MAY 6, 2016

CityU Library Reviews: “Customer sense: How the 5 senses influence buying behavior”

Customer Sense cover image

Review by Albert D. Ybarra, Librarian

Why does the smell of cinnamon make a heating pad appear to work better?  Why does wine taste better in a wine glass than a water glass?  University of Michigan / Ross School of Business professor Aradhna Krishna’s research explores how the senses of sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste influences how a product is perceived in Customer Sense: How the 5 senses influence buying behavior. Considered the pioneer of the field of sensory marketing, Aradha Krishna dives into a discussion of marketing designed to engage customers’ senses and affect their behaviors using sensory signatures. Sensory signatures, which associate concepts with feelings or emotions, are not new. In fact, they have existed for centuries. Looking back through time Krishna found artifacts of sensory signatures dating to the Byzantine Empire (or Eastern Roman Empire, c. 330-1453 AD) and their use Tyrian purple also regarded as “Imperial Purple” or the color of kings. Although the foundations of sensory signatures are rooted in history, they have made great strides in recent decades — consider Tiffany & Co.’s signature blue color.

Sensory marketing and signatures extend beyond color alone and include shapes, patterns, and repeating series’ of visual components commonly found in logos or emblems  such as the American flag or a posted red octagon (stop sign). Visual cues dominate all other cues in information processing and Krishna contends that throughout the twentieth century marketing efforts were visually oriented because of the prevalence of the visual medium of print. According to Krishna (2013), “When consumers view goods … they wish to purchase, they often view not the item itself, but rather its packaging” (p. 42). Processing visual cues starts with colors, then patterns, shapes, and symbols. Auditory cues are secondary in sensory marketing, however, sonic branding is continuing to forge its path as sound logos. One only has to consider the Twitter bird chirp sound or the famous NBC chime heard on television and radio for decades, much less the sounds of numerous coins falling onto a metal surface accompanied with a series of sirens and whistles to signal the sound of “winning!”

Customer Sense devotes a chapter to each of the five senses and blends the science of sensory marketing with common examples used in today’s marketing world in a light and playful way. Whether the discussion focuses on the use of scent marketing such as “Scratch & Sniff” stickers that were popular in the late 1970s and mid-80s, the use of perfumes in popular magazines, or even haptic properties in marketing and technology product names (iPod Touch), Krishna demonstrates how companies have used marketing strategies to connect products to customers. In the concluding chapter, Krishna outlines a guide for “Sensory Makeovers” for companies to take advantage of sensory marketing. With great strides recently made in the last decades of sensory marketing, Customer Sense concludes with a look to the future and touches upon new research into multisensory experiences that will shape the field of marketing in the decades to come.

Customer Sense: How the 5 senses influence buying behavior. Krishna, Aradhna. 2013. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. 185 pages. Coming Soon to the CityU Library. Check WorldCat.org to find a copy at the library closest to you.

Curriculum Connections

There are a variety of disciplines which might benefit from exploring the themes discussed in Customer Sense: How the 5 senses influence buying behavior. For example:

MK402 Understanding Consumer Behavior [School of Management]: This research analyzes a consumer’s behavior and relationship to a product via sensory marketing. Krishna’s delicate balance of the psycho-social stimuli that influences the choices consumers make is useful for researchers of marketing strategies at all levels.

PSY201 Introduction to Psychology [Division of Arts and Sciences]: This book would be a great supplemental resource for Introduction to Psychology. Krishna touches upon embodied cognition and how our senses can amplify one another when they are congruent in some way. Her research on sensory stimuli and how it affects mood and memory demonstrates the power of using our senses to communicate and learn.

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