Touch, taste and feel: the estranged senses

Sometimes I like to get physiological when describing new marketing techniques. Brands always talk about driving engagement, or creating a connection with consumers or whatever, but what does that really mean? You could say it involves showing them something they enjoy seeing, and if your brand is in the picture then the positive connection is made.

But that tactic is at risk of being exhausted, and the perpetual desensitization of consumers to everything that you throw at them forces us to remain chained to the tactical drawing board.

musicMedia has shifted towards online because of the perceived advantages in measurement, but it has done so while shortsightedly sacrificing the many pleasure sensors consumers possess other than sight and sound. You can’t invent an 8th color in the rainbow, or a new musical note past G.

But the way to truly connect with a consumer has and always will be through our most primal vessels. That is our senses and instincts. We see colors that indicate the presence of food, and we become excited. We hear the sound of rain and are soothed because of what it means for our crops. There’s the sensory reward from sex because our species needs to bribe us with pleasure to propagate itself. When we taste sugar, we get an endorphin release notifying us that a rare ingredient in nature that boosts energy has been found and we should covet it. (Unfortunately for the nation’s health, that ingredient is not quite so rare anymore.)

So how can we start tapping into some of these senses and achieve the same direct association with the brand that is strived for with an amazing TV ad? Well, there are some companies who I think are doing that in an interesting way.

Vengo Labs is an innovative new approach to the ancient art of product dispensing. There’s a satisfaction like little else when a few quarters are flicked through a slot and the turny thing ejects a candy bar into the waiting bin below. Even though you scrape the skin off your wrist reaching into its bowels to retrieve your item, it is pain you barely notice because of the irresistible magic just witnessed. The connection we just made was between ourselves and a locked cabinet with a glass front – not a brand. Even the candy branding itself is lost because the wrapping has faded into the amorphous white noise of our daily surrounds.

Vengo have created a generic product dispenser with an engaging and interactive digital screen on the front. It’s fairly compact and designed for small stuff like candy, cosmetics and small consumer electronics. The interface for browsing and selecting your product can be completely bespoke, and allows brands to create a much deeper link between themselves and that primal joy of getting something tangible in return.

Online engagement and social experiences have traditionally been leveraged by brands to create meaningful connections with consumers, but this can only ever go skin deep. The idea of delivering this same engagement but with the immediate payoff of something real and satisfying is a sensible way to tap into new and, I think, even more potent sensory channels.

Vengo is not just a vending machine, but a powerful new way of engaging with consumers, and explicitly linking a brand with the primal instincts that govern our choices on a daily basis. It seems no matter how smart we get, it’s still sight, sound, taste, smell and touch that dictate our decisions in life. When brands get on the good side of these senses, it results in a rather well spent media dollar.

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