Brand illustration conceptAnyone who’s been in marketing for any length of time knows that building a strong brand is more than just about selling products. It’s about creating an experience that consumers can relate to. In short, it’s about nostalgia.

This is what generates brand loyalty, leading consumers to choose one brand over another with little regard for cost, but rather focusing on the experience that the brand has to offer.

While traditional marketing focuses on capturing consumers’ attention with images and audio, experiential marketing gives brands enormous opportunity to engage with consumers at a level that goes beyond sight and sound (as is the case in traditional marketing) and encompasses touch, taste, and smell in addition to the other two senses. Brand activations that engage with these senses are more likely to trigger memories of positive experiences and help to create new positive memories linked to the brand, than in the instance of simply bombarding a consumer with images alone.

A real-world example of this is Stella Artois, a Belgian beer, who has partnered with hip-hop band The Roots to create what they call a “multi-sensorial song”. While any claim that music can literally make something taste different would be questionable science, it is true that music creates an atmosphere, and an atmosphere can alter the overall experience of a taste rather than the taste itself.

On the subject of alcohol, consider a glass of fine red wine. Imagine sipping on that glass of wine over a romantic dinner in an upscale restaurant. Now picture yourself drinking the same wine in a noisy grunge rock club. Which offers the better taste experience? The restaurant for sure. While it is impossible for the actual flavor of the wine to change, the right atmosphere, that induces nostalgia to create positive associations, can certainly enhance a consumer’s perception of that flavor.

Translated into experiential marketing, what this means is that marketing which is invested in creating an atmosphere will be more successful than simply handing out product samples. While in-store promotions do allow consumers to experience a brand for themselves in terms of taste, smell, and touch… this is heightened when paired with the appropriate atmosphere that inspires positive feeling or emotion.

Creating a positive atmosphere is not limited to the food and beverage industry. Take a look at cosmetics brand Dove, who’s marketing campaigns – on a global level – combine traditional marketing with experiential marketing, plus nostalgia, resulting in intense brand loyalty. Crossing over into digital and social media marketing, Dove’s “Real Beauty” experiential campaigns are not so much about a sensory experience, as they are about acceptance and sharing an emotional experience that connects with real women. The message that it’s ok not to be perfect resonates with women around the world – ensuring greater brand loyalty than product based brand activations.

By triggering positive feelings and nostalgia through experiential marketing, a brand is able to connect with consumers on a subconscious level. And a connection forged through the senses, combined with an atmosphere to complement and intensify that connection, goes a long way in building genuine and lasting brand loyalty.