The Flipside: Why Brands Want To Grab You By The Senses

Updated: Jul 31, 2018

After visiting The Flipside exhibition by Google, Louis Vuitton, Selfridges and others, Oliver examines how companies are using innovative “Brand Experiences” to engage customers like never before.

Selfridges Flipside Exhibition

For how long do you engage with an advert? A second? Half a second? How about a YouTube pre-roll advertisement? How long before you tire of the message and click ‘Skip To Video’?

Many modern brands are seeking a deeper relationship with their customers and quickly realising that everyday advertising just isn’t going to cut it. In today’s world of highly targeted digital marketing, reaching an audience's eyes and ears is easier than ever before. Holding their attention for more than just a few seconds however is becoming a much bigger challenge.

So imagine a world where select members of a target audience choose to spend time with you. A world where they willingly give over their time and their senses to engage with a brand and everything it represents.

This is the world of the ‘branded’ experience.

Who really cares about products?

A brand experience is a piece of exclusive entertainment or intrigue for the senses provided by a brand. They are popping up in various forms all over the world; from exclusive events, festivals and concerts, to pop-up stores, virtual or augmented reality games, and art installations.

The fact is that companies are all too aware that we generally don’t care about their products. What we really care about is the personal experiences and sensations that those products lead to. I buy a new camera to best capture the memorable moments of my life. I buy a new blender to create some new taste sensations or support my diet goals. I buy new trainers to better enjoy running, or to increase my walking comfort, or to feel fashionable and confident amongst my friends. I rarely buy any of these things simply to enjoy possessing them.

Brand experiences allow companies to take their product off the shelf and demonstrate it as a conduit between their audience and a once-in-lifetime experience. An experience which expands into all of the senses and by doing so, builds a much stronger relationship between person and product.

Our senses are the key to strong relationships

Humans experience the world through our senses - sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.

We feel a greater connection when we can experience something through as many simultaneous senses as possible.

Think of the difference between speaking to someone on the phone, via video link, or actually meeting them in person. We can achieve the goal of communication and information transfer through any of these means. However the overall impact of the experience and resulting connection is likely to be much stronger through a real-world interaction - especially if it is over an extended period.

It is this truth that brands are looking to capitalise on through branded experiences.

The Flipside Multi-Sensory Exhibition

As an example, Macs and I recently attended The Flipside (a multi-sensory exhibition) event at Old Selfridges Hotel courtesy of the Google Pixel 2 phone.

The Byredo exhibit at Selfridges
This event brought together a number of luxury brands to create mini-experiences linked together in a single underground gallery.

With atmospheric lighting and walkways cut through a black shiny floor which looked like water, the theme of the exhibits was ‘radical luxury’; an attempt by the designer labels involved to escape the trope of designer handbags sitting in glass cabinets and redefine what luxury really means in the modern and future world.

Brands such as Loewe and Thom Browne simply defaulted to type and put things in glass cabinets to look at. However other brands took a more innovative approach and attempted to connect with the audience through engaging the other senses. Louis Vuitton created a series of ‘planets’ of bold colours and tactile textures which could be spun and bobbed.

Louis Vuitton and Thom Browne at The Flipside

Mr Lyan gave guests a physical questionnaire to complete; the answers determining which cocktail of tastes would be popped onto your tongue via a rice paper square. Gareth Pugh had a video installation which transported you to the beach via two large screens, a seaside soundscape, and the feeling of sand under foot. Selfridges played with time and space with a room of distorting mirrors, and a shadow dial clock which put you at the centre of a day lasting just 30 seconds.

Mr Lyan exhibit at The Flipside

All of these were enjoyable miniature engagements. However it was Google who used The Flipside event as a truly engaging brand experience and vehicle for creating a sensory connection with their audience.

How Google uses brand experience

Google wants to put the Pixel 2 phone into the hands of audiences and use the phone as a gateway to an experience. On arriving at The Flipside, #teampixel representatives lent us a Google Pixel 2 on the camera setting and an experience guide to take us through the exhibition. Holding our new phones throughout, the guide got us to engage with the other exhibits through the capabilities of the phone; portrait, panorama, video, and AR stickers.

The Selfridges Mirrors using the Google phone

By educating us on the various camera settings and encouraging us to experiment, the phone connected us directly to the fun, engaging and interactive aspects of the exhibition.

Instead of viewing the exhibition in real life, we viewed it squarely through the lens of the Pixel 2.

What’s more, by sending our photographs from the phone to our email - our memory of the exhibit became intrinsically linked to our phone experience. As did any sharing of the exhibit through social media; where our experimental photos become the story that we would choose to share with others.

The reflective floor of the Loewe exhibit at The Flipside

As a society, we are swiftly moving from the age of ownership to the age of experience.

We are making choices that privilege interaction and sensory engagement over the ownership of physical possessions. Where we do choose to purchase the physical, we often do as a way of getting to another level of experience or a way to better connect to the activities we love.

Brands, like Google, who support this interplay and provide us with unique opportunities to indulge our senses in new experiences will build strong and lasting audience relationships.

And that’s the secret of any businesses long term success.

The Selfridges Flipside sensory experience

How you been to any brand-based experiences which have imaginatively engaged your senses? If so, tell us about them and why they were so effective in the comments section below.


 Welcome to Sensorama - a blog to tickle the senses.


This blog is dedicated to curiously exploring the world via the 5 senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.
Our perception of reality is determined by our own senses - and there are millions of sensory experiences out there for us to explore. Join sensorama bloggers Macs and Oliver as we take you on an extraordinary tour of the world all around us through sensory science, experiences, stories and sensations.


Via Sight : Beautiful faces, amazing colours, hidden lights spectrums, optical illusions, incredible animals and emotive art - our ability to see is central to nearly every part of our everyday lives. Yet how often do we stop and take a fresh look at the world? At Sensorama we take a second glance at the everyday, the unusual and the at times invisible.

Via Sound : Hearing is the key to communication and how we interact. Like a heartbeat, it is also highly personal. From thrash metal to choral hymns which make the heart soar - what we love to listen to can determine our mood, emotional state, and sense of identity. At Sensorama we take a in depth listen to the beats of life.  

Via Smell : Smell is the sense that much of the animal kingdom relies on to find food, sense danger or attract a mate. It is the sense which can evoke a long distant memory and silently affect our perceptions and behaviours. At Sensorama we pay attention to what’s right under our nose.  

Via Taste : What some cultures find delicious, others find repulsive. Taste is so often a matter of, well, taste. Starting as an evolutionary way to avoid poisoning, we have mastered the sense of taste to tickle some of the strongest pleasure centres of our brains. At Sensorama we search out the tantalizing and delicious.


Via Touch : Touch can be anything from comforting to terrifying and take us anywhere from excruciating pain to heightened ecstasy. As humans, we feel everything but so rarely pay attention to what our bodies are telling us. At Sensorama we get hands on with all the textures of the world.

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