How Our Senses Sell Us: Exploring Taste in Sensory Marketing


Taste in sensory marketing is a unique and creative way to tell your brand’s story and create lasting impressions with consumers by making memorable moments. 

Imagine walking into a bakery, the sweet aroma of freshly-baked treats filling the air. Perhaps you’re offered a sample that’s absolutely delicious?

Chances are you’re more likely than not to walk out having made a purchase, looking forward to replicating the sensations of that first bite when you get home. 

The psychology of taste in, what’s known as, sensory marketing is a powerful tool that’s part of a consumer-strategy designed to tap into intense emotions of pleasure, while creating new memories or rekindling old ones. 

So, let’s explore the science and psychology of taste in experiential marketing and how your brand can create lasting emotional connections that will build brand loyalty and boost sales. 

Van Leeuwen Stuart Weitzman Truck

WHAT IS SENSORY MARKETING?

Sensory marketing is when brands employ tactics that stimulate and engage different senses in order to create a positive impression with customers. When appealing to someone’s senses, it’s easier to capture their attention and create an emotional association. 

Research published in the Journal of US-China Public Administration showed that people can sense five basic tastes: bitter, salty, sour, savory, and sweet. And, it’s often said that taste is the sense that merges all of the senses together, creating a complete experience, that is emotionally-based. 

In experiential marketing, taste has the ability to change both mood and brand perception. 

The concept of sensory marketing dates back to the 1940s, as marketers explored ways of delving deeper into consumers’ psyches through television advertising. While the idea of taste marketing had yet to develop, in favor of TV commercials featuring catchy jingles, it would soon enter into the cultural zeitgeist with Pepsi’s “blind-taste test” campaigns that have been routinely featured since 1975. 

Now that you know about how taste in sensory marketing can psychologically impact consumers’ purchasing and brand loyalty decisions, along with how our society transitioned from visual stimulation to placing a premium on truly sampling food and beverage products, let’s take a look how you can incorporate the elements of taste in your next experiential marketing activation.

TURNING EXPERIENTIAL MARKETING INTO A MOUTHWATERING ADVENTURE

Taste is considered the most intimate of the five senses, because experiencing flavors requires an interaction that’s always up-close-and-personal. Taste is also considered the most difficult sense to cater to because it varies so widely from person-to-person. 

Yet, with the right experiential marketing campaign behind it, it’s easier to generate mass “taste appeal.” In 2007, Swedish food retail chain City Gross promoted it’s line of branded products by delivering groceries directly to customers’ homes containing samples of its breads, beverages, sandwich spreads, and more. 

By giving customers a personal experience, City Gross created memorable connections with their products in a departure from traditional tactics like coupons and discounts.

But, your brand doesn’t need to go door-to-door in order to make an impression. There are other ways you can capture and engage with your target audience, giving them the chance to experience your products face-to-face:

  • Branded food trucks highlight our foodie-centric culture and prove that good food behind any message is always well-received. 
  • Product showcases are one of the most effective forms of experiential and event marketing. 80% of consumers surveyed said they were more likely to purchase after sampling a product at an event. 
  • Pop-up shops are breeding grounds for creativity by pushing the boundaries of in-store experiences with sensory-packed moments. 

And, these non-traditional platforms are designed to ensure lasting success for your brand by:

  1. Measuring and understanding consumers’ emotions and reactions. 
  2. Capitalizing on new audiences and markets. 
  3. Ensuring brand loyalty. 

When done right, taste in experiential marketing creates emotions bonds that link consumers to your brand. 

HOW TASTE IN SENSORY MARKETING DRAWS A CROWD

As they say, the proof is in the pudding. So, what are examples of brands that have used taste in experiential marketing in order to find success. 

In 2018, Adidad launched their Originals P.O.D. System sneaker and, in partnership with Footlocker, the “Better Together Crew” was unveiled, which showcased the creativity of multicultural artists in four cities across the U.S.

Representing New York, Eddie Huang (founder of the acclaimed Baohaus) participated in a branded promotion with a customized food truck showcasing his personally designed P.O.D.’s at Footlocker’s flagship location in Times Square. 

But, anxious sneaker fans were also treated to some award-winning taste marketing, with Huang and his team serving free samples of Baohaus’ “bao buns.”

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With an experience that complemented both Huang’s style and signature cuisine, Adidas and Footlocker sprinted to the top of public excitement and social media buzz, serving 1,000 bao buns, while netting over 3,000 impressions online and selling over 500 paris of P.O.D.s in just four hours. 

Taste marketing also creates a sense of nostalgia or makes us feel closer to things we enjoy and love. Ahead of the release of its third season, the popular Amazon show “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” unveiled a branded food truck in New York City with a selection of nostalgic delights that were just as delicious as Midge’s famous brisket. 

With choices like “The Maisel” (pastrami, salami, and coleslaw on rye) and “The Susie” (turkey and coleslaw on rye) to the most classic New York dessert, the Black and White cookie, Amazon used taste marketing to transport fans of the show to back to 1950’s New York City. 

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WIN CONSUMERS OVER WITH TASTE IN SENSORY MARKETING

It’s easy to incorporate taste into your brand’s next experiential marketing event and can be tailored to be relevant to your target audience. From serving scoops of premium ice cream in the summer to hot cups of coffee to keep consumers warm on a chilly winter day, food is an enticing way to get people to notice your brand and turn them into lifelong fans. 

With taste in sensory marketing, your brand has the tools to tell its story in a creative way and cement lasting relationships with both old customers and new.