Blog: The devil is in the retail

RPM's Cat Sterry on the multi-sensory world of retail experiences.

Blog: RPM's Cat Sterry
Blog: RPM's Cat Sterry

From our earliest steps to our last moments, we experience the world through our five senses. Watching a child gummily chewing on a plastic toy in the park the other day, I was struck by, how as we grow in life we become less reliant on these senses to explore the world.

While a child will try everything; eating his toy to understand its shape, strength, taste and texture, as adults we become more passive in how we experience the world, often languishing behind a computer or smartphone in favour of the real thing.

As we strive to recreate this sense of childish awe in the consumers we target, more and more brands are moving towards digital solutions within brand experience to the detriment of the physical experience – styling, creative set design and sensorial flourishes are often the first things to get the chop when thinning out budgets.

What makes brands memorable to consumers are when brand stories and product truths are brought to life in a way that tickles the imagination – be it digital or physical. Whichever the case, what gets me talking to my friends about a product or brand is when the envelope is pushed and a novel experience is gained.

Johnnie Walker took this to sensational heights with Symphony in Blue, and event that transcended the normal nod to the sensorial marketing. To celebrate the flavour notes and premium credentials of Johnnie Walker Blue, they created a journey through each note and manifested this audaciously in different spaces: guests were given the chance to experience ‘smokey’ tones by grabbing a flame thrower and charring a whisky barrel for themselves – or on the flip side could enjoy 10,000 year old glacier ice before heading into a room of spatialised whisky mist, complete with lightening to experience ‘Whisky Weather’. Why not?

Multi-sensory experience demi-god Sam Bompas of Bompas & Parr, says: "What you’re trying to do is buy time in people’s brains. The more time you have to spend in someone’s brain in a positive way, the more likely they are to buy your product." And you can’t argue with someone who created the first ever scented firework display.

It’s not just fun, it’s a science thing too – the Immersion Corporation research concluded that viewers were 25% more engaged after viewing material that had added sensorial elements. More and more brands are starting to see the value of sensorial immersion, and not always the obvious ones. Virgin Holidays recent activation in shopping centres let customers ‘Try on that holiday feeling’ in changing rooms that had sounds, tastes, smells of the sea piped in, as well as a warm, sandy floor – resulting in a sales uplift of 193%, an incredible result for any campaign.

Check out our blogs page on everything from Secret Cinema and drones to retail experiential marketing.

Cat Sterry is art director at agency RPM.

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