At this time of year marketers like to bring out the cues that tap into our past, as we tend to get all nostalgic and reach for our wallets in a feel-good fog of warm fuzziness.

These cues can be visual, but the one cue that really strikes a chord and brings the memories flooding back is the musical cue. A few bars of the right ditty can bring you back to a precise time and place like very little else.

It’s not just the sounds constructed by composers that bring you back. It can also be sounds constructed by product designers.

We have one of those indestructible kettles in our kitchen. Sick of forking out every year for an electric kettle that seemed programmed to last a month beyond the guarantee period before conking out, Mrs D opted for a more traditional version. It takes a while to boil on a gas hob – and probably uses more energy than an electric plug kettle – and when it boils it emits a gradually more insistent high-pitched whistle that takes me back to my grandmother’s house from a long time ago. In fact, there’s nothing like a kitchen to draw on all 5 of our senses.

The online marketers have the same challenges as television advertisers: you can only rely on sight and sound to evoke the right feeling. The medium of radio can only rely on one sense. That’s an advantage that physical stores have over the remote media: smell, taste and touch. The smell of cinnamon in home and garden stores in December. The taste of the sample turkey food at the supermarket. The all-important squeeze of the avocado or the apple to indicate whether it’s the right time to buy.

Maybe that’s why, when we say ‘I’m getting a sense of deja vu,’ which means ‘already seen’, we often mean any sense of our senses.  For me it’s the sense of sound that brings me back the most strongly.

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