Sense: Sensory Secrets Behind the Stuff We Buy

Brand Sense: Sensory Secrets Behind the Stuff We Buy


The definitive book on sensory branding, shows how companies appeal to consumers’ five senses to sell products.Did you know that the gratifying smell that accompanies the purchase of a new automobile actually comes from a factory-installed aerosol can containing “new car” aroma? Or that Kellogg’s trademarked “crunch” is generated in sound laboratories? Or that the distinctive click of a just-opened jar of Nescafé freeze-dried coffee, as well as the aroma of the crystals, has been developed in…

More details

Most upvoted comment

I am very interested to know the psychology behind branding and how the superbrands have infiltrated society. Can anyone recommend any videos , books or websites?(r/psychology)

My Background is Brand Development, I have created brands for several Fortune 100 companies as well as several celebrity-licensed brands.

I will do my best to answer your question but let me Clarify 2 things:

1)When you ask: >how the superbrands have infiltrated society

To me this can be misleading, it is really corporations that have “infiltrated society”. A Brand is just one tool in the toolbox, other tools of influence would be lobbying / PACs, competitive practices, employment, vendor relationships etc etc etc. “Brands” would, have and do exist without corporations. However, if you are asking, “how could we have ended up with such a brand-obsessed, materialist society?”, I will try and touch on those answers below.

2) Marketing and Branding are 2 different disciplines (with some overlap) often confused by the layman, I will only be covering Branding.

Ok, so here goes nothing: One popular mis-conception is that a “brand” is a logo or trademark (one reason why shitty brands exist). A Brand is really the sum of thoughts and feelings evoked in “you” or a consumer when interacting with a product or company. Now, there are different schools of thought, but I believe that a brand only exists inside the minds of consumers, and CocaCola agrees with me; “brand-building” is really what companies are doing, which is influencing these thoughts of consumers by managing consumer interactions, or “consumer touchpoints”.

Now why does this work on Humans? Decision making can be a thought-intensive time-expensive process. Once we have made a decision, our minds tend to make “short-cuts” so we don’t have to spend all that time again thinking about a similar decision. The tendency to “summarize” these thoughts (heuristics) is an evolutionary adaptation. Imagine if our ancestors had to process all the thoughts needed to calculate whether a predator was bad every time a leopard jumped out of the bushes! No, you want your mind to say “shit! run!” as soon as you see it. So this process has become very automatic. The hope is that when you are in a store and faced with a purchasing decision you’ve subconsciously already have made the decision and just think “shit! buy!”.

Now we get to the Human Condition. Generally, Human behavior is an algorithm of ones gender, age, nationality, race, societal pressures, role models (celebrities etc), myths, religion, culture, (a bunch of other stuff) and sensory inputs (touch, taste, sight, hearing, smell). I won’t get into Demographics too much, but a useful way to think of that is its the type of “flavor” of human-condition experienced by the targeted consumer. Companies with a lot of money to spend on their brands attempt to make a brand pervasive to consumers by integrating senses, cultural myths, songs into their brand strategy and put up as many of these “impressions” as they can in places where the targeted demographic would frequent. The strategy here is: if you control the inputs, you influence the behavior. Its important to stress here: its very hard to make an individual do anything, but with a group of like individuals (a demographic) your chances of influence go up – someone will do what you want; if you’re good, most will do what you want, but (almost) never all.

Examples of brands using senses (other than sight) to connect with consumers:

“The touch, the feel of cotton”; Magazines that scent pages with perfume; *say “always Coca-Cola” without singing the song in your head; here is a book on sensory branding

Brands also borrow cultural myths to extend those deep-rooted archetypes to their brands. The hope is that the brand will become a permanent part of the culture and therefore very hard to get rid of. An example can be made of any ad-campaign you’ve heard about “at the water-cooler” or has been brought to reddit (Most Interesting Man, anyone?) and all pop-culture, etc. For more about Myths The Hero with a Thousand Faces is a good general start, and here is a book on turning myths into marketing campaigns

Why are we such a brand-obsessive culture? This is a controversial question. Here is my take: It comes down to societies value-system. What are our values? Look at the news, listen to politicians – its the economy, stock market, jobs, outsourcing, globalization, oil, oil, oil. What is our basic philosophy on economics? Capitalism, which like-it-or-hate-it is a dog-eat-dog system, where self-serving interests are rewarded. So, success, in our culture, is commonly seen as being “top dog” and having accumulated a lot of wealth. And, like every society, there are status symbols. But sometimes its hard to know the value of something just by looking at it. Say for instance you were an alien visiting, how would you know the difference in value between a honda and bentley? a rolex and a casio? This is why brands have been used (because we can’t tell the difference either) to fill-in as status-symbols. Now this seems shallow (it is) and I suspect that because the heuristics being used, while useful, are also shallow, often-wrong models of the world; it probably augments the superficiality of society’s brand-obsession to those studying it.

You may also want to look into aspirational brands and luxury brands for more on this.

Admittedly, I’m glossing over a lot! I’ve tried to sprinkle some articles and books throughout, but if you want more academic sources or have specific questions feel free to PM me.

other books: The Psychology of Selling;

Why we Buy;

What Kids buy and Why: the Psychology of marketing to Kids

TL;DR: A Brand is the sum of thoughts and feelings you have about a product or company. The tendency to “summarize” these thoughts (heuristics) is an evolutionary adaptation. Companies with a lot of money attempt to make a brand pervasive to consumers by integrating senses, cultural myths, songs into their brand strategy so (at some level) you think about it all the time. Our culture is brand-obessed because we live in a shallow society where personal Identity is formed by the brands we own.

Edit1: punctuation / clarity /formatting

Edit2: Thanks for my first Reddit Gold! 😉

Edit3: Per your requests I am doing an AMA

Edit4: The concept of Mind Share is the cognitive side of “Brand Awareness” (brand familiarity) and is a term you hear more and more. Companies like “Google”, “Kleenex”, “Coke”, “Hoover” are often used to describe any brand in the same category.

Also i’d be remiss if I didn’t mention priming

More details about a book.

Additional Information



Number Of Links


Sum Of Upvotes


Amazon Price


NSFW Product


Book Binding


Type Code


Book Author

Martin Lindstrom

Book Edition


Book Publisher

Free Press

Book On Amazon

Brand Sense: Sensory Secrets Behind the Stuff We Buy

Post Title

I am very interested to know the psychology behind branding and how the superbrands have infiltrated society. Can anyone recommend any videos , books or websites?

Reddit Gold


More details