Skip links

World Currency: Sensory Branding

It’s widely understood that brands that reach an audience on an emotional level create a lasting, powerful consumer connection. In his book, Brand Sense, Martin Lindstrom propositions that brands stirring an emotional response do so by appealing to all five senses.

Think about it. You can probably recognize the scent of Play-Doh, the taste of Coca-Cola, the sound of Rice Krispies in a bowl of milk, and the mere sight of countless logos. When you’re out shopping and an item catches your eye, you pick it up and test the feel of it in your hand, don’t you?

Our senses influence our buying habits and therefore our experience with brands. Businesses that recognize this utilize as many of the five senses as possible, strengthening a brand-consumer bond.

A Sensible Brand

A few years ago, I was part of a team challenged with unifying the brand identity of a global services company operating in North America, UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The highest proverbial mountain we’d have to cross would be creating a single identity that simultaneously celebrated the company’s history and presented a focused, consistent, clear vision to the consumers.

How were going to do it? Good senses. Countries have borders, languages have barriers, but sensory-based emotions are universal. Here’s how we broke it down:

The Global Re-brand

Customer research led to the decision to change the name. After all, even if one arm of the company in Scandinavia did perform the service, the whole brand ought not to be associated with pest control. Thus, as a workplace services provider, a new name playing on the word “ambiance” was launched in over 12 countries across 3 continents.

The Big Defining Idea

Our brand represented customer intimacy and a holistic strategy stimulating all five senses. This big idea led to the development of the brand’s four pillars which provided the framework for the company’s mission: Inspire Connect, Engage, and Grow.

Customer First

The new brand had to be personally relevant and motivating to customers and tap into the rational and emotional components of the decision-making process. Qualitative customer research was conducted in the US, UK, and Sweden to answer key questions to define the brand and the sensations the brand could most appeal to.

Own the Brand

International research was conducted to access cultural meanings, pronunciation, translation, and identified similar names and products. The research verified that the new brand name withstood cultural boundaries and could be trademarked and registered in a heavily competitive business trademark and URL space.

It Takes a Village

Critical to the success was setting clear goals, inspiring people with vision, connecting the best ideas together, and ultimately championing great marketing. The company formed internal and external teams to work together in order to innovate strategically.

Champion Complexity

Global rebranding in 16 months required constant communication, solid commitments, informed decisions, and detailed follow-through. We took it in rolled-out phases while applying best practices for continuous improvements.

In the first phase, the company developed all the launch materials, prepared written and online guidelines, standardized websites, and a shared step-by-step re-branding guide for roll-outs. Each country utilized the materials and adapted them for their local culture and markets.


The brand’s introduction featured events around the world where the company created, energized, and motivated brand evangelists. For example, a brand summit was held and featured area managers and suppliers in the UK where people communed on the mission, vision, and strategy of this new brand. We also rolled out events called “Awaken the Senses” and “Immerse Your Senses” to connect internal stakeholders with the new brand name and strategy.

Makes Perfect Sense

The unified, ambiance-inspired name was the most visible way to reinforce a global brand. It symbolized the brand experience in a cohesive, synergistic way as the company continued to look for ways to extend the brand through new products and services stimulating the senses.

When you think of a brand that elicits a powerful response are all of your senses heightened? Sensory branding can heighten the brand impact of a company’s product or service by fully utilizing all of your senses. With the introduction of a new name, the brand sought to recognize the power of all five senses. Most brand initiatives appeal to only two senses: sight and sound. Appealing to all five or as many as possible can strengthen the lasting impression a brand leaves on its audience.

Branding is Common-Sense Investment

Strong brands increase shareholder value. It’s important to develop a careful brand budget by allocating funding based on country turnover, number of colleagues and customers. Creating a sensory experience that speaks to all consumers is as valuable to the audience as it is to the brand. Whether you’re building a brand across the globe or bridging the gap between markets in the same country, cultural differences have to be taken into consideration. Yet, appealing to diverse senses and sensibilities can be your brand’s world currency.

Which brands have impacted all of your senses? Have you had a brand experience that reached you emotionally? If so, which of your senses were awakened?


Michelle Mariola is founder & director of ISH-Productions, a Chicago-based branding and marketing company whose mission is to help emerging to mid-market companies develop their marketing strategies and brand identities.