The Edible Cinema- the role of the senses in customer experience

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Cinemas have been on the mission to provide customers with an experience that can compete with the low cost, low effort and high comfort online streaming experience the internet has offered. Customer loyalty is gradually more difficult to maintain.

A most notable attempt to enhance viewers’ experience was the introduction of the 3D technology and since that wave didn’t last long, the 4D quickly emerged. The latter does not only engage viewers’ sight and eyes, but skin as well. Those that have been to Madamme Tussaud’s in London recently, will know of the 4D experience that is essentially a short 3D screening escorted with tactile effects such as: warm air blown while fire is displayed or water being sprinkled on you while you are looking at a fountain in the screen etc. The idea is to engage as many senses as possible such that the viewer is absorbed by the experience.

One such example is the Edible Cinema event which interestingly, attempts to deliberately and in a specific way combine the visual and audio (the movie) with the taste and smell (food).

The Edible cinema picks out a movie and then designs a menu of nibbles and drinks (stored in pots and bags next to each seat) that are to be consumed in a particular order that corresponds to the scenes being played out on the screen. For example, when one of the characters consumes a sleeping draught, a herbs cocktail is served to resemble medicine. Here is a description from a customer:

“There was a helpful menu on our seats which explained each of the offerings in more detail, and we were informed that a lovely lady would pop up to one side of the screen throughout the film to let us know when it was time to open each of the numbered bags/pots and imbibe/eat its contents:

First up was a Scots pine forest floor scented handkerchief with pine and oak smoke popcorn. Designed to be smelled & eaten when the heroine of the film (Ofelia, a young girl who loves fairy tales) wanders through a forest and first encounters a ‘faerie’.” To read the full account click here.

Engaging customers’ senses is not a new concept to customer experience. As human beings our senses are constantly on, and businesses (particularly retailers) attempt to stimulate them in ways that are pleasurable in order to create positive emotions and affect their customers’ behaviour. But rarely are more than 2 senses stimulated deliberately. In fact, according to some sources 83% of all commercial communication appeals only to one sense – the eyes. In contrast, 75% of our day-to-day emotions are influenced by what we smell and in 65% of cases, positive sound changes our mood (source: ACP Connections).

Retailers are ahead of the curve when it comes to utilizing sound to influence customers’ behaviour. A global female fashion retailer even uses a male perfume like scent to trigger brain reactions (see: Stradivarius). However, it is usually the audio-visual senses that are affected. Moreover, rarely do non-retailers know how (or even consider) to purposefully stimulate senses such that they lead customers to feel and behave in a way the business wants them to.

In a digital era, when customers (and their senses) are more difficult to access physically, taking an “Edible cinema” approach may pose a great advantage to businesses.

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