LONDON: Those brands that best understand the role of sensory characteristics in delivering consonance and satisfaction across all consumer touchpoints will stand out in an increasingly competitive marketplace, a leading industry figure has said.

Pippa Bailey, innovation director at MMR Research Worldwide, argues in the current issue of Admap, the focus of which is multisensory marketing, that traditional market research measures "fit to brand", a rational process that cannot capture sensory associations.

"All objects, without exception, have both a sensory profile and a conceptual profile," she writes. This is because people attach subconscious meanings to things perceived through the senses and which then influence their behaviour.

Brands have sensory characteristics in terms of the shapes, colours, feel, sounds and even the smells and tastes that are used to represent them, making the use of sensory cues more important than ever as a way of getting a brand to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

She suggests that brands need to understand the conceptual associations for their category as a whole, before using conceptual profiling – with indirect and implicit research methods – to access the non-conscious associations for all key touchpoints.

Using examples from the breakfast cereals and hair care categories, Bailey shows that consonance between brand, product and pack "delivers consistent, powerful emotional outcomes" and has the potential to deliver greater satisfaction.

"If advertising, branding and packaging can create clear and relevant conceptual expectations, and these can be carried through seamlessly in the actual experience, expectations are met, and this results in satisfaction, driving repeat purchase," she adds.

Many brands already possess sensory assets of some sort, from the purple colour associated with Cadbury's, through the Intel jingle to the shield on all Heinz products.

These could strengthen their positioning, Baily suggests, by realising the potential of their key sensory assets as optimisation "levers" and using these to exploit competitive advantage.

However, almost all new products are handicapped by some level of dissonance across key touchpoints.

Data sourced from Admap