How can premium brands further differentiate in the eyes of consumers? A study of the multisensory aspects of premium salmon branding reveals interesting answers.

Co-authored by:
Jaroslava Juricova-Olsen and Karolina Wolnik, SALMA Brands

The multisensory attributes (such as colours, shapes, typefaces, textures, sounds) of brand touchpoints (e.g., packaging, social media) are key to consumers’ expectations and experiences. Whilst many brands have focused mostly on how their touchpoints look, more and more brands are now also exploring how to differentiate in terms of how they sound, feel, smell, and so on.

Premium and luxury brands appear to be leading the adoption of multisensory marketing, that is, marketing that purposefully engages multiple senses. However, there is still surprisingly little research as to what the multisensory space of premium brands is.

In other words, what sensory cues help a brand to signal that it is more or less premium?

Research has provided certain insights in this direction, such as the ideas that brand names that include late- (sh, ch, j, th) vs early acquired (e.g., m, n, b, f, w, h) phonemes are perceived as more luxurious (Pathak et al., 2017) and that products with heavier vs. less heavy packaging tend to be associated with higher quality (Piqueras-Fiszman & Spence, 2012).

But are these findings category specific and how can brands capitalize on them?

Multisensory marketing and reinforcement strategies

Last year, the Centre of Multisensory Marketing at BI and Salmon Brands started a collaboration to study the multisensory aspects of premium salmon branding, to inform the process of brand reinforcement of SALMA. Reinforcement strategies are typically about maintaining and expanding brand equity.

This collaboration began with questions inspired by synaesthetic design, that is, design that builds upon the systematic connections between the senses:

What does the premium salmon look like, sound like, and feel like?  

We structured our collaboration so that all key stakeholders, including members from the design and advertising agencies, as well as the marketing team, were involved right from the beginning of the reinforcement planning and implementation process. The research collaboration involved four key steps:

  • Literature review: Reviewing the existing academic and industry research on premiumness differentiation via multisensory attributes.
  • Study 1: As a benchmark, studying the current multisensory cues (e.g., colours, shapes, textures) used in salmon brands that convey the concept of brand premiumness. This and the other studies were conducted with Norwegian consumers.
  • Study 2: Evaluating brand touchpoint concepts (e.g., packaging) that considered the insights from the literature review and Study 1, to confirm premiumness differentiation.
  • Study 3: Mapping the multisensory space of brand touchpoints, beyond the current market, that could differentiate the premium salmon brand. The multisensory elements in this study included soundscapes, visual concepts, materials, colours, shapes, textures, sounds, musical instruments, plateware, and different food styling.

Throughout the process, the marketing team at SALMA hosted crucial meetings involving the design agency and the advertising agency and BI, in order to optimize the planning process.

In particular, meetings were held after the literature review and each of the studies to: 1. Inform the research by considering the inputs of the agencies and the marketing team, and 2. revise the findings and utilize them in the implementation of the plan.

Thus, the whole project was designed to optimize the integration of insights into the reinforcement strategy.

What did we learn?

Although premium brands are leading in the implementation of multisensory marketing, our study revealed that research is still needed. Indeed, the literature review only showed a few studies on multisensory premium salmon branding.

Study 1 and Study 2 revealed many exciting and surprising results, but these are proprietary to SALMA and thus cannot be shared, however, we present some general insights below.

From Study 1, we confirmed, among others, that leading brands can set the multisensory design trends in their category. From Study 2, we reinforced the idea that the earlier that researchers, designers, and marketers join efforts and work together in the process of strategic brand planning, the better the outcomes.

This was evidenced by the evaluations that consumers made about the touchpoint design concepts developed in this study.

Finally, from Study 3, we learned, among many other things, that there are certain associations between sensory cues and premiumness in the salmon market, that do not resemble those of other categories. In addition, we confirmed relationships such as that the sound of premium salmon involve classical music, Norwegian folk music (visesang), and opera and operetta, rather than other music styles.

What’s next?

Now that we have completed the project, SALMA’s marketing team continues with the implementation of their strategic brand planning. Their upcoming brand reinforcement captures multisensory marketing at its best.

References:

Pathak, A., Calvert, G., & Velasco, C. (2017). Evaluating the impact of early and late-acquired phonemes on the luxury appeal of brand names. Journal of Brand Management, 24(6), 522–545.

Piqueras-Fiszman, B., & Spence, C. (2012). The weight of the bottle as a possible extrinsic cue with which to estimate the price (and quality) of the wine? Observed correlations. Food Quality and Preference, 25(1), 41-45.

Velasco, C. & Spence, C. (2019). The multisensory analysis of product packaging framework. In Velasco, C., & Spence, C. (Eds.). Multisensory packaging: Designing new product experiences. Cham: Palgrave MacMillan.

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