Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Why is everything pumpkin spiced this time of year? ODU prof explains sensory marketing

Fall is associated with leaves changing and cooler weather and, in recent years, pumpkin spice.

Pumpkin spice can be found in just about anything from coffee flavors, candles, cupcakes, cereals, breads and much more. Pumpkin spice products are offered for a limited time so customers appreciate and enjoy them more.

The phenomenon is part of sensory marketing, a tactic that allows companies to forge emotional associations in the customers’ minds by appealing to senses.

It’s like an automatic switch in the brain that attracts consumers to the product.

“Fall means a lot of things, including festivities, holidays and family connection. It’s not all about smell, it’s the feeling of joy and positive emotions. If you look at some of the memories of most people’s childhoods, a good number of memories are associated with fall,” said Mahesh Gopinath, associate professor in the Department of Marketing at Old Dominion University.

Mahesh Gopinath, associate professor in the Department of Marketing at Old Dominion University.
Mahesh Gopinath, associate professor in the Department of Marketing at Old Dominion University.

Gopinath, who teaches consumer behavior, said although sensory marketing isn’t a new technique, he does expect more companies to start using it to gain a sharper advantage over competitors.

“Sensory marketing has become very popular in the last 10 years,” he said. “This is a very competitive marketplace. Anything a company can do to attract consumers and go beyond what competitors are doing will make consumers remember the product more when associated with smell, touch and so on. Humans can detect thousands of smells and tastes and in fact, the most emotional sense is smell.”

Gopinath said sensory marketing is a big part of why companies like Apple, Abercrombie and Fitch, Amazon, Whole Foods and Coca-Cola have grown over the years.

“If you look at a company that’s successful, in some way they have done sensory marketing,” Gopinath said. “For example, the shape of the Coca-Cola bottle. It’s been around since 1915 and one of the reasons for its success is the shape and way people hold it in their hands. It brings a feeling of comfort. Sensory marketing is very powerful.”

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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