Sensory Branding

Recently an acquaintance launched a new website and a new service. The service should have been trumpeted from mountain tops and featured in the Wall Street Journal. It wasn’t. It was ignored, blown off and pretty much went unnoticed.


Because of presentation. Because the design of the website upon which it was presented did not instill credibility or make a favorable statement.

In order to create a favorable impression, one of the most powerful tools at our disposal is sensory branding.

The use of sensory perception stereotypes to convey a desired brand image.

The Stereotypes

For almost any external sensory stimuli we experience, any given society will associate the stimuli attributes with a corresponding stereotype. These are learned stereotypes often unique to any given cultural group.

In this post I will look at using these stereotypes to better define our brands to the consumer.


One of the most talked about sensory branding applications is visual. Of the visual attributes, color is the most commonly used. For instance, if you wished your brand to convey trustworthiness and stability, you might use colors such as dark blue (blue being trustworthy, dark blue signifying strength); or a rustic brown to convey an image of aged stability.

If you wish to define the brand as exciting, more high risk colors such as red, black or yellow would be more appropriate. If you wish to define a brand as healthy, more conservative colors such as green or beige may be appropriate. If a feminine brand image is what you’re shooting for, pink would be the color that best conveys this.

Color for branding – as discussed in a previous article, Colors For Marketing – is nothing new. It is, however, often overlooked. And it is just the beginning of sensory branding.

Common color stereotypes are red for danger; white for innocent or purity; green for growth or freshness; blue for trust and stability. This is a commonly understood sensory branding technique that doesn’t require much discussion.

What is often overlooked, however, is that the visual aspect of a creative has much more potential than is common exploited. Certain positive attributes may be invoked by use of font, shapes, textures and color.

Furthermore, the branding experience need not stop at the visual. Some retail outlets use scents to create a brand experience. Some use music. In some markets where the competition is extremely stiff – such as Las Vegas casinos – millions of dollars are spent each year researching sensory branding and developing ways to control as much sensory activity as possible for the benefit of the casino.

Example One

In this simple comparison, note that the only significant difference is in the texture.


It goes without saying that the impression you will make, the brand image you will create, will be vastly different depending on how you present yourself on the Internet.

Example Two

In this example, the difference is obvious. So much for the web design doesn’t matter – product matters argument.

It’s not just the quality of the graphic, it’s the font, the colors and the quality of the graphic.


General Appearance

The Internet is the location and you graphics and website design are your clothes. Do you wear overalls or an Armani suit?

If you met somebody in an Armani suit, looking a bit like Sean Connery (not this one), you might be inclined to hear what he has to say. But if the same person was wearing a $30 K-mart jacket, cheap shoes and was unshaven, the same amount of trust would no exist from the very beginning.

The same rule applies on the Internet. Consumers expect credible people to look credible. To be sure, lairs and scumbags can look just as credible and legitimate as supreme court justices, but that fact does not deter the consumer mind from deciding a person’s credibility on appearances alone.

In Summary

Society – humans – associated certain stimuli with certain attributes. That association is stereo typing, and we as marketers should be using those stimuli to invoke a brand image and associate our brands with those positive attributes.

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