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"What we see is NOT what we memorize the most. In fact, the sense of smell affects humans emotionally 75 per cent more than any other sense."

Martin Lindstrom, Brand Guru

The power of smell in branding

Himanshu Kumar Singh and Sandhya Sharma of Amity EduMedia attended the exclusive session on "Brand Sense" by Martin Lindstrom-one of the most respected branding gurus of the world-organized by Amity Business School, Noida, on the 31st of August, 05.

Martin Lindstrom, born 1970, founded his own advertising agency at the age of 12. Needless to say, Lindstrom has a highly unusual background. According to the Chartered Institute of Marketing, the rapid rise of his career has made him one of today's most respected branding gurus in the world. He sits on several boards globally, and his clients include Disney, Mars, Pepsi, American Express, Mercedes-Benz, Reuters, McDonald's, Kellogg's, Yellow Pages and Microsoft.

Over the course of twenty years of hands-on marketing experience, Lindstrom has conceived a revolutionary set of principles that transform marketing strategies into positive business results. He rejects old rules of the industry that conceptualized branding as an art form composed of vague commercials and awareness messages. Instead, his unique vision is scientific and process-based. It makes branding the driver of sales and profits, and consequently the centerpiece of business.

Here are the excerpts from the session:

I am in love with brands. I started studying them when I was thirteen. Since then I have worked with trademarks and brands to understand their magic. My mission is to help brand builders to build brands ensuring that it has the quality to pull in customers who would remain loyal for life. In short, that means you have to over deliver and under promise in a world where everyone is over promising and under delivering.

Let me tell you a little bit about brand sense. I was in Tokyo, Japan, two and a half years ago. I was walking down a street of Tokyo and suddenly a beautiful woman with a great-smelling perfume, which went straight down my nose, passed by me. Immediately, I was taken back to the time when I was a 12-year-old in Denmark. It was like my mom and dad were suddenly standing right in front of me and my dog Mickey was there. All the tall buildings of Tokyo vanished and I was suddenly taken back to the farm in Denmark where I was born and raised. Then, I realized the power of smell. It’s so incredibly powerful that it sometimes changes our mind about where we are.

Some of you might have experienced that. Sometimes when you are home with your mom and dad and when they start cooking some item, the smell coming out of it suddenly takes you back to a time when you were a kid. The question that struck me when I was walking down that street in Tokyo was “Is it possible to brand a smell and actually use it?”

Here are some interesting facts. You will see that an average consumer who has reached the age of 65 in North America has been exposed to two million television commercials. That is equivalent to watching eight hours of television commercials for seven days a week for six years. And the interesting thing is that we really can’t remember anything about it.

But today television is the largest media in the world, and certainly in India. But the interesting thing again is that, well, it really does not work. I am not telling you that television is dead. But I am saying that in the future we have to find other avenues to build our brands and certainly television does not seem to be the one because there is too much out there.

83 per cent of all communication we are exposed to everyday is via our eyes. The rest 17 per cent is left for our other senses. That’s kind of strange when you think about it because—I don’t know if you agree with me—if I wanted to meet a person, I would want to meet him in person rather than his photo, right? So, we actually evaluate each other as human beings via our senses. Majority of communication today takes only one sense into consideration . And so far we have not been forced to use our other senses because it has worked very well. But now it does not work anymore. Now we have to find another avenue. So brand sense is all about, how do senses work? My question to you all is— with what sense do you think you memorize the best (be honest)? Is it what you see or what you smell?

I can tell you what we see is NOT what we memorize the most. In fact, the sense of smell affects humans emotionally 75 per cent more than any other sense. The brands which are clever enough will begin to build up everything around the sense of smell in the future. I am talking about avenues to incorporate the sense of smell in brands and leverage it in interesting ways. In fact, the sense of smell is the second most important sense we have according to studies. And here are some interesting numbers. It is the first time ever that we have been able to prove that the number one sense that we have is the sense of sight, number two is the sense of smell and number three is the sense of hearing. That’s surprising for me, for I, too, always thought that the sense of hearing occupies the second spot. But, it does not? Hence, when we try to build brands, we should try to do it by trying to taking into consideration the sense of smell.

Now, I will try to tell you an interesting story about a bottle.

The first bottle of Coco Cola bottle ever produced in the world is worth 6000 dollars. The briefing that appeared after this bottle had been invented speaks for developing a bottle that is so smart that when a blind person goes inside a stall and touches the bottle, the person should be able to tell what is inside.

The second part of the brief was for developing a bottle that is so smart that if you drop it on the floor and if you pick up a piece of glass, you can still recognize the brand. Can I remove the logo from the brand and still recognize it by feeling it, by seeing or touching it? All the marketers or many of the marketers that I have worked with all around the world believe that brand is all about the logo. The bigger the logo, the stronger the brand. The logo is just a dot. In reality, branding means all elements that are reflected in the personality of the brand.

Another research study conducted across North America revealed that those born in North America before 1930 are turned on by the smell of hay, the smell of pine, the smell of meadow and the smell of horse. Now, see that all of these are natural smells. Those born after 1930 are turned on by the smell of artificial products like colour pens, crayons, markers and Johnson’s & Johnson’s.

Johnson’s and Johnson’s baby powder has a vanilla smell. The smell was added into the product on purpose because it was discovered the number one favorite product in the world is, in fact, vanilla because women—when they are breast-feeding—have by default the smell of vanilla in their milk. Because of that, we relate to the smell of vanilla more and that is also the reason why vanilla coke or other products with vanilla are actually very popular.

What’s interesting to notice is that certain smells around the world are generating certain types of emotions . The more the people are exposed to a certain smell, the more loyal they become to it. It’s interesting to see that you can’t turn off that smell sense. That is the reason why it is becoming so popular. When you go to buy a new car, is it essential for you that the new car should smell of a new car? In fact, 86 per cent of the Americans and 69 per cent of Europeans say that the smell of new car is something they like and they appreciate.

In the end I would like to share with you an experiment that we did. We had two pairs of identical Nike shoes. In one of the rooms, we kept a pair of Nike shoes without adding anything on them. Inside another room, we put another pair of Nike shoes, exactly the same, but by adding some smell in it. (The smell however was so faint that nobody could smell it but we knew it was there). You know what people preferred. In 84 per cent of the cases, the people preferred the shoes with the smell and they did not know why. And we asked them if they were prepared to pay more for it and the interesting thing was that they were ready to pay 10 dollars and 23 cents more for the shoes.

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