Senses and sensibility: a human-centred branding strategy

Saris-Brandon, Brenda Louise
Yap, Leong
Gilderdale, Peter
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Master of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

A brand is the soul of a business. Whether we are marketing a product or a service, brand value is significantly grounded on emotions that are activated through the five human senses. Studies have indicated that successful brand strategies convey meaningful experience to the five senses to elicit and trigger buying behaviours. Customers do not buy products and services per se, but they seek stories, engagement and meaningful experience that the product or service conveys. Brands that harness art, science and technology (AST) to delight the human emotions engender higher brand equity. This thesis studies the social and cultural meanings consumers attach to brands and branding within the art, science and technology continuum. The AST continuum combines and synergises the three disciplines to engender pleasurable feelings to stimulate brand connections for a product, service or brand. This Senses and Sensibility connection – enshrined in human feelings and responsiveness – is discussed, along with human behaviour, persuasive and emotional branding, globalisation and socialisation within social media. From here emerge key elements for a successful brand strategy to enable NZ SMEs to stay competitive in the shifting landscape of humanistic branding.

The importance of the five human senses in human-centric branding is described in some detail. They are said to be our windows on the world, mediating it at both a physiological and cognitive level. Brand strategists are harnessing the web to engage customers’ emotions with their brands. However, although the internet has become an omnipresent channel for branding and customers seek high quality multi-sensory and multi-experiential brand interactions, designing for the five senses is largely forgotten when brand strategies are devised for this technological environment. In the globalised world where the five human senses and socialisation interact with social media, the challenges ahead are complex. To understand the problems and opportunities currently facing brand strategist, the thesis draws upon discourse to understand past and present approaches to branding. It contextualises relationships and connections between conscious and unconscious behaviour, emotion, sensation, motivation, desire, perception, identity and consumption. Some business models are reviewed to help frame these emotional experience touch-points that build customer loyalty for brands, and ultimately brand equity for business. For Senses and Sensibility to be of value, the study sought interpretations from a series of focus groups and subjective assessments. Through this process, the research moved towards hermeneutic phenomenology in seeking meaning through linguistic descriptions of participants’ emotional experience in relationship to their five senses and the social media context. A large amount of information from the research process was generated, analysed and synthesised through data visualisation, graphic representation and information design. This creative work constitutes an important and original practice-based aspect of the thesis. Conclusions suggest that this strategic approach is valuable to business, since it considers the emotional and subjective capabilities of the customer. As a business approach, it is characterised by a personal relationship between all stakeholders in keeping with contemporary values.

Branding , Senses , Social media , Subjectivity , Focus group
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