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Published: 20 Aug 2018

Western Luxury Brands Embrace Chinese Valentine’s Day


Western luxury brands are looking to profit from China’s version of Valentine’s Day – Qixi, a traditional gifting festival with exceptional potential for growth. Brands are wooing socially savvy millennials with mobile-led engagement strategies.

The importance of the Chinese consumer within the luxury sector continues to grow. In 2017, some 32% of global luxury sales, totalling €1.2bn ($1.4bn), were to the Chinese, with 85% of them being in Gens Y and Z ( Bain, 2017).

That’s why brands are keen to explore under-utilised engagement paths with these coveted consumers. Qixi is preferred by the majority of younger Chinese consumers (Renren.com, 2015). Rooted in Chinese mythology, it’s celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar – which this year fell on August 17 (it’s also known as the Double Seventh Festival).

For 2018’s iteration, more than 20 brands including Dior, Prada and Gucci chose to host online pop-ups through WeChat mini-programmes. These mini-programmes integrate e-commerce into official brand accounts on WeChat, China’s most popular social media platform with over one billion users. Limited editions were a particular focus – similar to Chinese New Year promotions.

Burberry tapped the nation’s love for gaming, embedding e-commerce into a collaborative social game on WeChat. Users had to play with their partner and take a quiz, with questions such as “Which shirt would you most like your partner to wear on a date?” Depending on their answers, the couple was assigned one of 27 relationship types. Only then did they secure access to the exclusive collection. See also Unmasking Engagement.

“Western Valentine’s Day tends to fall too close to Chinese New Year, so retailers miss out,” explains Roger Tredre, Stylus’ acting head of Retail. “Qixi’s date in August is perfect. Even better for business, unlike Singles Day in November, there is no discounting.”

For more on engaging consumers during retail holidays, read our Christmas, Easter and Chinese New Year reporting.

Published: 17 Aug 2018

Inclusive Sensorial Design for Autistic Users

Tink Things

Autism affects one in 160 people worldwide – a number that is reportedly growing (WHO, 2017). As highlighted in Design for Disability, this represents a huge proportion of society that could benefit from inclusive goods. We look at how sensorial design is catering to autistic users’ needs in both furniture and merchandise, creating emotionally tailored product and praiseworthy branding.

Croatian brand Tink Things creates kids’ furniture with “sensory intelligence” in mind. Designed on the premise that learning and creativity are processes that involve the entire body, the Mia and Ika chairs explore how furniture can support the mental state of autistic children.

Mia is a cocoon-like spherical enclosure of black fabric held within a timber frame. The seat has a gentle swing to help with concentration and soothe the child, and the soft, embracing form can be opened up and closed off to create a sense of privacy and escape when they’re feeling overwhelmed.

By contrast, the Ika chair is for kids who need physical stimulation. The seat is a soft, padded swing suspended by rope from outer timber legs. It encourages the child to rock and bounce to release frenetic energy for more engaged learning.

Meanwhile, in a bid to encourage people with mixed abilities to attend this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the event is handing out backpacks filled with sensorial contents to entertain and calm individuals with autism. The child’s version features a fidget toy, a soft toy, ear plugs and a water bottle, as well as a list of relaxed performances. The adult’s version is larger and comes without the soft toy.

The festival also features one of the UK’s few Changing Places toilets, which is an updated disabled loo that better caters to those with learning and physical disabilities. The design has an enlarged floorplan, an adult-sized changing bench, a hoist system, a privacy screen, and a centrally positioned toilet.

Published: 16 Aug 2018

Budget Chain Taps FOMO with Price-Drop Scheme

US discount retailer Fred's is rethinking the standard sales format, luring price-conscious consumers with a new store format where prices progressively drop every day. Introducing the element of FOMO (fear of missing out), the tactic ensures constant newness and recurring footfall of bargain hunters.

Dubbed Fred's Closeout Bonanza, the initiative currently runs in two US locations: Memphis and Bartlett, both in Tennessee. Held every Saturday, it involves the stores being fully restocked with brand-name inventory consisting of unsold merchandise from other Fred's stores, returned goods from other retailers, and liquidation purchases.

Prices drop gradually throughout the week – $29.99 on Saturday, $4.99 on Sunday, $2.99 on Monday, $1.99 on Tuesday and Wednesday, $0.99 on Thursday and $0.19 on Friday – until all the items are gone and new merchandise is stocked late on Friday. Consumers can therefore choose whether to shop the full assortment at the beginning of the week or hunt for better deals (but fewer products) towards the end of the week. As they risk missing out, shoppers are therefore encouraged to act quickly.

Stefanie Dorfer, retail editor at Stylus says: "This progressive discount strategy turns shopping into a strategy game for bargain hunters."

Merchandise sold includes the Fitbit Flex 2, Mr Coffee coffee-maker and Skullcandy Head 2 headphones, with consumers able to see what they can find in-store at any given time via a dedicated microsite. It also highlights rules on how to behave to avoid over-excitement – for example, "Please be respectful of fellow shoppers. Please no pushing or running in the store".

This risk-based strategy taps into millennials' appetite for good bargains – a consumer behaviour shift we've explored extensively in our Budget Retail's Quality Drive report. We've also witnessed new challenger brands introducing the element of gaming into shopping, with the most stand-out example being live shopping show Gravy.

Published: 16 Aug 2018

Revamped & Reclassified: Shiseido’s Bold New Make-Up Range


Shiseido has revamped its make-up range into sensorial categories – blurring the boundaries between eye, lip and cheek products. Will this new strategy change the way beauty consumers experiment with colour cosmetics?

In a bid to further develop its colour cosmetics range, premium Japanese brand Shiseido has relaunched its make-up line for the first time since 2009 with a new mode of categorisation. Set to debut across 88 countries by September 2018, the 21-piece collection reimagines the traditional classifications of eyes, lips and cheeks by grouping products by texture instead: Inks, Powders, Gels and Dews.

Inks offer eyebrow pencils and eyeliners that provide graphic precision, while Gels are highly pigmented lipsticks with a light feel. Powders reinvent traditional pigments (including blushes and eyeshadow palettes), as the brand’s air-infusion technology creates a natural finish. The most distinctive new category however is the Dews – a range of universal highlighters which can be applied onto the eyes, cheeks and lips.

With the tag line ‘Visible feels invisible’, the collection offers delicate, lightweight textures with skin-boosting ingredients. This taps into modern consumers’ enthusiasm for hybrid make-up and skincare products – 90% of US women are using cosmetics with multitasking claims (NPD, 2018). For example, the VisionAiry Gel Lipstick is also infused with moisturising ingredients to keep the lips feeling hydrated and soft.

In addition, the multifunctionality of Shiseido’s products mirror Asian consumers’ preferences – around 67% of urban Chinese women want to minimise their make-up regimen (Mintel, 2017). For deeper insights into the Asian beauty market, see our spotlight trend Asian Beauty Now. Also read Asia’s Digitally Enhanced Beauty Boutiques and  Japanese Beauty Trends: Cosme Tokyo 2018.  

Published: 16 Aug 2018

Facebook and Instagram Want You to Take Screen Breaks

Priscilla Du Preez

Over 70% of Gen Z-ers and millennials think they use their mobile phone too much (Deloitte, 2017). Facebook and Instagram's new feature will help to cut screen time, in line with their 2018 resolutions to focus on consumer wellbeing and encourage meaningful social media use (Facebook, 2018).

A new section within Facebook's settings called Your Time on Facebook will allow users to see how much time they spend on the platform each day, and set daily limits for use. The same tools will be available on Facebook-owned Instagram, found under Your Activity within the app's settings.

Once the user's self-selected limit has been reached, the app sends them an alert. A separate notification-muting tool will also be available, offering up to 15 hours free of social media interruption. This announcement is the latest in a slew of platforms such as Apple and Google introducing use-monitoring technologies.

A blog post on Facebook's Newsroom site stated that the new tools were developed in collaboration with mental health experts, with the aim of improving how social media is used and consumed (Facebook, 2018). In Facebook's Q4 and full-year report, published in January 2018, founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg expressed the company's aim of encouraging "meaningful connections between people rather than passive consumption of content" (Facebook, 2018).

On average, 18- to 24-year-olds check their phones 86 times a day (Deloitte, 2017). While there are many contributing factors to mental wellbeing, this over-use of mobile technology is a likely contributor to the stress that 61% of young people regularly feel in the UK alone (Prince's Trust, 2018).

Mental wellbeing is an ongoing concern for today's consumers, and should be a key consideration when products are in development. See our Nurturing Mental Health and Self-Care Generation reports for more examples of good practice across various industries.

Published: 15 Aug 2018

Clare: the Paint Brand Empowering DIY Home Renovators


As explored in Here Come the Homebodies, consumers are spending more time and money on home improvements. In the US alone, annual spending is expected to reach $350bn by 2019 (JCHS, 2018). Building on this momentum is Clare – a new online paint company adopting algorithms and a ‘less is more’ approach to empower DIYers.

Clare is the new project from US interior designer and TV personality Nicole Gibbons, who realised the frustration that homeowners feel when trying to navigate endless colour charts and uninspiring home retail stores. “With little guidance, it’s always been a confusing, overwhelming and cumbersome process,” says Gibbons. “It was obvious that the paint industry wasn’t evolving to fit the needs of today’s consumer.”

Clare offers a decluttered colour palette of 55 low-chemical, low-pollutant shades, with the range selected to suit a diversity of spaces and individual tastes. For consumers needing a little extra help, the Colour Genius – an algorithmically sorted colour consultant – suggests a personalised shade based on eight questions about the user and their space.

Consumers can also try before they buy with colour-swatch stickers that can be wiped on, peeled off and repositioned for an instant, mess-free means of testing and comparing paints within the home. Meanwhile, Clare’s blog keeps consumers engaged with a growing database of tips and inspirational case studies to help guide them with their decorating.

In the US, more than 60% of consumers prefer to take on DIY projects rather than hire professionals or opt for pre-made product, with 58% choosing to go it alone because they enjoy it and feel they can handle the job (Venveo, 2015). Brands need to cater to these motivated homemakers by reframing their services as enablers of action and creativity.

Published: 14 Aug 2018

This Beauty Clinic Wants to Be the Boutique Gym for Skin


Repeat customers are the goal of every beauty clinic. New Zealand’s Skinsmiths bills itself as a regular ‘gym for your skin’, opening seven stores in London in quick succession this year – and promoting annual membership packages at the heart of its engagement strategy.

The fast-growing skin and appearance clinic taps the holistic wellbeing boom as well as consumers’ appreciation of rituals. Its boutique-style clinics emphasise the benefits of consistent, regular treatments. “We know one-off workouts in the gym don’t work, so why should it be different for your skin?” says Skinsmiths adviser Sevda Papantenis.

Consumers sign up for a year-long membership offering a bespoke schedule of treatments, typically every three to six weeks. Three plans are on offer: skin health, including detox facials; laser hair removal; and aesthetic treatments such as derma filler. Prices range from £47-199 ($60-254) per month, payable via direct debit or upfront. Members receive a 10% discount on Skinsmiths’ natural skincare range, plus four taster sessions to share with friends and family.

Roger Tredre, acting head of Retail at Stylus, comments: “These kinds of engagement strategies extend the consumer-brand relationship. The aim is to bring Skinsmiths into the inner circle of a consumer’s daily life. A visit to Skinsmiths becomes a welcome regular ritual – a habit.”

Founded in New Zealand in 1994, Skinsmiths has opened seven London locations within three months (Belgravia, Clapham South, Hanwell, Putney Bridge, Tower Bridge, Wimbledon Village and Liverpool Street) and hopes to open up to 40 more across the UK over the next two years.

Designed by London agency YourStudio, the clinics feature a soft look reminiscent of serene lifestyle stores, with a powder-pink colour palette and gentle lighting. Peach-coloured Timber Terrazzo counters by British brand Foresso and black steel fixtures accent the spaces.

See also Instagangs: Design Salons, Pause & Pulsate and Membership & Tiered Retailing.

Published: 14 Aug 2018

Lush’s Spa-Inspired Range Makes Mood Magic

In the pursuit of relaxation and emotional balance, consumers are tapping into the self-care movement via scent. British naturals brand Lush’s latest limited-edition range is capitalising on this opportunity, harnessing the power of aromatherapy to boost mental and emotional wellbeing.  

Lush focuses on scent and its influence on the emotions for its new spa-inspired #LushMoods range, which is available through Lush Labs, the brand’s online platform for trialling new products.

The 13-piece collection includes a variety of products that use different notes to alter the user’s mood. For instance, foaming shower bomb Not Sleepy claims to energise and awaken the senses with hero ingredients lemongrass and neroli oil.

Meanwhile, single-use body washes called Atmospheres come in four different mood-based varieties: Money (lime and fennel), Joy (bergamot and ginger), Let Go (lavender) and Love (apple and spices). Each colourful gel formula is encased in a biodegradable seaweed pod, negating the need for extra packaging.

Lush harnesses the properties of aromatherapy by using different essences to enhance users’ moods. The launch capitalises on the rise of the essential oils market, which is forecast to reach $11.7bn globally by 2022 (Statistics MRC, 2017). This growing category is a key area for brands to explore, as consumers look to improve their mental state with scent. Another good example is American tween start-up Scent Republik, which features notes of apple blossom and marine aqua in its Chill fragrance to boost feelings of relaxation.

Talking about the #LushMoods range, Mark Constantine, Lush’s co-founder and managing director, said: “There’s this thing called Brief Strategic Therapy, where someone comes in in one state of mind and leaves in another. That’s the idea behind all of this.” To read more about blurring boundaries between personal care and wellbeing, see Serving the Self-Care GenerationLuxurifying Personal Hygiene and Selling Cyclical Beauty

Published: 14 Aug 2018

Black Women Dominate September Covers

Clockwise L-R: Rihanna, Issa Rae, Tiffany Haddish, Lupita Nyong'o, Zendaya, Beyonce, Slick Woods

A historic number of leading fashion publications have chosen black women to appear on the covers of their prestigious September issues, rejecting the notion that diversity hinders sales. 

At least eight black women have appeared on the cover of several magazines’ influential September issues so far, marking the first time this many black women have received the honour in the same year.

The individual September covers feature a range of women, from superstars like Beyoncé and Rihanna, to lesser-known comedians, models and musicians like Tiffany Haddish, Issa Rae, Slick Woods and Zendaya.

Musician Rihanna has become the first black woman in British Vogue’s 102-year history to appear on the cover of one of its September issues, while at US Vogue, Beyoncé was given complete creative control over her cover issue. The singer selected 23-year-old photographer Tyler Mitchell to shoot her cover story, making the New York native the first black photographer to shoot a Vogue cover in the magazine’s 126-year history. Beyoncé also narrated an essay for the issue.

The widespread visibility of black women on this year’s September covers is both timely and necessary; ethically responsible and business-savvy. Not only should brands recognise their responsibility to embrace ethnic diversity across everything they do, they should also acknowledge the cultural influence and spending power of black women – who spend $54m on hair and beauty products in the US alone (Nielson, 2018).

This year’s September issues are a promising start for inclusion in the fashion industry, with US Vogue in particular embracing an inspiring framework that allows diverse groups of people to narrate and visualise their own identities. 

For more on this, see A Fashion A’woke’ning: Mainstreaming Inclusivity, Inclusive Beauty: On & Offline and Redressing Femininity: Reality

Published: 14 Aug 2018

3 Innovations in 3D Printing for Architecture

ETH Zurich aluminium facade

The symbiosis of technology and craft is triggering a surge in progressive uses for additive manufacturing. Here we round up three concepts in which the capabilities of 3D printing are being pioneered to realise new possibilities in architecture.

  • Sand Moulds: Researchers at ETH Zurich University have developed a quick and affordable method to produce highly complex and bespoke architectural parts, using 3D-printed sand moulds.

    The team has produced an intricate, 6m-high custom facade from cast molten aluminium, and has fabricated the formwork for an innovative, concrete ceiling. The technology allows lightweight structures to be produced as a solid block without any extraneous material.

  • 3D Printing for Facades: New York-based studio EDG has devised a cost-effective process for restoring and recreating ornamental features for historic buildings. The solution uses rendering software and 3D printing to produce plastic moulds for casting elements in concrete. It also opens up the possibility of creating affordable modern facades, which today are often considered an expensive luxury.

    3D printing is an important focus for the government in Dubai; its Dubai 3D Printing Strategy aims for at least 25% of every new building to be constructed using 3D printing by 2025. Dubai-based manufacturer Immensa Technology Labs has developed a patent-pending technique to align with the strategy. Its reusable and environmentally friendly moulds allow for concrete, cement and gypsum materials to be cast in patterned forms for building facades. 
  • Stable Structures: US start-up Branch Technology has produced a large, 3D-printed pavilion without the need for steel reinforcement. The geometric design is self-supporting thanks to its cellular 3D structure and the carbon-fibre-reinforced ABS plastic used.

Designers are also exploring digital fabrication techniques when working with wood – see Material Direction: Reframing Wood. For more material innovations for architecture, read CMF Industry View: Architecture & Spaces.

ETH Zurich concrete ceiling
ETH Zurich concrete ceiling
Branch Technology pavilion
Published: 14 Aug 2018

Google Goes Medical with Temperature-Tracking Earphones

Nick Fewings

Seventy-five per cent of Americans think that technology is important to health management (Accenture, 2018). Google thinks so too, as it patented a pair of "In-Ear Health Monitoring" earphones in July. By using a reward system to encourage daily readings, Google hopes to tackle global health concerns, one wearer at a time.

While wearers consume their usual audio content via smartphones, tablets and smartwatches, Google's new biometric earphones collect data such as their body temperature. To complete a reading, they simply need to listen for the duration of a temperature equalisation period – the time it takes for the device to take an accurate reading. Through frequent use, the information tracks the wearer's bodily norms.

The log of information has real potential for early detection of illnesses such as contagious diseases. For example, if the body were to show abnormal readings against the existing database, such as a higher body temperature, the wearer would be alerted to possible infection.

As 90% of current wearable health technology users are happy to share their device data with their doctor, this could enable swift diagnosis (Accenture, 2018). Early detection is key to survival rates during health epidemics such as the 2013-15 Ebola breakout, where diseases have protracted incubation periods (WHO, 2018).

The patent suggests that Google will include incentives such as access to media content, financial compensation and discounts to encourage users to record their body data regularly.

With consumers showing a growing interest in monitoring their health via wearable devices, brands should invest in innovative technologies and product interfaces to facilitate this demand. For more on health tech, see Wearable Technology Show.

Published: 10 Aug 2018

Biodegradable Coffee Cups Grown from Fruit

HyO Cups by Crème Studio

As big brands and retailers pledge against plastic, designers and researchers are persisting with sustainable and plant-based alternatives for single-use items. Brooklyn design studio Crème has turned to gourds (fleshy fruits with hard skin) to create an environmentally friendly solution to disposable coffee cups.

While existing paper versions are typically lined with polyethylene and cannot be recycled or composted, meaning excessive numbers end up in landfill, the HyO-Cups are 100% organic and biodegradable.

The studio looked to gourd containers for inspiration, which can be found all over the world. Traditionally used in many cultures as containers for liquids or medicines, they are often grown in earthen moulds to create different shapes and sizes. Once dried out, the fruit’s strong outer skin and fibrous inner flesh become watertight. 

To make a standardised vessel in the same vein, Crème developed custom 3D-printed moulds. The fruit is then grown inside, taking on the shape of a stackable, faceted cup or flask.

The production process currently takes around six months – from planting the fruit to drying out the shells; but the team claims the cups can be manufactured on a mass scale. It hopes that scaling up production and growing the gourds in a controlled, indoor environment will produce a more efficient and plentiful crop.

Laboratory-grown materials and solutions to our depleting sources is an important theme in our S/S 20 Materials Focus story Augmented Space. See Edible Kombucha Packaging and Crab Shells & Cellulose Offer Promising Plastic Alternative for further sustainable alternatives.

Published: 10 Aug 2018

Harth: Rental Furniture Platform Shaking up Luxury Retail


Spurred by a lack of resources and real estate, consumers are choosing to ditch home ownership in favour of subscription access to shared housing, communal offices, pooled transport and hired goods. Harth is a luxury rental service for designer homeware that’s shaking up retail to cater to transient, 21st-century lifestyles.

Harth connects users and brands with other users looking to decorate their home or event for a specific period of time. Users can make money renting out pieces that are in storage or not in use, while enabling others to dress up transitory spaces without committing to the full price or taking their belongings with them if they move.

Harth was founded by in-the-know creatives Henrietta Thompson, editor-at-large of Wallpaper* Magazine; and her husband Edward Padmore, an experienced corporate entrepreneur. The couple’s collective experience in the design industry promises to explore how the shared economy can best serve makers and clients, while advocating this system for the high-end market.

Still in the pre-launch phase, customers can sign up to Harth by filling out their details online and completing a short phone interview for security purposes. Once a member, users can choose from a catalogue of one-off vintage and new-range product, which is then installed by Harth’s logistics team.

Goods designed for shared environments are becoming more widely accepted, with co-living being acknowledged by influential furniture brands – see the communal sofas from Milan Design Week 2018. However, rental formats have been slow to infiltrate the luxury market. Brands need to embrace more fluid and forward-facing approaches to ownership to future-proof their services and win over sustainably conscious consumers.

Published: 9 Aug 2018

Eckhaus Latta Exhibition: The Future of Fashion Retail?

Possession: Eckhaus Latta

US design house Eckhaus Latta is the latest fashion brand to embrace museum-style engagement, as its shoppable exhibition revives the offline retail experience.

Showing at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, Possessed: Eckhaus Latta blurs the line between gift shop and exhibition – allowing attendees to peruse art, try on exclusive ready-to-wear pieces, and watch others do the same.

Everything wearable is for sale, with $3,250 knit sweaters, $75 socks and $24 tote bags alike bearing tags that read ‘Special Museum Exhibition Product’. Alongside them sit shop-themed art installations, like the dressing room curtains and clothing racks by New York-based artists Susan Cianciolo and Annabeth Marks, respectively.

The 360-degree retail atmosphere was key to the brand’s intentions, extending to a carefully researched soundtrack (available online) for a “pleasurable and comfortable experience” akin to an ideal shop floor.

Unlike archival and historic-style shopping exhibitions like Gucci Garden, Latta’s offering is entirely modern and more self-referential – not presenting fashion or retail as art, but instead curating the display to blur these lines altogether. See our Fashion Forecast S/S 20 trend Revive for further confirmations of fashion and art’s burgeoning crossover.

Published: 9 Aug 2018

Wieden & Kennedy Use AR to Make Vinyl Records Visual

Wieden & Kennedy's LAVA AR app

Media that appeals to more than three senses can increase brand impact and engagement by more than 70% (Martin Lindstrom, 2017). We're seeing an increase in multisensory campaigns that stimulate multiple senses – including this new initiative from Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam that brings the vinyl experience to life via augmented reality (AR).

Listeners can pull up the ad agency's AR app Lava, and view virtual moving 'sculptures' emerging from the record as it spins on the turntable. The first album to utilise the app is the debut from Dutch band Necessary Explosion. The sculptures react and adapt as you move around them, and the app also works with Spotify and Apple Music.

In a statement, Anita Fontaine and Geoffrey Lillemon, creative directors of W&K Amsterdam's Department of New Realities, described the app as "the future digital vinyl sleeve". They added: "We see this approach as a new emerging genre for lots of artists, one which can open up new possibilities for all kinds of AR music experiences."

Also launching this week is Electronauts, a virtual reality (VR) music production app from US firm Survios. The game throws users into a surreal virtual world where they can play specially designed instruments, and remix music curated by Norwegian super-producers Stargate. "Electronauts harnesses the power of VR to go inside of a song and feel completely in control of the music," said Nathan Burba, Survios co-founder and chief executive.

"This opens up for a totally new level of creative freedom and will inspire both seasoned artists and musicians as well as people with no musical training," added Stargate's Mikkel Eriksen.

For more on the power of immersive and interactive media experiences, see The Future of Television and Cannes Lions: Make the Invisible Visible. Look out for our upcoming series of Sensory Branding reports for an in-depth look at multisensory design and branding.