Charles Spence: How to stand out on the shelves and on the plate

11 : 02 : 2015 Synaesthesia : Synaesthetic Selling : Packaging Futures

Professor Charles Spence, experimental psychologist and head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at Oxford University, is a master of the senses. His work on understanding how sight, sound, touch, smell and taste are interconnected has been crucial to brands, particularly in the food and beverage industry when designing packaging.

Brands cannot afford to ignore or underestimate the importance of packaging, says Spence, explaining how you can introduce multi-sensory experiences to enhance your product in the domestic environment.

The sounds a product makes as it opens and closes, as it’s poured, how it feels in the hand or looks on the plate, are all subconscious signals telling us what we should expect to taste, and could make the difference for consumers as they scour the crowded shelves of a supermarket.

As brands such as Häagen-Dazs and Starbucks relinquish control of the external factors influencing taste whenever their products are enjoyed at home, Spence considers the role of apps such as Concerto Timer and inflight sonic seasoning on British Airways flights, can play in keeping the user experience optimised.

Top five take-outs

1. Stand out. Brands that underestimate the importance of their packaging do so at their own cost. No detail is too small in conveying a product’s quality and taste.

2. Synaesthesia sells. Consumers intrigued by multi-sensory offers from celebrity chefs such as Heston Blumenthal and Jozef Youssef will look for ways to experiment in the home.

3. Optimise your product. Brands can make their products healthier without compromising on taste with tricks of psychology.

4. Consider domestic use. Once the product is out of the door, brands often lose control of how that product is experienced. Engage your consumer with apps such as Häagen-Dazs’ Concerto Timer.

5. Look for a synaesthetic match. Consider the subconscious connections we all make to start designing products that speak to consumers’ innate propensity for synaesthetic matching.