Multisensory Med Ed Experiences
Trying to catch the eye of busy HCPs? Maybe it’s time to consider how to appeal to their sense of hearing, smell, taste, and touch, too. A multisensory experience, one that engages several senses at once, can help bring your message to life and create a more lasting impression with HCPs.
Think of it like Wonka Vision from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Wonka Vision could teleport a candy bar straight to a TV set, where viewers could just reach out and take a bite. Not only could you the Wonka chocolate bar—you could taste it! Of course, Wonka Vision is make-believe. But what if your messaging could create that same sense of wonder in real life? Actually, it can.
A multisensory experience doesn’t have to be complicated or the stuff of fantasy or science fiction to be memorable. Really, multisensory marketing experiences are as old as the first open-air markets—that roasted turkey leg looks great, but the smell makes it irresistible.
What makes multisensory experiences memorable?
Human beings are wired for multisensory experiences. We use all our senses to take in and learn about the world around us. That’s probably why multisensory learning is known to improve memory performance.1 Think of your own experience. At one time or another, a sight, sound, or smell has probably triggered a memory for you. A song brings you back to a high school dance. A warm breeze conjures up last year’s trip to the beach. Or, maybe, the sweet smell of pineapple reminds you of your favorite Disney treat. In fact, there’s a rather bustling niche market for candles that smell like amusement park rides, foods, and attractions.2, 3
Multisensory learning even extends to fruit flies. Recently, scientists published findings in Nature that show how “multisensory learning binds neurons in a cross-modal engram” in the brains of fruit flies (Drosophila). In other words, multisensory learning changed their brains. In addition, these scientists reported that “combining colors and odors improved memory performance.”1
How can this anecdotal and scientific evidence of the effectiveness of multisensory experiences apply to your own very practical marketing and medical education needs?
Taking a cue from the five senses, here are five multisensory examples to inspire you:
1. “Having the Talk” sandpaper program guide
Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), an often-overlooked disease, creates discomfort for both patients and physicians due to the topic’s sensitivity. As part of a disease state campaign to help our client raise awareness around HSDD, we organized a live medical presentation, featuring a patient speaker and four opinion leaders. We also created an accompanying program brochure that included a panel made of rough grit sandpaper to help illustrate the patient’s story when describing how painful sex was due to her HSDD. Not only did the audience hear about the patient’s story, but they could also gain a greater understanding of what she experienced.
2. “The Most Beautiful Sound”
“You have cancer.” No one ever wants to hear those three words. But what if you could turn those words around? What if patients with cancer could instead hear a precise proof of hope? “The Most Beautiful Sound” by the American Society of Clinical Oncology does exactly that, capturing the sounds of cancer cells being destroyed—apoptosis. Then, those sounds were played for patients, who were filmed listening to them. Employing breakthrough research at the Harvard Medical School Wellman Center for Photomedicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, and created by Grey, New York, “The Most Beautiful Sound” was the 2023 Clio Health Gold winner and a 2023 Health and Wellness/Pharma Gold Lion winner at Cannes.
3. “Close the Gap: The brain game with impact”
Name the game show that shows how clinicians can close the treatment gap for patients with migraine. If you answered, “What is ‘Close the Gap’?”, you’re correct! Taking place at the 2022 Scottsdale Headache Symposium, this Jeopardy-inspired educational session employed the lights, sights, sound effects, and dialog of a traditional game show. Produced for a client by Avant Healthcare, this program pulled out all the stops in theatricality to create a dynamic and immersive in-person educational experience.
4. “Crescendo” art and music installation
Picture an upright piano sitting at a base of a tree in a busy downtown street. Long columns of light dangle from the tree’s branches, like brightly colored earrings. When anyone sits down at the piano to play a song, or just hit a few keys, the lights change color with the music, creating a magical multisensory experience of sound, light, color. That was “Crescendo" by Kyle Eli Ebersole and Ian Molitors, one of 30 light and performance installations at BLINK 2022. Taking place in Cincinnati, about every two years, BLINK is the “nation’s largest light, art and projection mapping experience.” While “Crescendo” is purely an artistic installation, imagine how a medical education platform that invites the audience to explore and create their own multisensory experience could create a memorable and captivating learning opportunity.
5. Multisensory Immersive Room
Does an energy bar taste better if you’re standing in a cool, shady forest or a sunny, suburban park? At the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of California, Davis, researchers can now find out with just a few taps on a tablet. The Multisensory Immersive Room is outfitted with multiple video projectors to create 360° backdrop of different environments, as well as heat lamps, misters, fans, speakers, and “a mechanism for releasing scents.” Using the tablet, researchers can quickly adjust the room environment. By testing out consumer preferences in settings that are closer to real life, they hope to gather more accurate data than they could in a typical lab setting.
Using the senses to engage HCPs? It’s only human.
Delighting in the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures of the world is a human experience shared by us all—from young children to highly educated and experienced HCPs. So, the next time you want to engage your HCP audience, consider creating a multisensory experience. By engaging the senses—whether that’s through the sounds of a cancer cell dying or the lights, buzzers, and audience participation of a game show—you can bring key scientific insights to life on a whole new and highly memorable level.
Make a multisensory impression with your HCPs with help from Avant Healthcare.
- Okray, Z., Jacob, P.F., Stern, C. et al. Multisensory learning binds neurons into a cross-modal memory engram. Nature 617, 777–784 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-023-06013-8 (accessed September 6, 2023).
- Elizabeth Gulino, “These Candles Were Inspired by All of the Disney Parks, And They Smell Magical,” House Beautiful, September 30, 2019, https://www.housebeautiful.com/shopping/g29305035/magic-candle-company-disney-inspired-candles/ (accessed September 6, 2023).
- Andrew Stillwell, “Recreating Theme Park Scents with ETscent,” Coaster101, October 16, 2019, https://www.coaster101.com/2019/10/16/recreating-theme-park-scents-with-etscent/ (accessed September 6, 2023).