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Fad or the Next Great Thing? | The “Multisensory Event Experience”

I read an interesting article from Trade Show News Network recently. We learned the five senses in grade school: Sight, sound, smell, taste, touch. Our daily interaction with the world involves all of these perceptions working in concert to provide us with rich, layered experiences that help us engage with the people and objects around us.


Mr. Potato Head illustrates the five senses.
© 2014 Hasbro. All rights reserved.

If any activity engages only one or two of our senses for a long period of time, we can come away feeling that something in the overall experience was lacking. In an article titled ‘Please touch the merchandise’, the Harvard Business Review cites a number of research studies to highlight how our decision making is almost imperceptibly influenced by the multisensory sensations we experience in our daily lives.

When these studies started to emerge a decade or so ago, retailers were quick to understand the implications. From mood lighting to subtle perfumes to free testers, they tried everything in the game to bring in the crowds and boost sales. We’ve all smelled Cinnabons baking as we walked through the mall, right? It’s no accident; the air from their kitchens is pumped out into the mall to make you crave the gooey, sweet treats. Nowadays, it is a well-recognized maxim that carefully modulated environments can trigger nostalgia as well as curiosity, helping to draw crowds into stores–as well as to loosen the purse strings!


Smart event planners are also starting to create multisensory experiences to keep the event participants engaged and entertained. Gone are the days of long, dull treks down an exhibit hall, or session after session filled with monotonous presentations. Exhibitions and meetings, where attendees are being offered a variety of new and engaging experiences, are breaking the mold and growing faster than their competition. Be it through creative lighting design, gourmet food services, interactive touch screens, gaming or guided tours, these initiatives are proving a big hit with attendees, especially those who crave new experiences when they return to an event!

Fabric displays with pink lighting.

Fabric displays with pink lighting.

Here are some articles that highlight how creative show organizers across the globe are successfully providing multisensory and novel experiences to their attendees:

As an exhibitor, you can also create a multisensory experience in your booth. Using displays with unexpected shapes accentuated by lighting in unexpected colors draws people in. Using an iPad Kiosk allows visitors to interact on their own terms. Take your cue from Cinnabon and Jimmy John’s by creating irresistible aromas.

Think about what show attendees are hearing. Aside from the background noise and activity on the show floor, they are probably also exposed to some sales pitches, either by a live person or looped on a DVD. And they are probably tuning out those sounds! Offer passers-by a pleasant, appealing sound to draw them in. Perhaps music, chirping birds or something totally unexpected. Make it something that leads their attention back to your product or service, in addition to rescuing them from the monotony of the aisles.


An exhibitor drew in attendees through live music played on the “earth harp.”

It’s all a part of experiential marketing; that is, drawing in your prospects to become part of the experience that is your brand.

Be creative: What would you do to create a multisensory booth experience?


What are YOUR thoughts on all this? We’d like to hear your comments!

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