ICS Magazine

Using Senses for Differentiation

December 10, 2008

In 1915 the Root Glass Company of Terre Haute, Ind., was given a project to design and manufacture a product that was so unique that a person could identify it in pitch-black darkness by touch. That product was the Coca-Cola bottle.

In 1915 the Root Glass Company of Terre Haute, Ind., was given a project to design and manufacture a product that was so unique that a person could identify it in pitch-black darkness by touch. That product was the Coca-Cola bottle.

Baby boomers can immediately visualize the sensuous curves of the greenish looking glass. Remember the hiss of the bottle as you opened it and the cold refreshment as the caramel colored nectar rushed down your throat and tingled all the way to your stomach? As a kid, that was usually followed by a satisfying “ahhhh” and a quick wipe of the mouth with your sleeve.

Wow! I’m getting thirsty just thinking about it!

Can you see how years ago Coca-Cola involved touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste in every product? This is what Martin Lindstrom explains in “Brand Sense.” But do you think children today will look back on their youth and remember the feel of an aluminum Coke can? If you close your eyes, can you feel the difference between a can of Coke or Budweiser?

Starbucks has bought into the sensory benefits. Walk into a Starbucks and the smell of coffee surrounds and permeates you. Even people who don’t drink coffee like the smell. Starbucks goes to great lengths to choose the right type of music…and then sells you the CD. The warmth of the cup in your hand and the taste of the coffee give new meaning to comfort foods. Even the sound of the espresso machine is a planned marketing tool but the blender is placed inside a container to muffle the annoying sound. Comfortable chairs, fireplaces and wireless Internet create a “home away from home,” just as Starbucks imagined it.

Yes I know it is easy to involve a variety of senses in drinks like Cokes and coffee. But can you bring the client’s senses into play in carpet cleaning and restoration?

Sight is the most seductive (and most important) sense of all. A test was done with flavored soft drinks. Everyone performed well when the grape drink was purple and the orange drink was orange, but when the cherry drink was switched to yellow 40% tasted it and thought it was a lemon lime drink. This means that if you pull up in a Bozo Clean truck and a sloppy technician saunters up to the door, the most beautiful, fresh-smelling carpet will still not satisfy the customer. A beautifully groomed carpet should look better than the day it was installed. A restorer needs to make sure those dehumidifiers and fans look clean. (One cleaner I know meticulously cleans every air mover and covers them with new plastic bags for each job.)

The sense of smell is an easy one for carpet cleaning. Smell can alter our mood. Tests show a 40% improvement in our mood when exposed to a pleasant fragrance, particularly if the fragrance taps into a happy memory. You can introduce a pleasant scent very easily, using one of the many scents available. Find one that your customer likes and add a drop to any future mailings to that customer.

Restorers know that the second day of a drying job the customer starts complaining about the musty smell and worrying that mold is taking over her house. A smart restoration company will set up an air scrubber on day one to eliminate those moldy smells. Create immediate positive “moments of truth” after a fire loss by using a suppression spray to knock down the smoke odor. This helps to convince the customer that there is hope that their home can be restored.

When a customer chooses carpet, the second most important item after color is the “hand” or the feel of the carpet. The same is true after the carpet is cleaned. They comment on how soft the carpet feels under their bare feet or how the kids now like to lie on the carpet. When cleaning velvet fabrics, the feel is even more important. For carpet and fabric, a good acid rinse will do the job.

When we work on the sense of sound the less the better. Unless you are a serious truckmount fanatic, a loud truckmount is annoying. On the other hand, the rhythmic sound of a wand actually can be soothing. (If you haven’t heard Chuck Violand’s imitation of a scrub wand, you haven’t lived!) Listen to your vacuum and check to see how noisy it is. Remember women have a much greater sensitivity to noise. One company out there has created a vacuum with a rating of only 51 dB. In a noisy world, the sounds of silence are a tremendous point of differentiation (and a great song as well).

This is a tough one to include for the customer! Of course giving dog biscuits to the family dog is a positive moment of truth for both the dog and the homeowner. On the negative side, be careful using solvents, as they can literally leave a bad taste in your customer’s mouth.

For almost a half-century marketers have focused on the “unique selling proposition” or USP. Today that is changing to an HSP or “holistic selling proposition.”

The HSP plays perfectly with the idea of marketing to all the senses. Over 90% of our decisions come from our unconscious mind. In other words the senses detect, the brain selects and the conscious mind elects.

So look at your company from a consumer’s viewpoint. Think about how you can incorporate more sensory impressions into not only the actual service but also into your entire marketing program. While you may not have the benefit of an icon like the Coke bottle, your copy can paint visual pictures that can make people “experience your service” before it happens. Thus you can make carpet cleaning something they look forward to instead of something they dread.