The 5 Senses of Neuromarketing

One of the most common - and eye-opening - stats used in marketing? That 90% of all purchasing decisions are made subconsciously.

Now, marketeers using neuroscience principles for marketing campaigns aim to play into that. And it's working.

Neuromarketing is a field of marketing research that studies consumers' sensorimotor, cognitive, and affective response to marketing stimuli. In a very real sense, it uses the basics of the human experience to create brand relevance, and drive decision-making actions using neurological science, and more specifically.

Oftentimes, our five senses.


Sight is central to how individuals perceive, trust, weigh options, and make decisions across the board. Colour psychology, to take just one example, is one of the strongest tactics in neuromarketing. It's no rocket science - different colours evoke different emotions.

McDonalds' affiliation with yellow is so iconic that their emblem, "the golden arches" is now a symbol of joy, even hope in the distance. And sometimes, brands can market so powerfully, they can turn the tables and alter the perception of the colour itself.

Mattel's Barbie made fuchsia pink its signature decades ago, and through the character's borderless capabilities and careers, the company has successfully marketed the colour as powerful and iconic, where many once associated it with vacuousness or fickleness. Now, other brands are following suit and using the same shade to market their products, with the aim of evoking those same sensations of strength and resilience.


Marketing messaging often reflects trends and patterns you see in common vernacular, much like how during the pandemic, brands suddenly used terms like "now more than ever", "uncertain" and "unprecedented" to better relate to common feelings being experienced.

But arguably the more 'subconsciously' impactful audio technique is basic sound. Music and tones are prevalent techniques used to market products for decades, and not just in shops, on radio and television.

Disney parks are a great example of using sound for strong brand association. Their use of music in attraction queues instantaneously set the tone for the ride. Sounds in different park areas calm crowds and build a holistic experience. And all of it evokes "simpler times", no matter your age: childhood.


Have you ever looked at a picture of a box of crayons and felt like you could actually smell the crayons? Or associate the smell of chlorine and sunscreen with the feeling of freedom on a summer holiday? Scent in neuromarketing works in a similar way.

Our sense of smell is one of the most powerful tools to deploy in marketing campaigns. For one, it's connected to our limbic system which not only regulates our emotions (like lavender and eucalyptus being so great for stress relief), but is also a powerful trigger for memories.

Big brands have been known to use scent to create a strong brand association that customers will recognise for decades. If you went into a Hollister store in your teens, and then smelt the same perfume years later, you might suddenly remember school dances or trips out with friends.


Unlike some of our other senses, taste is comparatively more difficult to relay in neuromarketing tactics, partly because it's less accessible across different marketing touchpoints, and partly because varying individuals will have varying preferences.

Having said that, taste is uniquely connected to our other senses, and can be highly influential. Sipping on mulled wine at a Christmas market filled with fairy lights, festive music, and the scent of bratwurst can pique buyers' sense of joy, and inspire purchasing decisions for gifts and decorations.

Ikea is the brand success story for linking their very-much-not-a-food-brand with food. Around 30% of shop visitors are now said to visit their store simply for the café, and their meatballs are so widely known that they're referred to as 'Ikea meatballs' rather than simply 'Swedish meatballs'.


Much like taste, the use of touch in marketing can be exceptionally challenging simply because it mostly relies on experiential marketing. But that's not to say it's not in use, or that it can't be as impactful as our other senses.

Let's take comfort as an example. If you're shopping for a new sofa, you're more likely to gravitate towards those with softer backs, deeper seats, fluffy cushions, maybe with a foot stool or recline built in. In person buyers use the 'ahhh' factor: sitting down to test how relaxed they'll feel on the sofa.

A lot of digital marketing will use this same premise. A chaotic scene ends with a subject sinking into a soft sofa, or children jumping and climbing on furniture that literally cushions their movements will make a prospective buyer feel a sense of relief, comfort, and even safety simply through observation.

Attention is a limited resource

A statement all marketeers know to be true. How can we grasp the attention of our consumers and audience, pique their interest so they find out more, encourage them to interact with a marketing campaign or brand, and of course, the coveted end goal of creating brand advocates of your customers? And then, do it all again for the next big marketing push?

Marketing is a continually evolving wheel. The latest trends and tools, patterns and platforms can make it difficult for even the most adept marketing specialist to keep track of what works and what doesn't.

For all the benefits of advanced tactics, neuromarketing works so well partly because it strips the discipline all the way back. It translates the market relevancy of any brand or product into the fundamental experiences, needs and wants of being human. Leaving consumers with something attractive, poignant, and uniquely 'real' to think about.

Sophisticated simplicity.

Author: Daisy Hughes - Senior Consultant

Posted on 23.08.2023

Related: Leadership Lesson with Lucy Piper, Director, WorkforClimate

We recently spoke with Lucy Piper, Director at WorkforClimate. Lucy shares her vision for the future, emphasizing the need for genuine action over superficial efforts, and the pivotal role employees play in driving change.

Read more

Related: Leadership Lesson with Mita Dhullipala, Head of Health, Stripe Health

We recently spoke with Mita Dhullipala, Head of Health at Stripe Health about the evolving landscape of Healthcare Communications Leadership in 2024.

Read more

Related: Saw It On TikTok! How the Social Platform is Changing the Landscape for Gigital.

TikTok Dances. TikTok Trends. TikTok Famous. Since 2016, the social platform has defined its own corner of subgenres in a way we hadn't seen since the phrase "Facebook me" entered public narrative. Even the prefix, "I read an article the other day…" is often code for, "I saw it on TikTok".

Read more

Post your comments

Please leave this field empty:

Speak to a consultant