Sensory Branding Brings Home the Virtual Bacon

Oscar Mayer Bacon appEven if sales numbers don’t immediately reflect success, Oscar Mayer got a lot of promotional sizzle from their recent foray into sensory branding. The iPhone app and specialty scent dongle wakes you up by using sight, sound, and smell to evoke the love of bacon.

At the very least, the campaign garnered media attention and buzz that has to be valued well above the cost of the integrated marketing campaign. Numerous print, online, and television outlets covered the novel app. The scent dongle is not even available yet and, even when it is, it will only be available to a few thousand folks chosen at random from email submissions on their companion web site.

Bacon, in and of itself, is a traffic driver and an internet meme. There are companies specializing in bacon scented products of every stripe, bacon-inspired clothing and all sorts of bacon kitsch. Bacon has taken over the world.

Taken together, the Wake Up And Smell The Bacon campaign is a multi-faceted marketing/promotional beauty. There is the media buzz fueled by novelty and the food porn nature of bacon, email signups from bacon and or tech enthusiasts, scarcity of the scent dongle, and the word-of-mouth social media spread that was remarkable.

In just that one week, @OscarMayer saw an increase in followers from just above 9,500 to almost 11,400. And tweets containing their brand name rose from basically none to 50+ per day in the midst of the campaign buzz.

Twitter stats Oscar Mayer

#OscarMayer saw an increase in popularity of 17.2 points for the week the bacon app story hit. Social Mention stats showed an increase of 11% in the strength of the term “Oscar Mayer bacon” over the last week. Sentiment was 108:1 positive on 192 mentions the week the story hit as compared to the prior rate of 28:1.

Oscar Mayer Tweets/Day

Judging by what is trending in Google web searches over the past month, the passion for Oscar Mayer bacon was flat prior to and increased dramatically with the promotional campaign. And it has not declined much in the few days since the story was sizzling on all news outlets.

Google Trend Oscar Mayer Bacon

Use of the sense of smell in marketing is perhaps the last frontier of sensory branding for many products. Aromas are just a few neurons away from the centers of emotion and memory in the brain. Smell is powerfully evocative of associated memories and feelings, both pleasant and unpleasant. Scents can be memory markers that help people remember a brand and those of childhood are especially powerful.

Oscar Mayer has it easy in regards to olfactory branding. The scent of bacon has a unique, iconic, evocative scent and is associated with real and deep connections to pleasure. Very few brands have developed a signature aroma—6% of the Fortune 1000 had even thought about it according to Martin Lindstrom’s Brand Sense, Sensory Secrets Behind The Stuff We Buy. He estimated that 40% of the Fortune 500 brands would employ a sensory branding strategy in their marketing by 2010.

Other examples of brands that have used scent as a branding element include Singapore Airlines, Tommy Bahama and Abercrombie & Fitch. Purveyors of food and beverages have it easier than others in associating aroma with brand—just think Starbucks, Panera Bread, or Hershey’s.

Even though the sense of smell has not been widely used in branding, audio branding is similarly ignored by most brands. Only 11% of all brands use audio to make their brands more distinct according to Lindstrom’s Brand Sense.

Oscar Mayer scored a trifecta of sensory branding with their Awaken To Bacon campaign and app. They have employed sight, sound, and smell sensory engagement to promote their product. All of these inputs can cause so-called Mirror neurons in the brain to fire in the observer—making seeing and doing the same thing.

Whether all this sensory engagement translates into sales revenue is still unknown, but it is hard to argue that this was not a home run in terms of publicity and media buzz, even if no one wakes up to smell the bacon.


About our guest author: Gayle Christopher is a interactive media professional in Birmingham, AL. Take a look at her portfolio for examples of her work.

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