Making Sense of the Five Senses


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Our minds are full of experiences, emotions, memories and plans that can be recalled through the senses. The most favorable of these thoughts can be sparked by establishing the right combination of sensory stimuli – something akin to the feeling of freedom that comes with walking through grass wet with morning dew, or the Proustian experience brought on by the taste of a particular food. While shoppers usually have a sound, conscious reason for making a purchase (i.e. “I’ve run out of washing detergent”), subconscious emotions play a huge role in what actually gets purchased (i.e. “I’ll buy a box of Tide – and a Cadbury chocolate bar”).

The traditional way of attracting the attention of shoppers has been through the use of visual signage and advertisements. However, when too many screens, signs and banners simultaneously vie for our attention the sense of sight sees clutter and consumers are turned-off and overwhelmed.

Rather than focusing solely on signage to attract shoppers, retailers are realizing the effectiveness of stimulating the senses in-store to encourage consumers to spend more time browsing and possibly ring up another sale at the cash register. Here are some interesting examples:

The sounds of Starbucks


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A study (2002) of music in Victoria’s Secret stores by Michael Morrison, Monash University, established that the characteristics of music (including tempo, rhythm and tone) play an influential role in decision making. For this reason one can understand why Starbucks carefully selects the playlists for its outlets around the world. Recently, the global coffee giant launched their own Starbucks CDs, each themed to tie in with Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day. These CDs were designed in an effort to inspire a festive mood while tying Starbucks, the brand, to the memory of familiar musical favorites.

The texture of Innocent drinks


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Colors and textures used in-store effect how people feel and think about what the store is able to offer them on a personal level. Innocent, the fruit drinks company, launched grass and daisy covered chillers and vans to market their beverages. The ‘touchy feely’ nature of this feature not only adds differentiation and excitement to the brand, but also triggers positive memories and associations of spending time with nature.

The sounds and tastes of Harrods


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The British shopping icon, Harrods, decided to take on all the five senses and ran an exhibition in their London store to highlight their value. Each of the store’s six lifts were transformed into a different sensory experience, ranging from specially commissioned music and art created with micro lasers and crystals, to the chance for consumers to create their own flavor of ice cream.