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Be Sensible: Questions to ask to ensure you aren’t sending the wrong sensory marketing messages!

By June 5, 2023June 16th, 2023Branding, Design

Which one is Bouba and which one is Kiki?

If you answered like 95% of people, you would call the rounded, blobby shape Bouba, and the starburst, angular shape, Kiki. But why?

There have been lots of theories and studies about the psychology and meaning behind this “Bouba-Kiki Effect,” but the fact of the matter is that we, as humans, associate things. Shapes and sounds. Days of the week with emotions. Colors with tastes.

So, this is important for marketing… why?

Well, this is an excellent example of how the delivery and presentation of the message can be just as important as the contentThis is known as sensory marketing.

We are constantly processing hundreds of thousands of bits of information; appearances, proximity, volume, motion, color, scents, sounds, and more! To shoulder the everyday tsunami of information provided by all your senses, the human brain builds incredibly complex neuropathways of connected ideas, which help streamline and filter all that incoming data.

In order to be aware of and make the most of these connections, when you are crafting media, messages, visuals, and designs, you should ask yourself the following questions:

What connections are your viewers making?

Alongside being able to interpret those millions of bits of incoming data, the brain constructs neuropathways that work like shortcuts to connect information that is used over and over again. This is how we build habits, but also how we get those flashbacks of childhood when we step into a familiar room.

In the context of sensory marketing, that means every single person has built-in shortcuts to specific ideas, memories, and emotions. So be intentional! Take advantage of those connections to make it simple for your audience to connect something positive and familiar to your idea. To help your audience think of your new product as fun and fresh, you might add in themes like summer or a new look.

And you should never underestimate the power of human intuition. We are very good at interpreting lots of complex info, even if we can’t exactly put on our finger on why we reached a specific conclusion (ex. The Bouba Kiki-Effect). Keep in mind that something doesn’t have to be explicit to make your message succeed (or fail), so you should try to understand the conclusions your audience draws from your message before you run with it.

What connections do I want my audience to make?

Another way to utilize those neuropathways is to attach your ideas to a pre-built foundational idea so it’s not as easily forgotten. Celebrity endorsements usually work this way; you may not recognize a random hired extra, but I know Shaq or Taylor Swift. If I recognize the spokesperson (especially if you are a sports fan or a Swiftie), you are more likely to pay attention and trust the message.

Memories can be effective, but sensory memories can be even stronger, even if they are decades old or buried and forgotten. This is why music, scents, or old photos can carry so much emotion and bring back moments that you haven’t thought about in years.

Picture a perfect day at the local fair: What do you smell? What sounds do you hear? What can you see? What does that day feel like? People won’t be able to smell your social media ad (at least, I hope not), but this is a great exercise to see what connections and stimuli you can incorporate to help your audience recreate a specific feeling.

How can I make my media message give people that same feeling?

What assumptions have I made, and are they accurate?

One of the difficulties of creating content is you have insider knowledge; you know the goals and intentions of your message, but your audience doesn’t. It might seem obvious as a creator to connect A to B, but your audience might automatically connect A to K instead.

Asking the right questions is a critical first step to collecting relevant consumer insights, and that means putting in the front-end work to reap the benefits of useful feedback. Even if your ideas are still rough, give people something to work with! People are much less likely to provide you with what they’re looking for than they are to tell you if something is or isn’t working for them. I mean, we all know the difference between “What are you hungry for?” and “Would you like pasta or Mexican food?”

Research and insights into your target audience are critical to the success of a creative idea! Don’t skip the step that can tell you whether or not your campaign is heading in the right direction. Try to get your media in front of lots of eyes, so you can get diverse perspectives.

It’s your responsibility to help viewers make the ‘right’ (intended) connections, preferably on the first try. This is to ensure that you aren’t being offensive, but also to prevent your audience from hitting a metaphorical dead-end connection when you intend for viewers to circle back to your brand.

Written by: Abigail Marks