Marketers Make Lickable Ads Grape Juice, Mojitos, Toothpaste. Those are just a few of the things you can taste by licking some magazines. Cognitive scientist and marketing consultant Dr. Lisa Haverty talks about sensory marketing.
NPR logo

Marketers Make Lickable Ads

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/19331733/19331708" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Marketers Make Lickable Ads

Marketers Make Lickable Ads

Marketers Make Lickable Ads

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/19331733/19331708" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Grape Juice, Mojitos, Toothpaste. Those are just a few of the things you can taste by licking some magazines. Cognitive scientist and marketing consultant Dr. Lisa Haverty talks about sensory marketing.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Lickable magazine pages. Yup, taking you tongue and dragging it across the page.

Welch's grape juice is hoping that you'll do that. It took out a one-page ad in People magazine this month which features a grape juice flavored tasting strip. It's a little plastic sticker that you peal back, and then underneath is a small strip that dissolves in your mouth. Kind of like those, you know, breath mint pocket pack strips.

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. I love those.

STEWART: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen to sensory marketing - something Willy Wonka was well aware of years ago.

(Soundbite of movie, "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory")

Mr. GENE WILDER (Actor): (as Willy Wonka) I must show you this. Lickable wallpaper for nursery walls. Lick an orange, it tastes like an orange. Lick a pineapple, it tastes like a pineapple. Go ahead, try it.

Unidentified Child: Mm, I got a plumb.

Mr. PETER OSTRUM (Actor): (as Charlie) Grandpa, this banana is fantastic. It tastes so real.

Mr. WILDER: (as Willy Wonka) Try some more. This strawberries taste like strawberries. The snozzberries taste like snozzberries.

STEWART: You can actually find that clip on the Web site of First Flavor. They developed that juice ad, as well as a mojito ad and a forthcoming Arm and Hammer toothpaste ad which you can taste. It's a whole new ad world where scientists involve - men that just as important as the creative guys who think this stuff up.

Lisa Haverty is a cognitive scientist and marketing consultant who works with companies to help them figure out how consumers perceive information through their senses, what gets their attention, how they make the decisions, and she runs her own consulting firm called Brain on Brand.

Hi, Lisa.

Dr. LISA HAVERTY (Cognitive Scientist; Founder, Brain on Brand): Hi, there.

STEWART: So what was your first reaction to this new sensory marketing ploy? This Welch's lickable ad?

Dr. HAVERTY: Well as a consumer, my first reaction was a little horrified.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. HAVERTY: But as a scientist, you know, all the principles behind it, cognitively, in terms of how people engage with an ad like that and whether they'd remember it are very sound. It should work from…

STEWART: What are those principles?

Dr. HAVERTY: …from that perspective.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: So what are those principles?

Dr. HAVERTY: Well, any time you can get someone actually engaged in your advertisement, and in particular, in this situation, you're actually getting people to forma a question in their minds about something and the thing that you taste is going to answer that question. So you're saying, well, what the heck is this? Are they actually asking me to lick this? What is this going to taste like? And you're engaged. Any time you can engage someone cognitively and make them actively process the information that you're trying to get across to them, they're more likely to remember it. I think it'll be a little bit difficult to forget whose brand you're tasting.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: But what's this talk about this cognitively. Are people really that open to putting something that was in the magazine in their mouths? I mean, who were they targeting with this concept?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. HAVERTY: Well, I actually think there maybe something of an age difference here. I'm not in on Welch's strategy here, but children and teenagers are known to be a little more impulsive about something like this. I think that when you encounter something like that, there is an urge to explore.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Sure.

Dr. HAVERTY: And maybe check it out. But the results have a lot more practice suppressing urges like that.

STEWART: But you sound like a woman who's not afraid to lick a magazine, if I may say so.

Dr. HAVERTY: But our ick factor may overcome that. But for children and teenagers, it might be a much more - you know, they're a little more adventurous when it come to exploring the world. So I think that it may play a lot better with youngsters, and that may be what they were trying to do, anyway.

STEWART: Well, let's listen to one woman's reaction from a First Flavor taste test.

Dr. HAVERTY: Oh, lest do.

STEWART: Yeah. This is from their own Web site. They give this woman one of the taste sample and one of these strips. Let's take a listen to that.

Unidentified Man: So we wanted you to taste a new way of trying the flavor of a new beverage product. This is a cherry vanilla cola. And we'd like you to try the flavor and let us know what you think.

Unidentified Woman #1: All right, I can do that. Just pull it, right?

Unidentified Woman #2: Mm-hmm.

Unidentified Woman #1: All right, now what?

Unidentified Man: Just put it in your mouth, put it on your tongue, and let us know what you think. Is this a pleasurable experience for a way to try a new product?

Unidentified Woman #1: Actually, it's very tasty. I think I would rather taste it this way than to go buy a bottle of the product and not like it.

STEWART: How powerful are sales a tool is it for people to actually taste a product? I mean, does taste triumph the visual or the olfactory come-ons that other people do?

MARTIN: Use to market to us?

Dr. HAVERTY: I don't know if it's - I'm not sure that it would triumph olfactory at all. But given that it's something that - it's a product that you taste, it certainly going to help boost it up over any visual or auditory signals. Presuming - all assuming, of course, that it actually tastes good. If it even were a neutral taste, it would probably somewhat helpful because your engagement in it, and you're actively engaged in processing what they're trying to tell you. Anything remotely negative and it's going to backfire worse than an ad without any of those added senses.

STEWART: Now First Flavor claims this kind of advertising overcomes, and I'm quoting their site here, "Consumer ad fatigue and fragmentation and associates client brands with innovation and differentiation." Differentiation, excuse me. I can't ever read my own writing. So how important is it, the novelty sense of this, when you're trying to reach out and grab consumers?

Dr. HAVERTY: I think it's really important. I think it's a sign of the times that marketers having a much more difficult time getting consumers to even pay attention in such a noisy ad world. And something that's novel, it's not just playing with, you know, the two senses we're used to, visual and auditory. It's definitely going to get people's attention, and just the buzz around it. I mean, just the fact that we're talking about it is, you know, free marketing.

STEWART: That it is. One more thing I want to ask you before I let you go. You know, the Got Milk campaign, they admitted the smell of freshly backed cookies from bus shelters to encourage people to buy milk. There are these auditory ads with direct sound to people as they walk past billboards. We have these taste centers, and the magazines. Do these ads have the potential to backfire as being too invasive?

Dr. HAVERTY: I definitely think they can. I think one of the features, the positive features of these taste ads is that they have an element of choice. You actually get to decide whether to engage that sense. Whereas with visual and auditory, we decide to turn on the TV or the radio or go to a movie theater, even. But to just simply be walking by and have your ears or nose bombarded is a different situation. And I think it would depend a lot more on who you're targeting and where. A bus stop seems like a pretty vague and a large collection of the American population.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. HAVERTY: Not all that targeted, so it could be a lot more noxious, even, to have to smell something you weren't seeking to smell. It's a lot different than a scratch and sniff, even that wall paper.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Scratch, sniff and now we can add lick. Lisa Haverty is a cognitive scientist and marketing consultant. Hey, thanks for joining us.

Dr. HAVERTY: Thanks so much.

MARTIN: I'm still not going to lick a magazine.

STEWART: I'm not licking the magazine, either. But we're not kids.

MARTIN: That's true. We're not - most of the time.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.