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Marketers of products like chocolate, beer, honey and even marijuana could benefit from adopting a “synesthetic” approach that causes multiple senses to interact, according to an article published in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR).

This argument was made by Kathryn A. LaTour, an associate professor of services marketing and Banfi Vintners Professor of Wine Education and Management at the Cornell University S. C. Johnson College of Business, School of Hotel Administration.

“Consumers want to learn about hedonic products, and managers can aid that learning through their messaging,” she wrote in a paper entitled Cultivating appreciation of hedonic products: A synesthetic approach to marketing.

More specifically, she argued that brand custodians should not focus on the attributes they think a consumer would prefer, and instead provide their audience with “a means to understand and appreciate their experience better”.

That goal can be achieved by using “cross-modal associations” that tell a story and thus create a “gist representation” – the name for an intuitive understanding – connected with a product.

One case in point is using the words “fresh” and “sweet” to describe an orange juice or using an association with Fig Newtons cookies to help people identify zinfandel wine.

“The benefit to such a synesthetic approach is that managers can direct the consumer learning by setting the stage for the experience (how it should begin) as well as how it should be experienced,” LaTour wrote.

“Creating a visual metaphor to engage that learning can be helpful, but so can other means of communication, such as using figurative language.”

Describing wine with terms like “open” and “supple” or comparing it with the sounds of a musical instrument are an example of this idea. “These multiple modalities also can play off one another to create a memorable experience,” said LaTour.

A further illustration is the “multi-sensory learning sessions” held by the Dr. Konstantin Frank winery in Finger Lakes, New York that mix music, art and food to consumers about wine.

“These experiences are helping to invigorate the loyalty club and are cultivating long-term appreciation,” LaTour wrote.

Sourced from Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by WARC staff

Source: How synesthetic marketing can boost brands | WARC