Author: Mark Monaco, Digital Marketing Content Manager
Is it just us or does it seem like there are a lot more museums of ice cream/ Rosé mansions/ museums of pizza/Color factories being created? These instagrammable havens are part of a larger trend that doesn’t seem to show any signs of ebbing. So here we are, now living in the era of the non-brand created, pop-up sensory experience.
Long ago, experiential marketing involved brands throwing up a 10x10, playing spin the wheel, and handing out whatever product/swag was provided. Those days are slowly being left behind and being replaced with non-brand initiated, interactive, multi-sensory experiences. We’re sure you’re asking: what does that mean though? Simply put, brands are still selling products, but experiences are becoming products in their own right.
Now, many would blame the rise of Instagram (and the corresponding FOMO mentality that comes out of it) for the success of this industry, but it seems there are deeper trends at work. In the past decade or so, we’ve been bombarded with audio-visual content in every avenue of our lives. From computer screens, to noise cancelling headphones, to our Netflix at home, each of these touch points leans on only two of our senses: audio and visual. For brands to break through the noise, immersive sensory elements (beyond hearing and sight) are a MUST.
New research from Stylus reinforces that consumers are now looking for multi-sensory experiences that enhance their wellbeing, increase their sense of belonging, and offer an exhilarating escape from digital overload. So as a brand, how can you shape your next activation to be more appealing to all the senses? We can take some learnings from those non-brand affiliated pop-ups we mentioned earlier.
Large-scale installations like the Color Factory use sight, sound, touch, taste and smell to navigate consumers through 16 rooms of hues, textures and flavors.. Each area uses a different color to evoke a feeling or response. (those rainbow macaroons definitely have us feeling some type of way). As you wind your way through the space, you’re engaged by different types of puzzles or activities all meant to be more immersive than just a regular art exhibit. As great as this is, we know that sensory elements come in many different shapes and sizes.
You don’t need to have a 20,000 sq. ft. warehouse in order to create a multi-sensory brand experience, but working with a proven experiential agency for your next brand experience can create something engaging and lasting that your internal team might never have dreamed of.
Check out what OBE did at Expo West recently:
For our 2019 Mrs. Meyers Expo West booth, we used a thumbprint wall with a handwashing station and a scent game to try and get our consumers out of their regular audio-visual interactions. For the wall, participants were asked to choose a color, dab a little paint on their thumb and stamp it on. By removing a paintbrush or any other type of intermediary, we forced people to literally roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty with the brand (and then wash them off at our conveniently located handwashing station filled with products). This sort of brand experience in Los Angeles creates a deeper engagement with the consumer that goes far beyond the impression of an ad or commercial.
Our scent game also was a fun way to get people’s sense of smell engaged. We challenged Expo West goers to try their luck at identifying the different scents of the Mrs. Meyer’s family by smelling “scent holes” (we tried to think of a different name for these things, but nothing stuck like scent hole) and placing magnets with the scent name beneath the corresponding holes. It was a little odd for some to stick their nose in a wall, but participants had fun once they overcame their initial anxiety. Interestingly enough, olfactory is the sense most closely tied to memory, so it’s logical that brands should try to build in a scented component to their activations. (Disney has been doing this for years, btw).
Overall, our goal was to get the participants out of their normal audio-visual comfort zones and give them something tangible that would stick with them. So next time they’re walking through the grocery store and smell Lemon Verbena, they’ll remember that time they smelled that exact scent in our game and find the product.
For the short-term, it seems those multi-sensory pop-ups are here to stay. That doesn’t mean that brands can’t learn from them though. By creating multi-sensory environments, you can cultivate fulfilling experiences for the consumer that are more impactful than just a video. Finding smart ways to integrate touch and smell into your activations can help leave a lasting mark, creating brand awareness that lives deep in the consumer's mind. All in all, it’s about delivering a great on-site experience that leaves people with a positive brand outlook. Simple as that!
And if you’re looking to REALLY give people an in-depth sensory experience, there are some alternative ways in a few different states.