Sensory Marketing Starbucks: The secret of the largest coffee chain

Sensory Marketing Starbucks: The secret of the largest coffee chain10 min read

How Starbucks uses sensory marketing

Starbucks uses sensory marketing to stay on top of coffeehouse chains. The smell of fresh coffee in every Starbucks store attracts customers. They ensure the aroma is potent enough to elicit a sensory reaction from its customers. They even stopped serving breakfast with eggs and cheese sandwiches because that would alter the smell of fresh coffee. Starbucks uses a sensory marketing model to give customers the authentic Starbucks experience and build personal relationships with them.

What is sensory marketing?

5 senses in sensory marketing

Sensory marketing is a part of psychological marketing, an advertising tactic intended to appeal to one or more of the five human senses. And these senses are:

  • Sight
  • Hearing
  • Smell
  • Taste
  • Touch

Role of each sense in Sensory Marketing

1. Sight

VR in sensory marketing

Even before the advertising industry came into existence, we chose products based on how they looked. Sensory marketing uses sight to create the brand’s identity and provides a unique visual experience for its customers.

Customers can easily recognize well-designed logos and color schemes. Brands that want to stand out from the rest must go beyond traditional tactics like website design, displays, and packaging and focus on modern concepts such as VR(virtual reality).

For example- Marriott Hotels introduced Teleporter VR glasses to give their potential customers an experience(sights and sounds) before their stay is booked.

2. Hearing

After sight, 99 percent of all brand information delivered to customers is in the form of sound. Most companies have an audio brand to go hand in hand with their visual identity, including jingles, music played in stores, and soundbites.

To pick the perfect soundtrack for your sensory marketing strategy, you will need to conduct thorough market research on your target audience and understand their likings and preferences.

For example, Intel’s tone and its memorable slogan- “Intel Inside” have helped Intel become one of the recognized brands in the world.

3. Smell

Through research, it has been proven that smell is the sense which is most powerfully linked to emotions, with over 75 percent of our feelings being generated by odors. Our sense of smell is tied to our limbic system; it can affect our behavior and help us remember the brand experience.

Categories of scents according to research:

  • Lavender, basil, cinnamon, and citrus aromas are relaxing
  • Peppermint, thyme, and rosemary aromas are energizing
  • Ginger, cardamom, licorice, and chocolate aromas tend to stir romantic feelings

4. Taste

Taste is the most intimate of the senses, mainly because of the fact that it cannot be tasted from a distance. It is also the hardest sense to cater to because taste differs from person to person.

It isn’t easy to convey the flavor of cooked food or wine when connecting with the customers through a computer screen. So, brands that deal in taste need to make a hybrid marketing strategy.

Hospitality brands can provide free food samples and convince customers to become online ambassadors by sharing reviews, testimonials, and referrals online. This can bring in more customers, all because of a customer’s sense of taste.

5. Touch

Touch is an essential part of sensory marketing. It enhances user’s interaction with a brand’s products. By physically holding products, you create a sense of ownership, thus triggering must-buy decisions.

Some studies suggest that up to 75 percent of shoppers say that they’d prefer to feel a product before buying it, particularly if they choose products like furniture, clothing, phones, etc. 

An excellent example of stores using touch sensory marketing to influence their buyers’ decisions -Apple stores

Touch in sensory marketing

How does sensory marketing work?

Let’s quickly look at how sensory marketing works and how it manages to capture users’ attention.

The sensory marketing technique appeals to the senses rather than logic. And it has the potential to touch individuals in ways that typical mass marketing cannot. Traditional mass marketing is based on the assumption that when faced with purchase choice, individuals will act “rationally.”

Sensory marketing uses the consumer’s life experiences and emotions. It assumes people will respond more to their emotional impulses than objective reasoning.

Sensory Marketing attempts to enhance lasting product success by:

  • Identifying, measuring, and understanding the emotions of customers
  • Identifying and tapping into new markets
  • Ensure first-time and repeat purchases (brand loyalty)

How Starbucks uses Sensory Marketing to create memorable experiences?

Starbucks store experience

Let’s look at how Starbucks manages to give their customers a memorable experience every time they walk into the store.


  • Starbucks’ green and yellow interior, with soothing lighting, provides a relaxing experience. Even the wallpaper and artwork are consistent across all Starbucks stores.
  • The barista gives the customers a warm welcome with a smile, which instantly gives off a positive vibe.
  • The seating arrangement in Starbucks is designed for lounging and provides ample space. They also have round tables to make solo coffee drinkers feel less lonely.


  • The music played in stores is carefully selected to create the “Starbucks experience.” The songs played in Starbucks stores are sent directly to each location from the company’s central location.
  • Baristas who are trained to engage in conversations with the customers, remember their previous orders, and call out customers’ name when the order is ready is what makes Starbucks so unique. This makes the customer feel special.
  • The sound of coffee being prepared
  • The sound of the coffee machine and the barista’s tone of voice combine to give a unique experience.


  • Starbucks ensures the aroma/smell of the coffee is strong enough to attract customers and make people think it’s the world’s finest coffee.
  • They make the coffee in front of the customer, including grinding coffee beans.
  • They even stopped serving breakfast because the smell of eggs interfered with the fresh smell of ground coffee.


  • Starbucks tries to personalize every order according to the customers’ needs. The barista takes all the input/special instructions given by the customer to ensure the order is specially made according to the customers’ liking.
  • If a customer is dissatisfied with the order, Starbucks remakes it to give the customer a pleasurable experience.
  • Customers can ask the barista for a taste sample of the coffee before placing the order. This reduces post-purchase disappointment.


  • The feel of the coffee mug/cup and the tray
  • The cutlery provided
  • The comfort provided by the sofas/chairs in Starbucks

Using this sensory marketing approach, consumers from different countries and cultural backgrounds can share much more than a cup of coffee and get the entire “Starbucks” experience. Starbucks uses sensory marketing to improve relationships with its customers.

Other examples of brands using sensory marketing

  • Apple
  • Visa
  • Singapore Airlines


apple store experience

Apple stores provide a highly immersive in-store experience to their customers. The stores are decorated in white color, packed full of devices you can touch, play with, and experience. Overall, it has this simplistic, clean, and fresh vibe to it. Their product packaging gives off the same feeling through a similar look.

Apple’s stores are a crucial part of their sensory marketing strategy and serve as a way to introduce people to the Apple lifestyle.


Visa has started incorporating a sensory branding experience after the completion of users’ transactions. They have added a jingle in order to mark the completion of a user’s transaction. Visa found out how sound influences customers to make purchases.

The Visa checkout sound instils a feeling of trust and safety among the customers that associate with the brand.

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines targets multiple senses – especially smell and sight.

Scent- They have a unique, refreshing scent(rose, lavender, and citrus) worn by all the flight attendants and sprayed onto towels or other service items.

Sight- They have a unique uniform for their flight attendants, which has different patterns that match their designation.

Singapore airlines uniform code

Combining all these, Singapore Airlines provides a professional and consistent experience for its target audience.

How do you implement a Sensory marketing strategy?

Now you know, sensory marketing is all about creating intimate connections with your audience/customers. Classic marketing strategies fail to produce the same impact, as they are based on the assumption that people will respond logically when faced with purchasing choices.

Keep the following things in mind.

1. Begin with your brand and buyer persona

It is important to have a good understanding of your brand and your target audience.

Understand the kind of impact which you want to make and also think about the sensory experiences that your target audience will respond to best.   

2. Work with design experts

Your brand design should be pixel perfect, starting from the colors in your brand’s logo to the pictures used in your marketing strategies. So, have a good design team to make attractive ads, logos, and other designs.

3. Find your sound

Sight and sound combine to provide 90 percent of the brand information presented through your advertising.

So, find out which sounds/noises work best with your brand’s products.

4. Tap into customers’ limbic system

The smell is the sense which is most likely to be linked with emotions. Anything from the scent used in your packaging to the day-to-day products used in your store can impact the connections with your customers.

Make sure the scent you use isn’t too overwhelming, which can end up repulsing the customers.

5. Make use of offline experiences

Around 85 percent of consumers say that they prefer touching and feeling products before making their purchases.

Have offline customer engagement strategies such as marketing expos, pop-up events to create multi-sensory experiences for your audience. This also helps improve brand reach and awareness.

Key Takeaways

Sensory marketing summary

A sensory marketing approach is one of the most effective ways for a brand to quickly trigger emotion in its audience and maintain long-term engagement. The more you can appeal to your audience’s senses, whether it’s through the color of your product packaging or the aroma of your stores, the more likely they are to remember you and the products you sell.

  • A good experience regarding a brand’s product/services enhances engagement with a customer
  • The key to creating a unique experience is working on all the senses of a customer
  • Creating memorable experiences over time can turn customers into loyal customers

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