5senseseye perception

Consumers in the Marketplace: Perception


We live in a world with constant sensation: colours, sounds,and odors. We are rarely away from a marketing pitch. As individuals we pick and choose messages to attend to and we put our own spin on what we experience.


The immediate response to sensory receptors (eyes, ears, nose, mouth, fingers) to such basic stimuli as light, colour and sound

Based on our senses


The process by which stimuli are selected, organized and interpreted. How we understand and percieve things


What is more important Perception or Reality?

Take a minute to watch this little prank by Payless Shoes where they convince media influencers to buy their not so high end shoes for exorbitant prices.

The process of perception involves exposure, attention and interpretation

Five Senses Magnum



Inputs picked up by our senses are the raw data that generate responses


Manufacturers are spending more to design packages that blink, beep, yell and waft scents at shoppers. Though some companies have created paper-thin, flexible video displays and tiny speakers, aroma seems to be the biggest payoff in packaging, thanks to its powerful link to memory and emotion. Read a Feb 19, 2006 article Appealing to the Senses on ways marketers are appealing to the senses


Lush"One brand that epitomizes sensory stimulation is Lush, the handmade cosmetics company. Pass the entrance of a Lush store and you are hit by a rush of fragrance. Step inside and it’s like entering the most exuberant market stall: wooden tables laden with huge slabs of soap, like giant cheeses ready for slicing; solid lumps of multi-colored shampoos; butterballs and bath bombs; wobbling shower jellies and creamy pats of butter cream with silly sexy names; chocolate massage bars that tickle the taste buds, as well as the skin, with toothsome aromas.

Says Lush co-founder Mark Constantine of his company’s approach: “Packaging is so boring. Smelling and touching is just more fun for the senses.” What is more, he adds, “If you don’t use packaging you can use higher quality ingredients.” Lush profits by toying with our senses, using techniques that are light-hearted and fairly basic: vibrant color (sometimes synthetic), manipulation of product shape and texture, mood-enhancing perfumes that draw mainly (though not exclusively) on natural ingredients (fresh fruit, real chocolate, essential oils, and what Lush terms “safe synthetics”).( Source: http://www.brandchannel.com/start1.asp?fa_id=304)

Current marketing research shows:

For an overview with examples see the slideshare below

Colour Perception and Consumer Behaviour

Click here to see an infographic showing how colour affects purchases. According to the graphic

* 93% is based on visual appearance
* 85 % of customers place colour as a reason to buy and 80% say colour increases brand recognition

Many colour associations are based on cultural ideas, people always have colours they personally prefer. What may be a great colour for a product in one culture may be the worst colour in another culture. Just because a person has a colour they are attracted to, it doesn't mean that, the favourite colour would be a good colour for every product. There are colours that we believe go with certain products. For example, when you think of coffee what colours do you associate with its packages? What colours wouldn't work?

Colour matters. We associate certain products with certain colours. When Coke first tried to market Coke Zero, they packaged it in a white can. Typically diet drinks are in light coloured cans. But they were going after a male market. Typically males don't buy diet soda. Along with marketing efforts in sports and other big events usually only used for the main brand of Coke, they changed the colour to black. While sales in the overall category of soda shrunk in 2009, Coke Zero sales increased 20%.

Why is fast food marketed with yellows and oranges?

What colours are used to market to children? Why?

What colours are used to market using a sexual appeal? Why?

Sony Bravia paint


See the making of Sony Paint video

How Perceptive Are You? The Colour Changing Card Trick

Take a few minutes to check your perception by watching Richard Wiseman's video below

How did you do? Consider Why? What other examples can you think of where this same effect takes place?

"The Colour-changing Card Trick illustrates a phenomenon known as change blindness. Research into this concept has been carried out by scientists since the 1970s, and examines why people are poor at detecting discrepancies between scenes in a film or two rapidly presented photographs. Some of the most creative work in this area has been produced by Dan Simons and his colleagues from the University of Illinois. Read about Dan Simons' work here." Source: Richard Wiseman, Quirkology

We can be fooled by what we see

What's wrong with this picture?
Put mouse over the pictures to see

Click to view more Optical Illusions (inside link) or go outside to http://www.michaelbach.de/ot/index.html



Odours can evoke feelings, fragrance--> aromatherapy; early associations can evoke similar past feelings.To some extent reaction to odours is dependent on culture (many large companies adjust the smell of their products from country to country)

“We remember 1 per cent of what we touch, 2 per cent of what we hear, 5 per cent of what we see and 15 per cent of what we taste, but 35 per cent of what we smell stays with us.” Steve Hughes of Mood Media

Martin Lindstrom, author of Brand Sense: Build powerful brands through touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound, says “The sense of smell has surprising powers; our research shows , we’re not only able to change consumers’ impression of a brand, we can also change consumers’ perception of time, size and quality.”


Certain smells are also associated with sexual arousal; but the smells are not colognes and perfumes. Men are aroused by smell of pumpkin or cinnamon buns; women are aroused by cucumber (for more information see research done by Dr. Alan Hirsch at The Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation (outside link) or read What Flavour is Your Personality)

exampleThe new car smell is faked - customers prefer the artificial smell of leather to real.

Crayola has patented the smell of its crayons

A floral scent near slots increases gambling

The Rise of Scent Marketing


Aspects of sound affect a person's feelings and behaviour

A couple has "their song" - a song evokes a memory

Jingles maintain brand awareness; lively music stimulates

Kellogg’s Rice Krispies, with its signature “Snap, Crackle, and Pop,”

According to Canadian Grocer,

Sound Effects!

Cows with headphones listening to musicEven cows are affected by music. A study by the University of Leicester in 2001 showed that cows produce 3% more milk when listening to slow music like REM's Everybody Hurts or Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony compared to faster music.

Sound can be manipulated! New digital software called Micro editors can compress sound with little discernible difference. Advertisers can squeeze a longer message into a shorter time, or programmers can squeeze more ads into a program. Students listening to recorded lectures can hear the lecture in a shorter amount of time.

Sonic Brand:

Scientific research has suggested "that distinct combinations of just a few notes — known in the advertising world as a sonic brand — could have more influence on consumers than the longer, frequently changing jingles... Most sonic brands are versatile enough to be expanded into full songs. But typically, they are played alone as a three- or four-note melody so memorable, marketers hope, that they cut through the media clutter and lodge indelibly in consumers' brains." Examples of Sonic brand NBCs three tones, IBMs, Motorola- Hello Moto.

Sound as a Repellent

But sound can also be used to repel!--Kennedy subway station in Scarborough plays classical music to inhibit teens from hanging out in the station. A company in Wales several years ago invented a device called the Mosquito. It's a small speaker that emits a high frequency sound that only the young can hear. "The Music Mosquito is a complete music system that will relay Royalty free Classical or Chill-out music that would keep the teenagers away to some extent."

Distinct Sounds

Products often have distinct sounds. Harley-Davidson's revving engine has been trademarked so when we hear that sound on the street or in a commercial it immediately cues-Harley! Cars often have quite distinct sounds. 36% of Japanese consumers claim to be able to distinguish one car brand from another, solely from its sound. The next time you see a commercial for a car, close your eyes and listen to how prominent each sound is. it's not just the sound effects that you will hear, it's often each specific sound from the opening door, to the starting of the engine to the sound of windshield wipers.

Honda Choir

Cadbury Gorilla



Not as much research has been done in the area of touch, but touch has an effect on sales and sales interactions. If a product looks appealing and we pick it up, we form an attachment with it. If it feels good, we will have a psychological sense of ownership.

Researchers have found that people can develop an attachment after touching an item for as little as 30 seconds, making it more likely to want to buy it. Have you ever gone into a clothing store and decided to try something on and suddenly you have the sales person bringing you more things to try on? We know they want to sell us something but they also know that once we have touched the garment, tried it on, and if it looks and feel good we are more likely to buy because we have felt what it was like to own it.

Think for a minute about the Apple store. What do you see as soon as you walk in? People everywhere picking up, trying, touching and interacting with the products.

Textures are associated with product quality e.g. silk-luxury. Gender difference -usually women associated with light or delicate, men coarse

Lawrence Williams and Joshua Ackerman in the Harvard Review talk about a study where researchers asked people to hold either a cold or warm therapeutic pad. The people believed that the researchers were studying the product. However, what was really being studied was people's behavior following in an unrelated investment decision. People who had held the warm pad invested 43% more compared to those who had held the cold pad, The warmth made people warmer to what followed. In another study people given either a hard chair or a soft chair tp sit in while negotiating the price of a new car. They people in the hard chairs were not more negative, but they did negotiate less. They stuck to their positions more offering 28% less. They were much tougher. The suggestion is that the softer more comfortable seat made the people more susceptible to persuasion. (Please Touch the Merchandise)

Mr. Whipple "Please don't squeeze the Charmin"image

We now have more and more touch pads in iPhones, tablets and computers



Good food is like music you can taste, color you can smell. There is excellence all around you; You only need be aware to stop and savour it!” Chef Gusteau, Ratatouille

Our perception of food is determined by five basic qualities of taste: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami (described as meaty or brothy through receptors related to glutamate). We perceive these qualities because of the interaction of food with specific taste receptor proteins in the taste buds of our tongue. Our tongue is like a gatekeeper that helps us distinguish what is good from what is bad or what we love from what we hate.

You may have learned in grade school that the tongue has rigid regions responsible for sweet, salty, sour or bitter tastes. Latest research disputes this idea. It's more accurate to say that the tongue in certain areas is slightly more sensitive to some tastes but it is a complex organ that has many different taste buds that can distinguish multiple flavours. The taste buds work together. 

Taste receptors contribute to experience of products

But do some things actually taste good the first time you taste them? Consider the first time you tasted wine, beer or alcohol. What was your reaction? Probably not favourable. Why did that idea change over time? Think about it. We'll look more into that next week!

While most products like to focus on how good their products taste, some go the opposite way. Consider Buckley's Mixture couch syrup "It tastes awful. And it works." It tastes bad, but what would happen if they made it taste good? They'd lose their unique selling proposition!

Today there are many "Flavour Houses" that are busy trying to develop pleasing tasting products to tempt our taste buds. Iit's not easy to get consumers to taste new products. There are free samples left on people's door steps, or handed out downtown, or booths set up in places like Costco, but what other ways are there?

A restaurant, could try giving the patron a little sample of a new menu item, or a complementary upgrade for a particular brand of wine. Generally any sampling is given, they want to be sure that the majority of people will find the product pleasing or the whole restaurant experience could be off-putting.

Other companies have tried innovative ways. Consider what Welch's did In 2008 when they put Peel and Taste strips into People's magazine. A study showed that while only 28% of the 328 people interviewed tried the taste strips, 59% of that group said percent said they'd be more inclined to buy Welch's Grape Juice. And 70% remembered seeing and interacting with the ad.

Although how something looks and smells isn't technically a part of taste, these two do have a strong relation to our perception of taste. Smell does have a big part in flavour. Try the following:

Get a flavoured jelly bean, hold your nose and place the jelly bean in your mouth and chew. You'll detect should sweetness and maybe a little sourness, and then the hard the soft sense of the jelly bean as you chew. However, with your nose held, you won't notice the odor. Now let go of your nose. What happens?  The odor molecules travel through your nose to the smell cells, and now you can detect the flavor of the jelly bean.

Have you heard this, "We eat with our eyes"? Colour is often the first thing we notice when we are looking at food. We learn to associate different foods with different colours so when something doesn't match it can alter our perception. A Journal of Food Science study found that when a cherry-flavored drink was manipulated to be orange, subjects often believed they were tasting an orange drink. When the cherry drink was manipulated to be green people often believed they were tasting a lime drink

Think about the different types of restaurants in Toronto. It's diverse! What about trends. Years ago finding a Sushi or Thai food in a small town probably wasn't likely. Today it's different. There was a day when trying to find vegetarian or gluten free food was difficult. Our tastes evolve; we have more options, but we often seek variety. Read a bit about differences in taste and how Canadians are adventure seekers when it comes to taste It's a Matter of Taste

We've all heard of fast food, but what about the Slow Food movement? According to Create the Good Life,

"The Slow Movement is a term describing a wide range of efforts taking place around the world that seek to connect us more meaningfully with others, with place, and with ourselves. It emerged as an effort to counteract the fast–paced, commodity–focused, unbalanced, and impersonal nature of much of modern human culture. The main tenant of the Slow Movement is that by taking the appropriate amount of time to experience the various activities of our lives, we are able to get in touch with what is deeply satisfying and fulfilling. Read about the Toronto Slow Food Movement here

Watch how Guiness tries to show all the senses: Guinness 5 Senses

Read a brief summary of a March 16, 2006 Business Week article on how senses are being used to promote brands Senses Cue Brand Recognition


Johnny Cupcakes LogoJohnny Cupcakes is not really a bakery. People line up for deals on clothing and voluntarily get the brand logo tattooed on themselves. Using no major advertising the brand was built on offbeat tactics harnessing the power of today's social media. Says the founder Johnny Earle, “Every t-shirt purchased in-stores and online, comes with an experience; the pastry box packaging, oven mitt shaped neck label, hidden messages inside of some shirts, a story, and sometimes random gifts, like vintage Ghostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles trading cards." The stores do have the smell of vanilla pumped in. What Earle does is create experiences. Read more here


ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response)

According to WebMD "Autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR, causes a tingling sensation in your head and neck after triggers like repetitive movements or whispering. Most people describe the tingling as very relaxing, even pleasurable." The science behind creating such responses is inconclusive.

Have a look at Michelob Ultras Superbowl 2019 commercial

How did the ad make you feel?

Commerical Description: "Experience ASMR with Zoë Kravitz, inspired by beer in its organic form. Introducing Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold, a USDA Certified Organic Light Lager with 2.5 carbs and 85 calories. Encouraging our consumers to reconnect with nature, our 2019 commercial is bringing all the feels to Super Bowl LIII."

The sounds you hear in the ad were an attempt to create an emotional ASMR experience.Some viewers of ASMR videos report feeling tingling on the head and scalp that may soread down the neck back and arms, while others experience none of this. The phenomenon has been around for awhile but the claims of it and its potential effect on depression, insomnia and anxiety is not proven. Researchers believe more study is needed. Read more at The Toronto Star, Feb12, 2019.

Learn more about ASMR in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQAOoYdozCk

Experiential: Experience the Product Live

Canada Goose's Cold Room The Journey

Some are calling it the Disney-fication of retail. Their store in Sherway Gardens has no inventory. You will not walk away with anything that day except an experience. They call it "The Journey". As you are fitted with one of their coats and enter the Cold Room you are surrounded by Arctic landscape, real snow and temperature about -12C. Original 4K films featuring an Iditarod champion and an Anishinaabe artist are part of the experience.
Upon leaving the cold room, retail ambassadors help participants order products for home delivery. The experience is more like ecommerce and avoids in store inventory.
Like Disney they put the consumer in an adventure where they experience the event and the product. All of this hoping to create social media buzz.



Before we perceive something, we must be exposed to it, but we can choose to attend to some messages and disregard others. For example, your computer breaks down, suddenly you notice all the computer ads; if you had food poisoning at a certain restaurant, you disregard any of their ads.

EXPOSURE: An initial stage of perception where some sensations come within range of sensory receptors

PSYCHOPHYSICS: The science that focuses on how the physical environment is integrated into the consumer's subjective experience

NEUROMARKETING: Neuromarketing intends to give even more power over our minds to advertisers. Neuromarketers use techniques like magnetic resonance imaging, to portray what is going on in people's brains when they react to a product.
It's thought that such images will be more reliable than the testimony of consumers, who are notoriously unaware of the reasons they choose one product over another.




The minimum amount of stimulation that can be detected on a sensory channel (e.g. ad copy may be brilliant but if on a sign that can't be seen it's wasted)


The ability of a sensory system to detect changes or differences among stimuli (=JND)

JND: Just Noticeable Difference

The minimum change in a stimulus that can be detected by a perceiver


The principle that the stronger the initial stimulus, the greater its change must be for it to be noticed


JND is very important to marketers; A marketer may want a consumer to notice a discount, or may not want consumer to notice a difference.

Weber's Law found that the amount of change necessary to be noticed is related to the intensity of the stimulus. For example if you were carrying ten pounds and added one pound you may notice the difference; but if you were carrying 100 lbs and added 1, you would not notice the difference.

The ratio is what is important not the absolute difference.

When would a marketer not want you to notice difference in product?

When they are giving you less product in the same box or package? When they have brand loyal consumers and they want to change something?

When would a marketer want you to notice difference in product?

A sale? When the brand has had bad press and they need change?

Generally for a consumer to notice a price difference it is discounted 20%

When P&G introduced it's new thinner, more absorbent diaper in late 2009 before an advertising campaign to support it, some consumers noticed the change in the diaper and thought it was cheaper, thinner, stiff and papery leading them to create a facebook page complaining. Rushing the product to market, the company shipped the new product in the old packaging. Even though the product is reportedly much more absorbent and environmentally friendly, consumers didn't know or see that. Read the story about managing change here http://adage.com/article?article_id=141552

See examples of JND at Mouse Print http://www.mouseprint.org/2009/12/14/downsized-products-2009-part-2/ and watch this explanation of Weber's Law below

Click Just Noticeable Difference (inside link) to see an illustration



Vicary Subliminal Perception

ritz cracker
Do you see SEX in the Ritz?

Dr. Wilson Bryan Key sees sex the Ritz!

In 1957 market researcher James M. Vicary unveiled a new secret advertising weapon that he hoped would increase sales. Based on the theory of subliminal advertising, he created what he called an "invisible commercial" to reach the audience "below the threshold of sensation or awareness" and prompt them to purchase the advertised product. Vicary reported that he had tested his "invisible commercial" with a film interlaced with flashing, too-brief-to-be-seen Coca-Cola and popcorn messages in a New Jersey movie theatre. The audience could not detect the messages because they were so rapid up to 1/3000 of a second. Vicary reported that the messages increased popcorn sales by 57.5% and Coca-Cola sales by 18.1%.


For every great idea, there are A Few Doubting Thomases. Psychologists Timothy Moore, Anthony Greenwald and Sean Draine have all individually reviewed evidence surrounding commercial subliminal marketing tactics and have come to similar conclusions. They have not found any evidence with any brands tested for a replicable perception effect, much less a lasting effect on behavior. "What about the James Vicary experiment in 1957?" you ask. Well, Vicary lied. When he was challenged to repeat the test, he could produce no significant increase in Coca-Cola or popcorn sales. Eventually he confessed that he had not even conducted the subliminal experiment at the theatre and he had perpretrated the hoax to gain attention to his failing marketing business.

Just because something isn't true, doesn't mean it won't be reported widely. Vance Packard's "The Hidden Persuaders" in 1957 reported on Vicary's experiment and in 1973 the book "Subliminal Seduction" made claims that the technique was in wide use in the advertising industry. Dr. Wilson Bryan Key in his book "The Clam-Plate Orgy and Other Subliminals the Media use to Manipulate Your Behavior" saw sex in just about everything even Ritz crackers.

Does it ever work?

Watch this demonstration of Subliminal Persuasion. Do you think this is real, or faked?  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQXe1CokWqQ Derren Brown - Subliminal Advertising



The cognitive process whereby processing activity is devoted to a particular stimulus- selectively concentrating on one thing and ignoring other things

Perceptual Selectivity

attending to only to a small part of the stimuli we are exposed to. If we are hungry, we may notice food.

Watch this commercial with their description: "Just how attention stealing is the new ŠKODA Fabia? We put it to the test. Will a crowd gather? Will other drivers slam on the breaks? Watch to find out. "


Adaptation happens when a sensation becomes so familiar that it is no longer the focus of attention Habituation is a decrease in response to a stimulus after repeated presentations



What new ways are marketers trying to get you to stay tuned to a certain show or station? How can they get you to stop from zapping the commercials?


French Connection UK

FCUK depends on the shock value of their name

Founded in 1972, French Connection never really took off until 1997, when savvy advertising executives discovered that the initials for French Connection and United Kingdom created a slightly mixed-up word that outraged some customers while drawing even more to the edgy brand.
In recent years the company has used the FCUK logo on clothes, watches, shoes, and various accessories, as well as T-shirts with expressions like "FCUK like a Bunny.''

To Read an article on How American family values campaigners are getting the brand out of stores see, FCUK versus American Family Values (inside link)

Altered Reality: QR Codes- Simple Augmented Reality

View my video:


In class we will investigate QR Codes

For more see:

20 Interesting Things: QR Codes
20 Interesting Things: QR Codes from David Stutts
View more presentations from David Stutts.

The Key to Media's Hidden Codes


Interpretation: the process where meaning is assigned to stimuli ( two people may see event differently)

Schema: an organized collection of beliefs and feelings represented in a cognitive category (Brand name may have meaning. Example:product called Bulldog

Priming: process by which certain properties of stimulus are more likely to evoke a schema


Gestalt psychology: school of thought that says people get meaning from the whole of a set of stimuli rather than any individual stimulus. Seeing the "whole"

Even More Gestalt ads by Karen


the Gestalt principle that person tends to perceive an incomplete picture as complete. Example: -----------a dashed line is still a line; also completing a sound bite: Just ____ ____!; ZOOM, ZOOM__________.



The Gestalt principle where one part of configuration dominates while rest is in background.

vase/faces figure ground fedex logo


Example 1: is it two faces or vase? Figure is dominant. Ground is background ---Example 2: Notice the arrow in the FedEx logo

See some great examples of Gestalt here 20 Best Logos with Hidden Meanings


gestalt similarity
Gestalt principle where person groups objects together; an integrated whole; birds of a feather; Green Giant products use green; MacDonald's colours? Here do we see rows or columns?


Interpretation Bias:

We determine what something means to us; we all have baggage of experience, or hope or desire. ( Example end of sport event is determined by one play. You decide what you see based on your bias for your team.

Can you think of ads that can be viewed differently?



Semiotics examines the correspondence between signs and symbols and their role in the assignment of meaning. The study of signs.



Every product has three components: Object (the product- Canadian Beer);the Sign- the sensory imagery representing intended meaning- Joe the Canadian); the Interpretant the true meaning derived- The Canadian Identity)

1. The object: Molson Canadian


2. The sign: Joe the Canadian

I am canadian ad

3. Interpretant the true meaning derived-
The Canadian Identity


Example Ad Semiotic Interpretation

ball and chain ad

"The old ball-and-chain" is a phrase that many North Americans are familiar with. Oftentimes we imagine it spilling forth from the lips of some distressed, fatigued, overworked man who is with his nagging wife. It is this image that the advertisers for Southern Comfort are trying to reproduce. They want the person looking at the ad to sympathize with the man in the image, the man dragging his imaginary "ball-and-chain". We associate the ball and chain with oppression, hard labor, and unfairness. These connotations are probably derived from the images that we have seen in old prison movies where the convicts are forced to work the fields, shackled by a ball and chain.

Perceptual Positioning

Stimulus is interpreted from what we know about product category; also from characteristics of brand. These can be brand features,qualities or price; but also related to the product or brand's image or market position. It's what we think the products means or says.

Positioning Strategy

The place a brand occupies in the consumer's mind with regard to important attributes and competitive offerings Dimensions: Price leader, attributes, product class (category); occasions; users; quality

Review Gestalt and Semiotics in this Slideshare


Perception- Interpretation Gestalt & Semiotics

References as noted above and: Solomon, Michael R., Zaichkowsky, Judith and Rosemary Polegato. Consumer Behaviour: Buying, Having, Being. Canadian Edition. Toronto: Pearson Education Canada



Information on this site is for use of the students of this course. For copyright information of the linked sites please see the respective authors.