Storyboard18 | Humanise your brand, appeal to the five senses: Sumit Virmani, CMO, Infosys

Think of Apple—the boss of tactile branding. Netflix’s 'Tudum'. Mastercard’s ‘priceless’ experiences, macarons, and scents. Multisensory branding is an arsenal that can serve marketers well in today’s diverse, multichannel environment, writes Sumit Virmani, CMO, Infosys

Updated: Dec 10, 2021 02:54:01 PM UTC
Getting multisensory branding right, is like all things marketing, both an art and a science. Image: Shutterstock

At a recent business event, I was talking to a few senior executives whose organisations do business with us and who have visited us at our campuses many times over the years. It was fascinating as they recollected some of their experiences of visiting us and the vivid memories they carried with them. Meetings unfailingly starting on the dot, conference rooms pine-scented and prepped, the coffee service always impeccable, and as the day’s dialogues wrap up at dusk, the loud chirping birds flying back home, in our tree-laden campus. 


This experience, which has remained unchanged over the decades, has come to represent a certain constancy of excellence that they now associate with Infosys. However, what got me thinking deeper is how this multisensory experience—with visuals, sounds, and smells as cues—has won mind space for Infosys, humanised the brand, and how most of that is largely unconscious.


Captivating as that is, we marketers already know that the power of multisensory branding is real and outcomes like this are unsurprising. Good brands work consciously to evoke the desired emotional reaction from consumers and multisensory experiences only serve to strengthen these emotional connections. They help create signature experiences that consumers sign up for every time they choose to engage with the brand. 


In the cluttered markets that we compete for the attention of our often distracted consumers, multisensory branding is not only useful but growing increasingly indispensable. And not just for B2C brands but B2B brands as well. But, if we look around us today, it is largely limited to sonic branding in the form of brand anthems and jingles used across platforms like events and video signatures.


Getting multisensory branding right is like all things marketing, both an art and a science. 


Let your north star guide you 

The challenge lies in creating a truly branded multisensory experience. Merely implementing sticky sonic branding or using popular taste to woo customers misses the opportunity to create a uniquely powerful bond between consumers and the business. 


The idea is to engage the senses in an unforgettable experience that reminds the consumer of the personality and humanity that characterises that brand. Therefore, it is important to be clear about the very purpose of the brand—the organisation’s reason for existence and its most fundamental beliefs and highest-order aspirations. 


For example, Mastercard seeks to get customers closer to the 'priceless' moments that money cannot buy. They did it right when they evolved their multisensory experiences to be simple, almost ambient, whether with sonic adoption or taste signatures like the bespoke macarons and priceless restaurant that could easily blend in with the priceless moments in their customers’ lives.


 Start with what your customers value 

The goal of multisensory branding is the same as any good branding work—it leaves behind a signature that lets consumers think of your brand in the way that might best suit your business.


To be able to do that effectively, it serves to take a position of empathy, to work outside-in and start customer-first. What does the customer need at the moment? How would they prefer that you manifest at that moment? What is the moment, through the entire experience, that is most natural for them to think of the brand? 


For example, in Seoul, Dunkin’ played their signature jingle on commuter buses with office goers while also emitting coffee aromas. That multisensory campaign supposedly pushed up their sales by almost 30 percent. 


Place your bets 

While it makes sense for brands to pursue a holistic approach to tapping into all the senses, when embracing multisensory branding, it’s also important to consider the more fruitful ones to target, the ones that will have the most impact. 


Think of Netflix and the ‘Tudum’ when you open the app—it builds tension, has a release, is quirky and unforgettable. Brands like Visa that deal in the business of payment—increasingly cashless and device-led these days—have introduced haptic vibrations to signal completed transactions along with sonic branding. 


Apple undoubtedly is the boss of tactile branding—those cleanly designed, elegant boxes, so great to hold and handle—are integral to the much-celebrated Apple experience. Unfortunately, there are no pat answers here, only well thought out options that each brand must place its bet on.


Tasked with having to make the brands in our charge distinctive and human to customers, marketers like us are always looking to develop strategies to differentiate and position our brands favourably relative to competitors. Multisensory branding is an arsenal that can serve us well in today’s diverse, multichannel environment.


Sumit Virmani is the chief marketing officer of Infosys. 

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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