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Future Sense:
Defining brands through scent

According to research by Millward Brown*, it is estimated that by the end of 2008 over 35% of Fortune 500 companies will adopt the concept of sensory branding. Of the five senses, the sense of smell is by far the most powerful yet also the most underexploited medium through which to connect brand and consumer. Welcome to the world of 'scent-sory' branding.

By Stephen Bell, Creative Director, Coley Porter Bell

We all know that the future of brand communications is going to be multi-dimensional. The catchphrase 'sensory branding' is coined by marketers for the concept of any form of communication between a brand and its consumers that involves the senses. While currently being uttered in confident tones across boardrooms worldwide, it seems almost like yesterday's news before the challenge has been met.

A growing number of companies are recognising there is potential in stimulating senses other than the visual for effectively connecting brands with consumers. The research by Millward Brown also revealed that the concept of sensory branding has so far been particularly successful in Asian countries as they are much more in tune with their senses than any other place in the world. The Japanese have shown around 50% more sensitivity than Americans. Clearly, tapping into the human senses is going to become big business over the next few years, but are we really in tune with what this involves and which senses have the most untapped potential?

Consider the sense of smell. When was the last time you actually stopped and smelt flowers, took a deep breath of sea air or let your nose flirt with freshly baked bread? The sense of smell is one of the most powerful and advanced forms of human interaction with our surroundings, but one that has very often been overlooked as a medium of communication. We are always concerned with how things appear and feel, but how often do we consider their smell?

Download the full document (pdf)

* Millward Brown is one of the world's leading research-based consultancies, working with 70 of the top 100 global brands.

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About the author
  • Stephen Bell
    Creative Director, Coley Porter Bell