My mouth, my nose, my ears

"My mouth, my nose, my ears" by Greg Alder

Look at this photo. What’s the first thing you see? The eye?

We live in a visual world. Of all our senses, we rely on our eyes most of all. When meeting a friend, we look for them at the agreed meeting spot. When driving, we’re on the lookout out for a corner, a red light or another vehicle. When we get hungry, we look for a restaurant or café.

When shopping, we look for our favourite brand. We usually recognise it by the logo or the colour of the packaging.

A logo is a nothing more than a visual shortcut.

We see a yellow shell illuminated up ahead on the highway, and we know we can fill up with petrol.

We see a swoosh and we think Nike, and sports equipment, and sports clothing and elite athletes.

Many iconic brands have spent a fortune making sure that we recognise their logos. They’re lucky. They have big budgets.

How can you create a brand ID that people recognise as readily as Apple’s apple if you don’t have Apple’s deep pockets? The answer might be staring you in the face – but you can’t see it for looking.

When creating a brand ID, we tend to think about only one of our senses, sight. We ignore the sense of touch, of taste, of sound and of smell. In ignoring these other sense, we miss opportunities to make our brand unique.

I’ll explain.


Too many business owners place too little value on their logos. They pay a local designer a few hundred dollars to do something. The brief is usually really broad. A gymnasium asks for a logo that suggests exercise. The result is that 90% of gyms have logos that are a stylised human in a position that looks like running or lunging. Cover the name and you can’t tell them apart.

A logo deserves serious thought and a proper budget. It should be something distinctive. It should be something worthy of comment, something people remember.

Beyond a logo, there’s another way that you can make your brand ID unique. And that is colour. Pink is associated with breast cancer. A purple block of chocolate is Cadbury’s. We’d know that even without the distinctive Cadbury’s logo. If we are given an aqua box with aqua ribbon around it, we know that what’s inside was bought at Tiffany.

When Apple introduced the iPhone, it was white. The headphones and cable were also white. Why was this important? The iPhone was small. It resided in the wearer’s pocket, unseen by passers by. By making the cable white at a time when all other cables were black, passers by knew you were listening to an iPhone.

What surprising colour could you use for your packaging, store or van?

Shape is another visual cue that’s often overlooked. Simply putting your product into a square shape when competitors’ products are in cylindrical shapes can set you apart. We could identify a Johnnie Walker bottle by its shape and angled label. We could recognise an Angostura bitters by the label that’s too big for the bottle. Use cardboard when competitors use plastic, or wood when competitors use aluminium.


Every MGM movie starts with the lion’s roar. Even if it didn’t say MGM up on the screen, we’d know it was an MGM film. That lion roar is such a valuable part of the MGM brand, that the company has trademarked it.

Sound can play a major role in setting one brand apart from another. But sound is often overlooked by small business owners.

How could you use sound to create a distinctive brand ID?

An obvious idea is music. Could your brand be associated with a piece of music? Every Toyota commercial ends with the words Oh what a feeling and those five notes that we have heard over and over.

Car manufacturers devote a lot of time into perfecting the sound their doors make when they close. A solid thunk suggests quality. Rolls Royce devoted a lot of engineering time to eliminating sounds from their interiors.

Could your packaging make a distinctive sound when opened? Could your store be quiet when others are noisy?


Big food manufacturers talk a lot about mouth feel – how their product feels when you bite into it or suck on it. Wine producers talk about the length of their wine – how long its flavour seems to linger after swallowing.

If you’re in the food business, how can you make your product or products distinctive by their flavor, smoothness, sweetness, saltiness, coolness, crunchiness, pop, tingle or chewiness?

Can you add another ingredient that makes the pizza crust crustier? Can you make your product smoother than competitors?


The perfume industry is one founded on the sense of smell. Each perfume is a guarded combination of exotic ingredients designed to give that perfume a unique aroma. It is sold with the promise of making the wearer smell alluring, unforgettable, irresistible.

There are less exotic products that use the sense of smell as part of their brand ID. Subway bakes on premise. The blend of dried herbs used in their bread mixture is distinctive and can be smelt several shops away.

We are attracted to many stores and products by their aromas – chocolate shops and coffee shops are classic examples.

The fabulous and expensive Fauchon store in Paris channeled the baking aromas from its kitchen to small grated outlets beneath its display windows. Who can resist the smell of freshly baked breads and pastries? Especially when staring at a window full of tempting delights.

How can you use smell in promoting your brand?


Some brands are associated with how they feel. Kleenex has worked hard to make their tissues and toilet paper feel softer than competitive products. Dove has made their soaps creamier than competitors’ soaps. Some high-end hotels now offer pillow menus, so guests can choose the pillow that feels right.

How can you elevate the tactile pleasure that comes from using your products or entering your store? Comfier armchairs? Products wrapped in tissue paper?

These are the five commonly acknowledged senses. Very few brand owners think about all five of them.

Most simply get a logo designed, a sign painted or some stationery printed.

I implore you to take your brand ID more seriously. Get a proper and unique logo designed – one that reflects your brand’s unique personality.

Don’t stop there. Don’t ignore the sound, touch, taste and smell of your brand.

Create something that touches all of your audience’s senses.

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