Mumbai: It’s hard to ignore someone or something that sings in your face—and even tougher if it’s a magazine that by definition, shouldn’t be singing, or talking, or even making any noise at all.
Yet, that’s what happened with a recent edition of Meri Saheli magazine.
In an attempt to showcase its “talking ads” initiative to advertisers, Pioneer Book Co. Pvt. Ltd—which also publishes magazines such as New Woman—sent out Meri Saheli magazines that play the Meri Saheli theme audio each time they are opened. Only around 1,500 such magazines were sent out, mostly to advertisers and media buying agencies. The magazines acquired a voice through a chip inserted in the centrefold. The Hindi monthly claims sales of 400,000 a month.
Audio mixes with visual in this marriage of the senses that is seen as a first in India by some media specialists. Such so-called multi-sensory branding promises to get messages across, memorably, to audiences in a cost-effective manner.
Talking ads: Meri Saheli has used audio ads in magazine copies sent to advertisers
The benefits of doing so aren’t lost on mobile phone, automobile and consumer product companies which, according to Lalit Pahwa, director of Pioneer Book Co., are speaking to the publishing house. He declined to name the companies.
Experts say a multi-sensory approach can help a brand differentiate itself. “Sensory branding is an increasingly clever way of sparking brand recognition in the minds of people,” says David Blair, managing director, South Asia, Fitch, a design company under the WPP Group. “It’s really brand authorship…telling a story of the brand around several sensory tools such as music, scent, texture, etc., that create an understanding that goes beyond the obvious.”
The trend of using the sense of smell isn’t new. It has been, and continues to be, used by high-end perfume brands that use fragrance strips in magazines. Some luxury hotels and retailers also use certain scents to spark brand recognition. “When you go to any Taj hotel, you may not see the logo but it smells and feels like a Taj. It has a certain vibe,” says Blair. The design firm paid a lot of attention to sensory branding for its client Godrej Lifespace, the retail brand of Godrej and Boyce Manufacturing Co. Ltd. It looked into everything, from the music being played in the store to the lighting and texture.
Neuromarketing, a powerful new field of marketing that studies consumers’ sensory, motor, cognitive and affective response to marketing stimuli, allows advertisers to reach consumers through more than the overtaxed avenue of sight. Martin Lindstorm, author of Brand Sense: Build Powerful Brands Through Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight and Sound, says people store values, feelings, and emotions in memory banks.
What’s more, this is a branding opportunity that’s still hugely untapped, say experts.
According to www.brandsense.com, the website based on Lindstorm’s book, about 83% of all commercial communication appeals to only one sense—our ego. “That leaves a paltry 17% to cater to the other four senses. This is extraordinary given that 75% of our day-to-day emotions are influenced by what we smell, and the fact that there’s a 65% change of mood change when exposed to a positive sound…”
If you look at it in isolation, the entire exercise can be quite gimmicky, says media Chandradeep Mitra, president, Mudra Max, media specialist of Mudra Group. “But if executed well, a brand could tap into a more complex sensory network to create and enforce an enriching brand experience that goes beyond pure audio and visual.”
Multi-sensory innovations do cost more, but the bang is worth the buck, especially if the publication has a well-defined audience.
The Meri Saheli innovation of a pre-recorded audio chip inserted into the centrefold of a magazine costs advertisers around Rs40 a magazine. This includes the cost of the device as well as four pages of ads on thick glossy art paper, says Pahwa of Pioneer. The Mumbai-based firm has been working on this concept since early 2007 and is willing to do this for other magazines as well.
The group has also been working closely with ink manufacturers to see if it can insert another chapter to the brand story—scent.
But not all brands can use multi-sensory branding, say experts. “It is extremely important to understand how the consumer experiences and interacts with your brand category,” says Oona Dhabhar, marketing director, Conde Nast India, which publishes Vogue and GQ, explaining that a category such as perfume lends itself well to sensory branding. International editions of Vogue carry perfume strips. She says the company has received enquires to see if ads with such scented strips can be part of magazines published by Conde Nast India.