2. Using the senses in brand experiences

Our five-part blog series explores how Tapaus professionals think about what elements are worth investigating in the design and implementation of brand experiences in 2023 – in order to reach the attention of consumers as well as boost brand engagement.

In the second part of the series, we share our thoughts on using sensorial experiences to create an all-encompassing brand experience. A successful sensorial experience creates an imprint on the conscious as well as the subconscious mind – and at its best can leave a positive impression far into the future.

Cola and carrots

Consumption encounters that you feel in your teeth

One summer in the late ’80s, our family took a trip to Helsinki from our northern city of Rovaniemi to visit relatives and take in some sights. We also visited the island fortress of Suomenlinna. The trip started at the Helsinki Market Square, where we bought a bag of carrots and some cans of ice-cold cola. As a young boy, I was deeply impressed by the ferry ride to the island, as well as the fortress walls, cannons, and secret passageways. Yet there is one particular moment that stayed with me.

I am standing at the seaside rocks of Kustaanmiekka – one of the islands of the fortress complex – and gazing out at the hazy sea. The rest of my family is lounging on a blanket a short distance away. The July sun warms my face, the scents of unfamiliar plants reach my nostrils, and seagulls shriek out all around me. I hold a half-eaten carrot in one hand, and in the other, a soda can that is still so cold that its dampness condenses into drops on the surface.

I still remember the metallic snap and the ensuing whizz as I open the can. Even with a mouth full of carrot pieces, I can’t wait to have a first sip. The crunchy carrots, the whizzing cola, and the exciting world opening up on the shoreside rocks blend into a full- blown multisensory experience that I can still revisit after three decades whenever I have a carrot or a cola drink.

They say that experiences cannot be produced – at least not in a foolproof manner. But it is possible to design and produce the circumstances in which experiences become possible, and our senses have an important role to play in this. The more of our senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell a certain moment manages to stimulate, the stronger and more memorable of an experience it can create.

Every winter, my hometown of Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland attracts batches of tourists airplane after airplane. They are dressed up in blue snowmobile overalls and shipped around to see the northern lights. The northern lights – aurora – are most of all a visual experience. They need to be seen with one’s eyes, yet our other senses also contribute to the creation of this experience: the feeling of walking in snow, the crackling sound of freezing air when it hits the trees, the smell of an open fire ignited by tree resin, the taste of coffee cooked outdoors.

However, sensory stimuli alone are not enough, as strong experiences require context: a framework within which the experience is encountered. While studying tourism research as a minor at the University of Lapland, I was introduced to the Experience Triangle model created by Sanna Tarssanen and Mika Kylänen, which in my opinion perfectly describes the components of creating an experience. In addition to multisensoriality, they include individuality, authenticity, story, contrast, and interaction.

A Japanese tourist admiring the northern lights feels that the guide from the safari company has taken them into account as an individual, taking care of their needs; they believe that they are truly at the source of the northern lights in the middle of arctic nature; they take in the expert guide’s stories about ancient Finnish beliefs related to the northern lights; they feel far away from their own everyday life in a big Japanese city full of noise and technology; they discuss their experience with fellow travellers and share it on social media in a way that suits them best.

The more successfully the components of the Experience Triangle are realised, the more meaningful the experience becomes – even to the point that the experience creates a deep and permanent spiritual change in the experiencer. This is rarely achieved in consumer encounters, but lovingly planned events can create moments that leave a stronger impression on the participants than other moments. Multisensory experiences created at consumer events bind the experiencer to the things that are present at that moment: products, thoughts, people, environments.

After moving to Helsinki in the early 2000s, I often returned to the sea fortress of Suomenlinna to relax – and I still do. Nowadays, I also take my kids there, and I make sure to pick up some carrots for the trip. I still prefer to drink my cola from a can over a bottle, and as I take my first sip, I often drift back into that experience as a little kid standing on the rocks, with the cola swirling up with carrot pieces. These are the types of experiences I wish to take part in creating for others – ones that you really feel in your teeth.

Arttu Kallio
Creative Planning Director

A successful sensory experience in brand encounters

  • Creates desired feelings and experiences comprehensively
  • Deepens the brand experience
  • Strengthens the experiencer’s relationship with the brand, leaving a longer-lasting
    memory trace

References: Red Bull // Unforeseen Tikkurila Festival 2022

Those who purchased a Red Bull drink in the festival area were given a hint to keep an eye out for a secret entrance through which only a limited number of people could enter at a time. Curiosity got the best of many festival-goers and they found their way to the Red Bull Unforeseen carnival we’d built.

A world completely different from the rest of the festival drew its influence from the moods of circuses and amusement parks: acrobat shows, fortune-telling, a chance to try the Grab the Bull by the Horns device, and even a roller coaster simulator were offered amidst the scent of popcorn. The classic string pull game was especially popular, with prizes like cuddly toys, bananas, or a useful raincoat. Carnival-like music played in the background, adding to the comprehensiveness of the sensory experience. Link to the reference.

Shall we create your next sensorial brand experience together?

Mikael Castrén
Chief Executive Officer
+358 50 358 1818



Copyright © 2023 TAPAUS