The Five Senses of the Brain

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Aug, 10, 2018 @ 13:08 PM



As a student of consumer insights, I am fascinated with the findings of NeuroFocus in “The Buying Brain” by Dr. A.K. Pradeep.

Here’s how the five senses are related to buying:


About one-fourth of the brain is involved in visual processing.  The easiest and most successful way to capture the brain’s attention is through great visuals.  Be sure nothing obscures you customer’s view of what they are scanning for.  Overly tall shelves that obscure the landscapes behind them, signage with dense text and no visuals, and narrow aisles all detract from your product and frustrate the brain.  To avoid being lost in the clutter, emphasize clean clear  lines delivered at eye level.  This affirms what designers have told us for years — white space if good!  For signage, outdoor and print ads place the object you are selling at the top of the ad.  Use puzzles that are easy to solve to draw in and entice the brain.  Brains will discount information that is incongruent with the visual stimuli it receives.


While only one percent of our brain is devoted to smell, smells are strongly linked to our emotions and memory.  Always take into account the smell of your offering.  Even if it’s the best tasting product in the category, it will fail in the marketplace if the package causes it to smell fake or plastic.  Women are more sensitive to smells than men and are far better at putting words to olfactory experiences.  Whereby men are particularly  sensitive to the smells of their beloved, perhaps correlating with the popularity of perfume for women.  Smell is the most direct route to our emotions and memory.  Being linked to a pleasant, iconic smell can significantly improve a product’s success in the marketplace.


Taste tends to correlate with smell.  If the sense of smell is lost, there is a serious reduction in the overall taste experience (i.e., flavor).  Anytime you show an appetizing product, be sure the consumer can see someone enjoying it.  Give food and beverages a visual “voice.”  Don’t display fake items around food, they detract from the realism and thus the appetite of the consumer for the product.  Tasting is one of the brain’s great pleasures hence the number of food brands offering taste samples in the retail environment.


Hearing is vital to survival but it also allows us to generate deep nostalgic memories associated with highly emotional moments accompanied by sound.  We mark our traditional passages (e.g., weddings, funerals and graduations) with music.  The sounds your product makes and the background “noise” of the shopping environment are critical to the image of your brand.  Likewise, the sounds that accompany the user experience are critical to its enjoyment and to retention in memory.  What we hear is specialized and tuned to what interests us.  The brain will ignore distracting or disturbing noises.


Our largest sensory organ is our skin.  The most sensitive area of our body are our hands, lips, face, neck, tongue, fingertips and feet.  Products that touch those areas should be soft, sensual, pleasant, soothing and inviting.  We are sensual beings that loved to be touched.  Any product or service that is tactile must excite and invite the sense of touch.

Which of the five senses can you leverage to improve the results of your marketing?


Tags: consumer insights, scent marketing