Sensory marketing: Is your credit union a 5-sense brand?

First let’s answer the question of “what is the definition of brand?” Your brand is more than just your Credit Union’s name or logo. It’s more than just the aesthetics of your branch or the look of your website.  In a nutshell your brand is the culmination of everything a consumer’s five senses can determine about you. Our five senses play an integral role in the emotional processing and interpretation of information and will help create a positive or negative psychological perception of your Credit Union’s brand. Let’s look at each sense as it relates to the consumer experience:


Your visual brand is the outward-facing image you present.  From your logo, tagline and color scheme all the way to your corporate culture and the way your employees dress. Do members receive the same experience whether they visit your website or enter a branch location? Is the paint chipping off the wall, or are there brochures scattered throughout the branch? Sight is the number one way to drive a consumer to a point of sale, whether it’s brick and mortar or online presence, so pay close attention to the visual aspects of your brand.


I know what you’re thinking, “my brand has a sound?” Yes, your brand’s “sound” is everything your members hear from and about you and the perceptions they develop as a result. From what they hear about you in the community and the media to how your team handles member experience at the branch level and via telephone, your members are creating brand perceptions with every audio clue they receive. Audibility is the new visibility. Spotify and Pandora have tapped into this sense by developing customized playlists based on listener’s interactivity with the app, which has proven to be a success in understanding their consumers on a deep and personal level. Not to mention platforms such as Codigo are leading the digital and audio signage industry by providing Credit Unions the opportunity to create customized music playlists and personalized ads based on brand identity, branch location, and consumer personas.


Our sense of smell is most closely linked to memory, more so than any of our other senses. So, what does this mean for your brand? Don’t stink! Ok, maybe it’s a bit more than that, but not so much. Think about your favorite bakery or your dentist’s office for example. Any time you come across that sterile scent, or a freshly baked pie, you’ll likely trigger a strong memory. Your brand’s smell is the pleasant or unpleasant scents that get associated with you, anywhere from the scent of your facility, to even your employees.


So perhaps financial institutions don’t have a taste, per say. But take into consideration for example the coffee you offer members in your branches, or snacks and goodies you might offer during special events. Are you using a less expensive brand of coffee or do you serve a Starbucks brew? It doesn’t matter which you choose, what matters is which aligns most with your brand and the perceptions you want to influence. Some Credit Unions even make freshly baked cookies daily in their branches to not only enhance the smell associated with their brand, but to give members a delicious reminder every time they bite into a chocolate chip cookie.


Consider each chance your member has to experience the sensory of touch. Do you shake hands with a member when you greet them? What kind of pens do you use at your check desks? Do you provide brochures in the lobby or simply iPad touch screens? How about the temperature of your store? Believe it or not, these all play a part in the perception of your brand in the mind of the consumer. In the case of a financial institution, touch may be at the bottom of the sensory totem pole, but don’t count it out completely! Quality, texture, and personal comfort all play a part in creating a brand experience.


Sure, emotion isn’t exactly one of our five senses, but emotional reactions can be guided by sensory information. It’s the feelings and emotional connections your members have in all their experiences with you – at every single touchpoint. From their satisfied or unsatisfied interaction with you to the relationship-building activities and personal connections you develop with members, emotion is a highly influential piece of any brand.