Senses, Wine And Public Speaking

What role do our senses play when we buy a bottle of wine in the supermarket? How do our senses influence our consumer behavior in general? And what can public speakers learn from sensory marketing? Dr. Martin Kern offers the answers in this interview.

Martin is the Managing Director of SAM Sensory and Marketing International, a German company specialized in sensory and consumer research. SAM is a leading European consultant for successfully launching new products. The company runs six own facilities for sensory and consumer research in four countries across Europe.

Martin, great talking to you about such an important topic like human senses. What exactly do you do at SAM Sensory and Marketing?

Now, at SAM we support company decision makers in both the sharpening of their competitive edge through the enhancement of their product positioning strategy and reaching new levels of product-performance. We do this based on a profound understanding of the consumer decision making process together with the fundamentals of consumer preference bringing to bear a unique expertise in the application of sensory and consumer research.

We have 5 senses. Which two senses are the most important ones to us as humans?

As human beings, all of our senses are constantly at work. There are no two senses that carry more weight than the others do – we use them equally based on situation. In addition, when some form of stimulus is perceived, it is always perceived with an emotional load, which comes from the limbic system within our brain. Here the issue is, as humans, we are not able to evaluate stimuli without emotion. Therefore, a consumer cannot evaluate objectively, he always responds based on his life-long experiences, which are stored within his limbic system.

Interesting. As public speakers we usually only trigger the visual sense. How important are senses in the decision-making process of a, let’s say, wine shopper?

Just to be precise here: as a public speaker, you also trigger very much the sense of hearing. Your voice plays an integral and very important role in delivering trust, reliability which the audience perceives together with your appearance and body language in order to make a determination as to whether your words are trustful and can or cannot be taken seriously.

Coming back to the wine shopper in front of a supermarket shelf: The most important aspect at play here is the consumers’ history with various labels and the resulting sensory experiences. Different labels elicit varying emotional reactions related to the sensory expectation of how a wine with a specific label would/should taste and the value/price of this sensory experience. This does not exclude the claims made on the label itself. If all these aspects are in alignment and in addition, the product itself fulfills the expectations of a consumer at the moment of his consumption later on, congratulations, you have a very successful product with a high repeat purchase rate. This is exactly what we do here at SAM: Align the extrinsic and intrinsic properties of products.

How do marketers, in general, address the senses of their customers?

They call SAM – just kidding. We at SAM always consider the senses in relation to the product experience and its context. This in general says, that quality as a definition is not an absolute anymore but instead it strongly depends on the target group the product is commercialized to. This new understanding breaks with the concept that professionals (e.g. a winemaker) can judge the quality of products.

Many marketers do not have this understanding of quality. However, in the cases when they do, they listen to the perception of their targeted consumer and adjust their products carefully and accordingly to the likes, desires and wishes of their target group. Therefore, our job at SAM is to make the consumers perception (likes, desires, wishes, etc.) perceivable and in turn deliver a full, robust and valid understanding of the respective drivers of product acceptance. That’s how it works.

When you speak in public, how do you speak to the senses of your audience?

There is a clear basic rule: you must capture the attention of the entire 100% of your audience. Only when you have the attention of somebody, can you speak to his or her senses. In order to achieve that, various techniques exist. Ask them a very attentive question; find something (a concern) they all have in common, take them out of their daily world. When you have the attention, you have now access to all their senses. ONCE you have access to the senses, it is up to you – inject emotions, nourish the senses of your audience with what they need and the audience will hang on your every word …

Thank you, Martin, for your sensory insights.

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