were cross-cultured, so everyone could relate to them, and recognisable so that they could relate to them, and recognisable so that they could be understandable amongst the smoke and fury of the fireworks display.

Virgin created a sensory experience where people can learn more about the solar system through sight, sound and smell. They created a planetarium filled with   sculptures resembling planets which will each have distinctive smells as well as additional  sights and sounds.

Meanwhile, Tiffany & Co placed a 43-feet Christmas tree featuring more than 1,800 decorations that were in fact bottles of the brand’s signature Eau de Parfum in the arcade at St Pancras Station. The tree ‘pumped out’ the eau de parfum scent, with the aim of creating a sensorial experience for shoppers, while a pop-up shop, located under the tress, offered fragrances and gift-wrapping services.

Vodka-brand Absolut is getting involved in sensory experiences too. It took over  Soho Townhouse to create the ultimate porn star martini experience, offering consumers the chance to explore four floors that consisted of the different elements that make up the ‘Absolut Porn Star Martini’ cocktail such as ‘mist-filled vanilla forest’ and ‘a bubble-filled maze’. At the end of the experience guests were able to learn how to make their own Absolut Porn Star Martini at the Absolute Vanilla Bar.

Of course, there’s particular scope for disruption in this area. Confusing the senses, Domino’s launched a pizza which looked like, well, like a pizza. The twist? It tasted like a cheeseburger.

More and more brands are doing similar things. Just Eat partnered with Smith & Sinclair where they designed 22 sherbet flavours which could both be consumed as a ‘sherbet’ in its entirety but could also be used as ‘seasoning’ on top of takeaway meals.

So, is this the ‘multi-sensory experience design’ the way forward now in experiential? It’s hard to argue that it’s merely just a fad, given its ability to produce such  memorable experiences that generate conversation and drive affiliation with brands.

If multi-sensory experiences are executed well, with simplicity at the heart of the offering, then brands will find it hard to resist placing it at the centre of their experiential marketing approach.

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