Sensory information is dominantly linked to consumer’s perception of products and services (Krishna, 2010). Since individuals react instinctively and subconsciously to sensory stimuli as opposed to learnt stimuli such as a brand name or logo, marketers have attempted to use sensory perception of consumers to build in sensory ‘signatures’ creating unique identities for brands such as the Aroma of Singapore airlines. Understanding the role of sensory perception in evaluation of products and services and its application in marketing is thus becoming increasingly relevant.
Academic research in sensory marketing has proliferated significantly over the last few years. Sensory marketing is broadly referred to as the process of engaging consumers’ senses to influence their emotions, perceptions, choices, preferences and consumption (Krishna, 2010). Extant research in sensory marketing suggests that sensory aspects of a product such as looks, smell, touch, sound and taste influence consumers’ evaluation of the product (Alpert, Alpert and Maltz, 2005; Bone and Jantrania, 1992; Bloch, Brunel and Arnold, 2003; Hagtvedt and Patrick, 2008; Morrin and Ratneshwar, 2000; Peck and Childers, 2003; Nowlis and Shiv, 2005), and affect consumers’ behavior (e.g. impulse buying, more time spent at the store, longer stimulus viewing time, more dollars spent and greater in-store traffic).
Much of sensory marketing research has focused on studying the effect of individual sensory stimuli on a product’s evaluation. For example, Peck and Childers (2003, 2006) contend that elements of touch affect consumer judgment, attitude and impulse buying behavior. In another study by Morrin and Ratneshwar (2000), ambient scent was found to increase the consumers’ stimulus viewing time and increase their recall and recognition of unfamiliar brands. However, often consumers are exposed to more than one sensory stimuli and evaluation is likely to be through multisensory modalities. Consider when purchasing a pen, an individual may process information from both haptic (grip) and visual (design) stimuli to arrive at a preference. As Calvert, Spence and Stein (2004, p. xi) note “there can be no doubt that our senses are designed to function in concert and that our brains are organized to use the information they derive from their various sensory channels cooperatively in order to enhance the probability that objects and events will be detected rapidly, identified correctly, and responded to appropriately”.
Vision and touch are dominant sensory experiences through which consumers often perceive products. Schifferstein and Cleiren (2005) in their study find that these sensory experiences are more detailed and enable individuals to be more certain about their judgment towards the product. Further, they indicate that visual along with tactile information dominate product experiences over other sensory stimuli such as smell and sound. Since product experiences rarely involve just one sensory...