Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2015


An argument can be made that marketing is easily one of the most important deciding factors for consumers to purchase food products. With both the various and copious amounts of companies contending for the loyalty of an exponentially growing population of consumers, it is important for food companies to understand what draws people to their products. A large amount of research has been conducted into the effectiveness of different marketing techniques (Spence, Puccinelli, Grewal, and Roggeveen, 2014). With food marketing, it is not merely enough for companies to sway consumers to purchase their food products by solely spouting out marketing jargon. Rather, studies have shown that consumers actually prefer to be able to see that the foods that companies are trying to sell can actually deliver on their respective product promises (De Pelsmaeker, Dewettinck, Gellynck, 2013). Therefore, it behooves marketers to find solutions that actively engage consumers in the food selection process. Sensory marketing is a relatively new discipline of marketing that embodies the idea of activating some if not all of the five senses which include sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. Triggering these senses can prove to be extremely powerful tools for marketing because they can greatly sway consumers on whether or not they will purchase certain items. Food companies are actively searching for ways to manipulate the senses in order to alter the perceptions of what prospective customers will experience. Within the discipline of sensory marketing, there are a variety of methods that food companies employ to activate the senses. One of the ways food companies use visual stimuli include altering the outward appearance on packaging like General Mills frequently does to its cereals. Another sensory marketing technique that engages a consumer’s sense of sight is by making certain product brands very visible, so that it is the only product that a consumer would consider to purchase as Coca Cola frequently does with its sodas in many convenient stores. Likewise, food companies also attempt to appeal to a customer’s sense of smell by using techniques that trigger salivation in consumers. In fact, some food companies use artificial scents to mimic the taste of the food that they sell, causing customers to form associations between the scent and the food product. Sensory marketers also utilize auditory stimuli. Some of these techniques can take on many forms that can range from music to onomatopoeias to catchy slogans. In this way, food companies are able to set themselves apart from other brands. Similarly, food venders such as Sam’s Club and CostCo attempt to appeal to people’s sense of taste by allowing people to sample food products in stores form a variety of sample stations before buying them. Some food companies also strive to engage consumers’ sense of touch by allowing people to be able to touch their products directly. Some companies have even begun to change the tactile qualities of the materials that the store is made up of when they replace old materials with products such as wood, linoleum, marble, and much more. With the different themes of sensory marketing that many food companies have to choose from, it is interesting to gain insight into the roles that each sense plays in it. This begs the question, which aspects of sensory marketing are the most effective?


Winner of the First-Year Student Research Prize

Course: FYE 1600-15, First-Year Experience Food Matters