Sensory marketing in coffee: How to create a memorable customer experience

Janice Kanniah
December 27, 2022
Sensory marketing in coffee: How to create a memorable customer experience

During the Covid-19 pandemic, a number of cafés and roasters were forced to sell their coffees exclusively online. 

As a result, they were unable to rely on the powerful sensory aspects of their coffee to help market it to customers. 

Now lockdowns have been lifted and customers are less reliant on e-commerce to meet their needs, roasters are able to offer customers a more memorable coffee experience through sensory marketing. 

In essence, sensory marketing aims to appeal to at least one of the five senses in order to prompt a positive response from a business’s target audience. 

Sensory marketing can help coffee shops provide customers with memorable experiences, influence their perceptions, and increase loyalty.

Read on to learn more about sensory marketing and practical ways you can use it to your advantage. 

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An image of a coffee roaster holding a scoop of specialty roast coffee near a bleached kraft paper coffee bag in an article about how sensory marketing can benefit coffee shops and roasters

What is sensory marketing?

In its simplest terms, sensory marketing is a strategy that aims to appeal to customers using their five senses. 

A more accurate explanation is brands have realised that unconscious and conscious awareness of sensory stimuli can impact consumer behaviour. 

It does so in a subtle manner, and as customers don’t perceive it as aggressive marketing they tend to be more receptive to it. 

It is common for many brands to use sensory marketing at the end of a customer’s journey, as it can create a sense of comfort and help them feel more confident in their purchase. 

Notably, many brands choose to use sensory marketing when creating product packaging. 

In an interview with the Harvard Business Review, the design and research and development officer at Newell Rubbermaid, Chuck Jones, explains there is a ritual quality to opening a packaging.

“Customers pay close attention to the feel of the material; the resistance it presents; the sounds it makes; and the way the package opens. Packaging takes sensory communication to a whole new level,” he says. 

Using an example coffee brand, a group of researchers recently examined the relationship between sensory marketing, packaging, and purchasing decisions.

Their 2021 research paper states that during Covid-19, many coffee brands sold their coffee digitally, which kept customers from being able to see and touch the products.

It is now crucial for coffee brands to “effectively innovate the product packaging to attract consumers to purchase their products.”

An image of kraft paper coffee bags on display beside glass jars filled with roast coffee beans in an article about how sensory marketing can benefit coffee shops and roasters

Sensory marketing and coffee packaging

When used correctly, sensory marketing can use the texture, text, colour, and imagery on packaging to positively impact a customer’s purchasing decisions. 

Some of the strongest and most relevant senses to coffee roasters would be sight and touch. Research shows when a product catches a customer’s attention, they are likely to want to touch it as well.

Customers may do this to find out more information about the product, so they can decide whether to purchase it. 

When assessing coffee packaging using sight and touch, consumers will focus on various elements. 

They are likely to visually assess whether the coffee packaging is able to protect its contents from external factors, such as sunlight, oxygen, humidity and high temperatures.

Additionally, customers may also make a purchasing decision based on their assessment of the packaging design, colours, graphics, and branding.

The sense of touch may also help customers come to conclusions that could impact their purchasing decisions. For example, customers may touch the coffee bag to determine how easy it is to open and reseal. 

Touch may also help customers determine if the packaging is light, flexible, and sturdy enough for easy transport and use. It may also give them an idea of how easy it will be to pour the product from its packaging.

An image of a textured rice paper coffee bag on textured material in an article about how sensory marketing can benefit coffee shops and roasters

How to use sensory marketing to improve your coffee packaging 

Sensory marketing can be integrated into both your digital marketing and in-person marketing efforts in several ways. 

Revisit your visuals 

If you sell coffee online, it is important to have images of your coffee bags for customers to preview. 

How you present these images can tap into their senses, even if they are unable to physically touch the product. This can be done by offering a 3D view of your coffee bags and providing customers with the option to zoom in and out to view them better.

You can also include videos of people interacting with your coffee bags, such as opening them and pouring out the coffee beans. 

When it comes to conveying the taste and aromas of coffee, many roasters do an effective job with their descriptions. 

However, they can improve on this by integrating visuals and making more targeted references. 

For example, instead of stating that coffee tastes like chocolate, you could say that it tastes like 80% dark chocolate, and include an image of dark chocolate squares or cocoa beans with this description.

Give your coffee bags texture 

To engage a consumer’s sense of touch, you can choose to add subtle or obvious textures to your coffee packaging. 

For example, embossing and debossing can subtly draw attention to your logo or brand name while encouraging customers to run their fingers over it. More so, it may give your coffee bags a more sophisticated, luxurious feel, which is highly appealing to customers.  

In addition, you can include a tasting card slot on your coffee bags which contains details on the origins of the coffee or a recipe for brewing it. This can create intrigue and encourage them to lift the card for more information. 

If your coffee is visually unique – for example, peaberry beans or a distinctly light or dark roast – including a clear window can show customers what they can look forward to. 

While sensory marketing can seem complex and inaccessible to the average small to medium roasters, there are ways you can use elements of it to your advantage. 

An image of a rice paper coffee bag with a transparent window to display roast coffee beans in an article about how sensory marketing can benefit coffee shops and roasters

MTPak Coffee can help you integrate sensory marketing into your coffee packaging seamlessly.

Our range of 100% recyclable coffee packaging options is made from renewable materials such as kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an environmentally friendly PLA lining

Our coffee bags and custom coffee boxes can be embossed, debossed, or fully customised with transparent windows, or tasting cards, to meet your marketing needs.

Using innovative digital printing technology, we are able to help you with a quick turnaround time of 40-hours and 24-hour shipping time. 

MTPak Coffee also offers low minimum order quantities (MOQs) to micro-roasters who are looking to remain agile while showcasing brand identity and a commitment to the environment.

For more information on custom print sustainable coffee packaging, contact our team

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Janice Kanniah
Janice Kanniah

Janice is freelance writer based in South Africa and has written for MTPak Coffee since 2020. Her interests are in writing about sustainability, the circular economy, and the future of the environment.

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