Brand Sense: Build Powerful Brands through Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight, and Sound

Brand Sense: Build Powerful Brands through Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight, and Sound

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by Martin Lindstrom, Philip Kotler

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In perhaps the most creative and authoritative book on sensory branding ever written, international business legend Martin Lindstrom reveals what the world's most successful branding companies do differently—integrating touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound—with startling and measurable results.

Based on the largest study ever conducted on how our


In perhaps the most creative and authoritative book on sensory branding ever written, international business legend Martin Lindstrom reveals what the world's most successful branding companies do differently—integrating touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound—with startling and measurable results.

Based on the largest study ever conducted on how our five senses affect the creation of brands, BRAND sense explains Martin Lindstrom's innovative six-step program for bringing brand building into the twenty-first century. The study, covering over a dozen countries worldwide, was conducted exclusively for this book by Millward Brown, one of the largest business research institutions in the world. Drawing on countless examples of both product creation and retail experience, Lindstrom shows how to establish a marketing approach that appeals to all the senses, not simply the conventional reliance on sight and sound. Research shows that a full 75 percent of our emotions are in fact generated by what we smell, and the author explains how to capitalize on that insight. Included are innovative tools for evaluating a brand's place on the sensory scale, analyzing its future sensory potential, and enhancing its appeal to reach the broadest base of consumers. Lindstrom lists the top twenty brands for the future based on their sensory awareness. (The top three? Singapore Airlines, Apple, and Disney.)
Among the book's many fascinating factual highlights are the following:

-That gratifying new-car smell that accompanies the purchase of a new car is actually a factory-installed aerosol can containing "new-car" aroma.

-Kellogg's trademarked crunchy sound and feel of eating cornflakes was created in sound labs and patented in the same way that the company owns its recipe and logo.

-Singapore Airlines has patented a scent that is part of every female flight attendant's perfume, as well as blended into the hot towels served before takeoff, and which generally permeates their entire fleet of airplanes.

-Starbucks' sensory uniqueness is far less strongly associated with the smell and taste of coffee than with the interior design of its cafés and its green and white logo.

Hailed as the "World's Brand Futurist" by the BBC, Martin Lindstrom is one of the world's top entrepreneurial visionaries, who has changed the face of global marketing with twenty years of hands-on experience as an advertising CEO and adviser to Fortune 500 companies. Firmly steeped in scientific evidence and featuring sensory secrets of the most successful brand names, BRAND sense reveals how to transform marketing strategies into positive business results that no brand builder can afford to ignore.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"BRAND sense is a landmark work that explains what the world's most successful companies do differently, integrating all five of the senses — touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound. The book will transform the way marketers approach the entire concept of branding."
— Charlie Bell, CEO & Chairman, McDonald's Corporation

"Martin Lindstrom, one of branding's most original thinkers, reveals how to break out of the two-dimensional rut of sight and sound, and connect emotionally with all five senses. His book provides data and insights that will surprise even the most savvy brand watcher."
— Robert A. Eckert, CEO & Chairman, Mattel, Inc.

"Martin Lindstrom has a talent for big ideas. In BRAND sense, he brings new ideas to life using real examples from leading companies around the world. BRAND sense introduces new dimensions to the art and science of brand management."
— Alex Hungate, Chief Marketing Officer, Reuters Group

"Creative, insightful, compelling. It will help you cut through the mass of commercial clutter and develop a powerful brand."
— Torben Ballegaard Sorensen, CEO, Bang & Olufsen Worldwide

"BRAND sense breaks new ground with an insightful view of how marketing to all five senses can transform the way you build your brands."
— Andre Lacroix, CEO & Chairman, EuroDisney

"It contains a treasury of ideas for bringing new life to your brands."
— Philip Kotler, from the Foreword

Product Details

Free Press
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: A Cottage Industry Turns Professional

January 14, 2004 was a landmark in the life of Sydney-born teenager Wilhelm Andries Petrus Booyse. It was a day that passed unnoticed by most, but it proved to be the highlight of Will's life. He lay face-down on a firm table and submitted his neck to the pain of the plastic surgeon's laser.

The doctor worked slowly and diligently, carefully obliterating the tattooed bar code with the letters G-U-C-C-I neatly etched underneath. The beam followed the shape once so carefully duplicated from the Gucci Corporation's printed guidelines. Bit by bit the tattoo was removed. The process was painful, but it marked the end of Will's obsession with the Gucci brand — an obsession he had taken to the outermost limits. Gucci had become more than a brand. It was, in Will's words, "My one and only religion."

I first met Will in May 1999, when his Gucci tattoo was brand spanking new. He had, he believed, formed a lifelong relationship with the brand. Lifelong turned out to be only five years. In that time, the brand was no longer just a brand. For Will it had become a "person" whom he could relate to, admire, and be supported by. This relationship gave him the energy he required to get up each day and go to school. It gave him a sense of his own identity.

He talked about Gucci as a family member, not as an expensive fashion product. He could expound at great length about the designs, the colors, the feel of the fabrics, the texture of the leather, and the distinct smell of the perfumed Gucci environment.

By the time Will removed the Gucci bar code from his neck, he had the sense that the brand was losing its grip. What was once perceived as the ultimate brand, made in heaven, seemed to be slipping. Will was not alone in his perception. Gucci's lack of innovation and dated advertising campaigns suffered a final blow when Tom Ford, Gucci's head designer, unceremoniously decided to go his separate way.

Additionally Will had found another path to follow. The Australian Navy beckoned, offering him another sense of family and identity. A lot of his newfound mates sported tattoos as well, but they generally chose the name of the vessel that they called home for six months each year.

Will summed up his experience with Gucci: "The admiration I had for the Gucci brand was stronger than any other person I knew. For me, Gucci was more than a brand — it was my personal companion. When I entered a Gucci store, I felt like I was in heaven. Everything about the place made me feel at home. The atmosphere of luxury, the lighting, the design, and the music. I suppose the status that this gave me amongst my friends made me an exclusive member of this distinct brand community. In the time that I wore the Gucci tattoo, people approached me constantly and made me feel the center of the universe.

"I don't know what happened, but one day I woke up and the magic was gone. Gucci failed to excite me as it always had. The only thing that remained was the tattoo I'd had done so willingly five years before. So despite the pain of removal, I felt it had to go."

As frightening, shocking, or intriguing as Will's story might sound, my meeting with him sparked the first sensory branding research project ever conducted. It was a five-year mission which involved hundreds of researchers and thousands of consumers across four continents. We sought to understand the rationale behind behavior like Will's.

Will was a living breathing example of what marketers ultimately aspire to when they create a brand. He also was a perfect test subject in our quest to understand the dynamics of strong branding used correctly — and incorrectly. What was it that made a kid base his life on a brand? What components of the brand formed such a magnetic connection? And then, at what point did the brand fail? How did obsessive belief turn into disappointment?

We went out and asked all kinds of questions of people who have particular affinities for various brands. They willingly, and kindly, shared their passions. This invaluable information led me to conclude that if branding wishes to survive another century it will need to change track. More communication in an already overcrowded world simply won't do it. A new vision with an emotional basis is required.

I realized that a brand would have to become a sensory experience that extends beyond the traditional paradigm, which primarily addresses sight and sound.

Another aspect of the new branding that I gleaned from Will is that a brand should create a following similar to the obsessive commitment of sports fans or even, in certain respects, to the faith of a religious community. The bond it forms is the social glue that links and unites generations of people.

Religion, however, is only one side of the story for the next generation of branding. In order to have a viable future, brands will have to incorporate a brand platform that fully integrates the five senses. This sensory platform will reveal the very belief — or significant following — necessary to create a brand philosophy. Without taking comparisons to religion too far, we can see its relevance for some points of sensory branding.

Branding: The Next Generation

The concept of branding is already undergoing dramatic changes. New technologies have allowed us to go beyond mass production and to mass customize brands. Currently brand manufacturers own their brands. This is changing. In the future brands will increasingly be owned by the consumer. The first signs of this shift appeared in the late 1990s. I documented this phenomenon in BRANDchild and named it MSP — Me Selling Proposition.

In the 1950s branding belonged to the USP — the Unique Selling Proposition. This ensured that the physical product, rather than the brand, was the core differential. By the 1960s we began seeing the first signs of true Emotional Selling Proposition (ESP) brands. Similar products were perceived as different primarily because of an emotional attachment. Think of Coke and Pepsi. The consumer tends to drink the "label" rather than the cola. During the 1980s the Organizational Selling Proposition (OSP) emerged. The organization or corporation behind the brand in fact became the brand. It was the organization's philosophy that distinguished it from others. For many years Nike subscribed to this form of branding. The internal spirit of the company was so strong that its employees became the main ambassadors for its brand.

By the 1990s brands had gained enormous strength in their own right, and the Brand Selling Proposition (BSP) took over. The brand was stronger than the physical dimensions of the product. Think Harry Potter, Pokémon, Disney, or M&M's. The brand name is found on sheets and toothbrushes, wallpaper and makeup sets. Books and movies aside, the consumer has become more fixated on the brand than the stories.

The world of communication constantly changes. Interaction has become one of the main catalysts. The concept of interactivity has forced us to rethink each and every communication, evaluating and designing it for the ever-demanding consumer. Technological innovation paved the way for MSP brands, which saw consumers taking ownership of their brands. The Canadian brand Jones Soda is a good example of this phenomenon. Consumers design their own label, which Jones Soda guarantees to distribute in the designer's local area. Nike and Levi's websites offer to customize any of their models exactly to your need and size.

The Future World of Holistic Branding

There's every indication that branding will move beyond the MSP, into an even more sophisticated realm — reflecting a brave new world where the consumer desperately needs something to believe in — and where brands very well might provide the answer. I call this realm the HSP — the Holistic Selling Proposition. HSP brands are those that not only anchor themselves in tradition but also adopt religious characteristics at the same time they leverage the concept of sensory branding as a holistic way of spreading the news. Each holistic brand has its own identity, one that is expressed in its every message, shape, symbol, ritual, and tradition — just as sports teams and religion do today.

An Emerging Global Phenomenon

Will's was a good story, a story that reflected some kind of truth that was out there. But stories need to be substantiated in order to reformulate the way we think. So what started out as an idea became formalized into a research project, and what emerged was a solid methodology that could shape the next generation of brand building.

The very foundation of this book and the theory behind it are a direct result of an extensive research project which sought to determine to what extent the religious factor — faith, belief, and community — could serve as the model for the future of branding. The project investigated the role each of our five senses would play in creating the ultimate bond between the consumer and the brand.

With the advent of globalization, every brand can be accessed from any place on earth with a telephone line. In the absence of a line, the cell phone will pick up the slack. Not a single brand is launched these days without an accompanying Web address.

This is the reality that we took on board in deciding that the project would have relevance only if conducted globally. Our multicultural research team involved people drawn from twenty-four countries, speaking eighteen languages. Additionally, the global research had another objective. We wanted to identify trends, and look at the evolution of local brands to help us create a solid foundation for the implementation of the HSP theory, in order for it to adapt to any market regardless of cultural differences and preferences.

I decided to team up with the global research institute Millward Brown. Their extensive brand knowledge made them an obvious partner for a project of this caliber. BRAND sense is the culmination of our extensive study. The idea took seed in 1999 and eventually developed into a global research project that involved some six hundred researchers across most of the globe. It represents the first truly professional brand research effort on a global level.

Research on sensory perception and religious comparisons to branding had never been done before, and we tried our best to remain sensitive to their differences in character, profundity, and ultimate truth. Project BRAND sense is therefore a pioneering study. We conducted focus groups in thirteen countries, and performed quantitative tests in three markets. Each country was carefully selected on the basis of market size, brand representation, general product innovations, religious representation, state of brand maturity, and the country's sensory history. We quickly learned that even though a brand is supposedly global, the way local cultures perceive it could be extremely varied. We discovered that the way people use their senses also varies from market to market both in terms of the sensory priority and in sensory sensitivity.

The BRAND sense study therefore is a composite of distinct and different markets. For example, we selected Japan, India, and Thailand because all three countries have a well-known history of integrating five senses in their culture and traditions. Some of Japan's most innovative brands often make use of the five senses — for example, when using aroma. The rich design heritage of the Scandinavian countries has made visual identity essential in their communication. The United States and Britain, with their large market size and diverse media, present the biggest challenge in building and maintaining brands. We added countries like Chile, Mexico, Poland, and Spain to our study because of their strong religious and devotional traditions, or because of their history with music and food.

I hope you find BRAND sense inspiring and I hope also to introduce you to a new vision for building brands. It's been my intention to draw parallels between existing cases that will help you rethink the way we will perceive brands in the future. But more than that, I hope you will leave the BRAND sense experience with a clear idea of how to proceed with creating a multisensory platform for your own brand.


The brand building of the future will move from a two-sensory approach to a multisensory approach. The historical development of brands started with the Unique Selling Proposition (USP), where no two products are alike. Succeeding stages included:

  • Emotional Selling Proposition (ESP), where products were perceived as different primarily because of an emotional attachment
  • Organizational Selling Proposition (OSP), where the organization or corporation behind the brand in fact became the brand
  • Brand Selling Proposition (BSP), where the brand was stronger than the physical dimensions of the product
  • Me Selling Proposition (MSP), which saw consumers taking ownership of their brands.

The future of branding will embrace the Holistic Selling Proposition (HSP). HSP brands are those which not only anchor themselves in tradition but also adopt characteristics of religious sensory experience to leverage the concept of sensory branding as a holistic way of spreading the news.

Copyright © 2005 by Martin Lindstrom

Meet the Author

Martin Lindstrom is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, the CEO and Chairman of the Lindstrom company and the Chairman of Buyology, Inc. (New York) and BRAND Sense agency (London). In 2009, he was recognised by Time magazine as one of the world's most influential people. Lindstrom is an advisor to Fortune 100 companies including the McDonald’s Corporation, Nestlé, American Express, Microsoft Corporation, The Walt Disney Company and GlaxoSmithKline.

Lindstrom speaks to a global audience of close to a million people every year. He has been featured in Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Time, The Economist, New York Times, BusinessWeek, and The Washington Post and featured on NBC's Today show, ABC News, CNN, CBS, Bloomberg, FOX, Discovery and BBC. His book, BRAND sense, was acclaimed by the Wall Street Journal as one of the five best marketing books ever published.

His more recent book Buyology was voted "pick of the year" by USA Today and reached 10 out of the top 10 best-seller lists in the U.S. and worldwide during 2008 and 2009. His five books on branding have been translated into more than thirty languages and published in more than 60 countries worldwide. Visit to learn more.

Philip Kotler is the S.C. Johnson & Son Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at the Northwestern University Kellogg Graduate School of Management in Chicago. He is hailed by Management Centre Europe as "the world's foremost expert on the strategic practice of marketing." Dr. Kotler is currently one of Kotler Marketing Group's several consultants.

He is known to many as the author of what is widely recognized as the most authoritative textbook on marketing: Marketing Management, now in its 13th edition. He has also authored or co-authored dozens of leading books on marketing: Principles of Marketing; Marketing Models; Strategic Marketing for Non-Profit Organizations; The New Competition; High Visibility; Social Marketing; Marketing Places; Marketing for Congregations; Marketing for Hospitality and Tourism; and The Marketing of Nations.

Dr. Kotler presents continuing seminars on leading marketing concepts and developments to companies and organizations in the U.S., Europe and Asia. He participates in KMG client projects and has consulted to many major U.S. and foreign companies—including IBM, Michelin, Bank of America, Merck, General Electric, Honeywell, and Motorola—in the areas of marketing strategy and planning, marketing organization, and international marketing.

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Brand Sense: Build Powerful Brands through Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight, and Sound 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Author Martin Lindstrom deserves credit for this original contribution to the overworked discipline of branding. He makes the case for involving all five senses ¿ as well as emotions of nearly religious depth ¿ in branding. While this may not work for every industry (it would be hard to make financial services tactile, aromatic or beloved, for example), it is a provocative idea that expands the branding discussion. We find that Lindstrom makes a logical case for exploiting the power of the senses and emotions as he weaves in data based on a 24-nation study by research firm Millward Brown. The research explored ¿to what extent the religious factor ¿ faith, belief and community ¿ could serve as a model for the future of branding.¿ It also examined how taste, touch, hearing, smell and sight can create links between buyers and brands, and paid incisive attention to actual branding stories. Though some repetition crops up, Lindstrom generally keeps the book moving along with new facts that propel each chapter. He makes it clear that greater sensory emphasis could boost many brands ¿ and, perhaps, the careers of many brand managers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Even at a personal level, it's pretty hard sometimes to see ourselves from the outside in, so entangled are we in our self perceptions and our unique interpretations of the world we inhabit. Brand-builders, responsible for articulating company messages, are equally in danger of becoming trapped in the self-made images they've nurtured for members of the corporate world. Brand-builders can lose sight just as easily of the empathetic connection they should have with their raison d'etre - loyal and potential consumers. Brand Sense is a reality check for us all. In a world that's fallen head-over-heels for mass-communication, the value of the individual psyche has been overlooked. Even branding via the web fails to make use of its unique facility - the potential for personalising messages and, in so doing, making them meaningful. In short, brand-building is in danger of losing touch with the essence of communication - dealing with consumers as sentient beings. By acknowledging and making sophisticated connections with our senses, branding has the potential to recover its resonance, for the individual and society collectively. This book speaks of much more than common sense in recalling our attention to our shared five senses - it speaks of the essential qualities, the essence of effective human communication. Without fluency in five-sense communication, brands will become mute and finally invisible. Read this book and recover your own innate sense of incisive, persuasive and responsible communication.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read a lot of business books in the past 4 years. So I can't quite understand how it is that I've never read a Lindstrom book until now. This is an absolutely fantastic book that covers so much ground of branding I never thought about. This is not only crammed full of content it is an absolute pleasure to read. I normally read with a highlighter, you know `just the important stuff' to aid re-reading & wisdom-retention. That's the only bad thing about this book - you can't shorten it, summarise it or give the highlights. There's just so much on every page. Solid data, examples, stories and theory. The future of branding is going to be vastly different than most of us have been preparing for - there aren't many better guides than Lindstrom, Seth Godin and Kotler. Read this book. Please!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The topic of branding has been well explored during the last decade - to an extend where it provoked an ¿anti-brand¿ re-action - at least among many consumers. ¿Brand Sense¿ however, is far from your generic brand book! ¿Brand Sense¿ took me much further and provided me with inspiration and valuable insight of future brand power. Brand building has long been explored from one-dimension. Supported by a large survey and lots of cases Martin Lindstrom is explaining that future brand distinction is about appealing to all senses, thus a multidimensional experience. I can truly recommend ¿Brand Sense¿ for those marketers who want to take their brand one step further¿ into the ¿sensory world¿ of brand distinction.