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Sensory marketing – how to win in the experience economy

How do you emerge in today’s market when customers are so bombarded with brand messages and have such an overwhelming choice of channels, products and services? It’s all down to experience. Or rather, the experience market! Indeed, times have changed, and commodities, goods and services are now making way for experiences. Human experiences that engage and connect with consumers’ fundamental values are what truly make the difference in winning and retaining customers. So, what’s the secret to building experiences that are meaningful and memorable, and how can this help to empower your brands for the future? It all depends on a congruent experience on all senses. Here’s where Haystack can help. We support clients in developing propositions linked to all senses.


The experience economy – what’s all the fuss about?

“The only constant in life is change” (Heraclitus). Indeed, there’s an ongoing and natural economic progression - shifting from commodities and industrial goods in the past, to a more recent focus on service and most lately experience. Indeed, it is believed that differentiation now lies in experiences.

Commodities are fungible, goods are tangible, services are intangible, but experiences are memorable

Experiences arise when a company intentionally serves or delivers goods, to engage individual customers in such a way as to create a ‘sensation’. Those buying experiences - or “guests” as the experience - economy pioneer Walt Disney likes to call them - value what the company reveals over time. (Which is great news for loyalty!). Unlike previous economic offerings - commodities, goods, and services - experiences are inherently personal, existing only in the mind of an individual who has been engaged on an emotional, physical, intellectual, or even spiritual level. Thus, no two people can have the same experience, because each experience derives from the interaction between the staged event and the individual’s state of mind.


 Making sense of experience: how to reveal the truth

As you might already have guessed, if the experience is personal it’s a tougher task to discover the underlying truth. Fortunately, Haystack can lend a hand.

DriveSens - to understand consumer needs and brand positioning

As Haystack’s clever model for motivational brand positioning, DriveSens is a framework to bring together consumer needs and product features. Motivational drivers of consumer behavior are mapped out and matched with mind states, before creating an ultimate brands platform.

How does it work?
Personal needs create tension and human behavior aims to reduce this tension, thus satisfying the need. However, the different ways in which behavior can satisfy a need are endless, which makes it a huge challenge to truly understand consumers and to know why they act and buy. This makes life difficult. After all, if we don’t understand consumers, how can we address them properly so that they will be interested in our brands, products and communication?

This is where motivations come in. Motivations steer behavior. Be aware that similar behavior can be driven by different motivations. For example, you can drive a sports car to show off or to enjoy the thrill of driving fast. The way people behave can be explained by means of 8 fundamental motivations, also called need states. The DriveSens model visualizes these fundamental need states. The fulfilment of these need states is undeniably influenced by the interaction of all senses.

Symphony of Senses © - where the music happens!

Fire all five senses. Create a Unique Sensory Signature. All thanks to Haystack’s Symphony of Senses ©. By crafting a unique sensory signature, Haystack can go even further in exploring how brands can succeed in the experience economy. Sensory attributes are then plotted on the DriveSens model to establish how they fit the category and specific need states and complete the picture. Symphony of Senses builds the connection between emotions and brands with a qualitative, multi-sensorial approach to define which sensory attributes resonate with a specific need state, product, service or brand.

Symphony of Senses model - Copyright Haystack Consulting


Haystack Consulting’s unique and empowering proposition features sensory cues (i.e. taste, aroma, appearance, texture, auditory, shape) that are not only relevant, differentiating and credible, but also firmly grounded in both category and consumer needs.

The sensory stimulants that accompany the consumption of a good or service should support and enhance its theme. The more senses an experience engages, the more effective and memorable it can be.

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Germany-based car manufacturer, Mercedes-Benz, announced the launch of a signature scent for its upcoming Maybach GLS model SUV. Aimed at turning the latest version of the SUV into a sensory experience for customers, the signature scent for the interior is based on the white Osmanthus blossom, rounded off with a subtle leather note and spicy tea fragrance.

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Mastercard has launched a permanent restaurant called Priceless in New York. The International Culinary Collective features chefs and mixologists from restaurants around the world, each of whom will create an immersive, multi-sensory experience for diners based on their restaurant. The Priceless restaurant experience is only accessible to people with a Mastercard.

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Danone's Light & Free campaign is part of a growing trend in seeking to appeal to younger, tech-savvy adults by integrating their packaging with immersive mobile experiences. “The Light & Free brand stands for positivity and self-expression and we’re celebrating this with our new limited-edition packaging designed by artists and Spotify”. Alongside the bespoke packaging, each of the selected artists has curated playlists linked to their design, which can be accessed by a unique Spotify code on the Light & Free pack.

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Keen to find out how we helped M Museum with our Symphony of Senses approach? Discover how we enhanced an art exhibition.

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth

Once the truth has been revealed with Haystack’s Symphony of Senses, DriveSens and expertise, you will understand what’s important and which customer triggers will be rewarding and meaningful. This means you’re just one step away from building sensational and engaging experiences, with which to stand out from the crowd and empower your brands for the future.

Are we making sense? Keen to find out more?

Haystack Consulting will host a talk on this topic “Sensory marketing – how to win in the experience economy “ at Mie 2020 on 6 February. Join our team and experience what sensory marketing is all about. Learn from inspiring success stories on how to elevate all your brands moments-of-truth to a distinct level. (Dutch-speaking workshop)

👉  We are delighted to offer you, as a marketeer or researcher at a brand company, a free ticket (worth 149,5 euros). Claim your free ticket.

Get in touch with the expert

Stefan Peters
Strategic Growth Enabler