By Peter Burgess - 24 June 2015
There has been significant growing interest in the role of cross modal sensory experiences in consumer brand and product choices and decision making. Whether it be the carefully crafted crunch associated with a branded breakfast cereal or the look and feel of an iconic bubbly carbonated fruit drink bottle, the idea of aligning various sensory cues to support a brand or product as detected through bodily sensations is gaining ground.
Many of these sensory cues operate without conscious awareness but are nonetheless powerful influences in determining consumers' preferences and purchase behaviours.
This concept of 'embodied cognition' has attracted research by various academic groups; for example, in 2014, the Journal of Consumer Psychology published a special issue on embodiment and sensory perception, with a focus on how sensory inputs can drive consumer behaviour.
Other research groups have focussed on how people match information across the senses with work published on the correspondences between tastes/flavours and shapes. For example, correspondences have been documented between angular shapes and bitterness and between round shapes and sweetness.
At Campden BRI, our new three year Member Subscription Project 'Packaging design - a strategic approach to enhance consumers' sensory perceptions and overall enjoyment of healthy food and drinks' is investigating how the principles of embodied cognition can be deployed to enhance the uptake of products positioned in the health and wellness sector.
This project will consider, among other areas, consumers' associations between a number of design elements and their perceived 'healthiness' as well as developing model packaging and product concepts for consumer testing.
It is anticipated that, while the research outcomes of the project will benefit those involved in product development in the health and wellness market, insights generated through the project will also have applications in other product sectors.
Regular updates through the project microsite, newsletter, presentations and further blogs will keep members informed on research outcomes of this important emerging focus in consumer and sensory science.
In the meantime, the tools we currently have to assess consumers' perception of packaging designs and emotional associations with the product experience such as Napping, satisfaction measurement and Implicit Association Tests provide a holistic approach to guiding packaging and product development. These approaches can help in using the senses to create and intensify a consumer's brand and product experience.