In previous journey mapping sessions we have done with our clients, we look at the main journey phases and always map at least three elements: the customer needs, customer actions (what they do) and customer emotions (how it makes them feel). Zooming in on the emotions is an effective way to see where to take action to improve the experience. This can be done by fixing pain points or by creating extra value points. From there we go to find the best solutions: the ones that create maximum customer value at a relatively low implementation effort for the organization. Quite straightforward.

So far, this is nothing unusual. But not every company consciously looks at their journey to see where they can stimulate the right human senses. We think this could or rather, should be a very relevant part of every journey mapping exercise.

Why is stimulating the senses important?

Science shows that by stimulating the senses, you will appeal to what is known as the customer’s first brain. This brain is the oldest brain; it has been around there for 500 million years, and it is common among most animals. It is primitive and emotional! It manages the unconscious thoughts and plays an essential role in the overall customer experience and how it makes customers feel.

How to stimulate the senses?

There are numerous examples of the use of senses in retail environment, hospitality, and airline industry. I am going to give you some examples used in the airline industry, of course it can be applied to any industry where there is physical contact between the company and its customers.


Customers depend more on sight than on any other senses to navigate through a physical environment. At first glance, a first impression is formed. When you enter an aircraft of Virgin Atlantic, you don’t have the feeling that you are walking through a working area for crew with containers, like with most airlines. No, next to a welcoming crew, you see a nice bar and the right lighting that sets a comfortable mood. This nice atmosphere makes you feel relaxed. Suddenly you are looking forward to your 10 hour flight.


Sound, especially music, can bring the visual world to life and can bring back memories. Virgin played poppy music from Blondie to Kylie Minogue and David Guetta. Delta Airlines played Pharell William’s Happy during boarding and disembarking the aircraft. It works both ways: when you hear the music on board, it stimulates a positive mood. And when you hear it back home, it might bring back Delta memories.


Smell is a powerful sense. It is the strongest trigger of emotional memory. I am sure if you smell the perfume that your mother used many years ago, it will bring you back to your childhood. Airlines also invest in scent marketing. Since the 1990s, Singapore Airlines has created its own fragrance as its scent brand. But it can be applied in other ways: Delta Airlines was famous for serving chocolate chip cookies on board. By heating them, the whole cabin could smell it and long for the upcoming treat.


Free tasting options are used at many food courts, as it increases the overall sales. But also outside of the food business you can use it. Some airlines offer free cookies in baggage reclaim areas, managing perception about waiting times. And seen from a different perspective: as your taste on board of an aircraft is different than on the ground, it brings some extra challenges to provide tasty meals and good tasting (not too acid) wines on board.


Touching something moves it from a representation / an idea to something true. Although with Covid-19 this has changed, instinctively people want to touch something to get a better idea of it or to check or experience the quality. You choose to use what you enjoy touching! For airlines, attention is now being paid to high quality amenities and good bed linen in First Class cabins.

So what can this mean for you your company and your customers?

Have a look at your company’s customer journey and see where you trigger which senses

  • Where in the journey does your customer see, hear, smell, taste or touch?
  • Which emotional reactions does and/or can it trigger?
  • Does it enhance the customer experience? Or could it have negative impact?
    Both in general as well compared to your desired experience and brand positioning?

Want to know more on how to trigger your customer’s senses and improve the emotional engagement? And how to embed this in your journey mapping exercise? Please contact us at