J&J ad: Marketers wake up to the draw of sensory branding

Leading dailies turn up at doorsteps with their pages infused with the smell of Johnson & Johnson baby powder


It took the newspapers and Johnson & Johnson India almost a month to work out Wednesday’s baby smell campaign.
It took the newspapers and Johnson & Johnson India almost a month to work out Wednesday’s baby smell campaign.

Mumbai: Indian newspapers came out smelling like babies on Wednesday morning.

Leading dailies such as The Times of India, The Hindu, Malayala Manorama and Mathrubhumi turned up at doorsteps with their pages infused with the smell of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) baby powder.

The idea was to use print media innovation to drive the thing that instantly marks out the company’s product—the baby smell.

The innovation showed that Indian marketers are slowly waking up to the draw of sensory branding—which appeals to the senses of scent, touch, sound and even taste.

In 2010, auto maker Volkswagen India put out an audio ad in The Times of India, so when readers opened the newspaper, it spoke to them about the car.

High-end fashion magazines have carried ads for perfumes, with perfumed strips that consumers can smell. Mall owners and hotels are also known to use fragrances to draw consumers.

It took the newspapers and Johnson & Johnson India almost a month to work out Wednesday’s baby smell campaign.

The trademark fragrance was supplied by the company to the publishers who then used a special technology to infuse it—with great care, so as not to spoil newsprint—into the ink that is used in the paper.

One of the publishers then ran a pilot in Mumbai, which was then later replicated across other publications and cities.

Wednesday’s campaign was launched across eight metros.

“We felt that there was a strong connection between the scent of the Johnson’s baby powder and the millions of sweet gentle memories that parents have with their little one,” said a spokesperson for OMD, the media agency that executed the ad, in an email. “From this germinated the thought of a ‘scented newspaper’.” The campaign was created by Lowe Lintas India.

Experts say sensory branding can help companies create a strong connect in consumers’ minds.

“If you actually think about why we walk into one shop rather than another, or like one person more, it has a lot to do with other sensory cues which the brain picks up on, without consciously choosing to. If done well, it can create a brand fingerprint,” said Santosh Desai, managing director and chief executive officer of Future Brands India. He gave the example of Dettol, the antiseptic solution and soap brand. “The smell of the product has now become synonymous with the smell of antiseptic and sterile hospital environment,” Desai said.

At the Times newspaper group, a special research and development team has been set up that helps execute such advertising innovations.

In the case of the J&J ad, the effort was to keep the cost to the advertiser low. “We innovated at our end—although the technology is imported we tweaked it to make it affordable,” said Mohit Jain, executive president, supply chain at Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd, publisher of The Times of India.

The company first experimented with fragrant advertising in its publication Maharashtra Times for a cosmetics brand. “With the newspapers losing out in the digital age, we want to make the hard copy as attractive to advertisers as possible,” Jain added.

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