Scented Pens And Other Bad Ideas

kid with stationary

Keith recently wrote about the use of scent in marketing, and I had an immediate flashback to a moment of shock I had in front of a bargain bin at a store years ago. They were selling scented glue and scented pens. To kids. Because someone thought it would be a good idea to market huffing to kids. Remember huffing? Aka sniffing glue and other inhalants. While not popular with the modern day middle class, it’s still a popular way to get high with homeless youth, and can cause sudden heart failure. Sure, scented pens are supposed to be enjoyed wafted, but children are stupid. Ask any parent. I mean, we live in the Tide Pod generation, with eight recorded deaths since 2012, and counting.

Image result for scentos
Scentos sell a variety of scented pens, glues, and more, targeted to kids

I hate to be that guy, but dangerous products is kind of my thing. I even lecture on it. It’s fun to look at products from eras gone by that were terrible, like those radioactive childrens’ chemistry kits*, lead-based paints, and highly flammable dolls. It’s also important that we both criticize and legislate.

Mr Sketch Scented Pens
Crayola's Doodle Scents
Crayola’s Doodle Scents and Mr Sketch admittedly have *really* delicious looking food on their packaging.

While not exactly a priority issue, I think failure to ban these products is a failure of government product safety departments, and I’d love to learn their rationale for allowing these on the market. Has a child died from these? Not from what I can tell. Is this product still a stupid idea? I think so.

Do you agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments.

To be clear (no pun), I think activities with kids where you make your own scented glue are fine, because responsible parents are likely to explain to kids this glue is safe to smell, but most others are not.

I think DIY Scented Glues are probably fine because I think parents are likely to explain to children that most glues and pens are dangerous to sniff.

There is just one thing I don’t get though. Scented pens etc are absolutely something that would sell exceedingly well to children, and Scentos’ wide product range is a testament to that. But they also seem to be targeting adult women with “Therapeutic Scents.” That surprised me. I would have never thought scented stationery would be marketed as aromatherapy.

* Radioactive chemistry kits were discontinued not because they were a safety hazard. Rather uranium dust and a Geiger counter were boring compared to the exciting caustic, flammable and explosive chemicals of the main kits…which in turned burned, blinded and killed kids.

What do you think?

Written by David Frank

David Frank is a Seattle-based marketer, writer (co-founder of Good/Bad Marketing) and public speaker. Originally from Perth, Western Australia, he has also lived in the UK, Japan and Vietnam. He has a Master of Science in Marketing degree from Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland.

He tours talks on marketing for the general public. His current talks are:
- Dangerous Products: The History and Present of Products NOT Safe to Consume
- Sensory Marketing and the Subtle Science of Packaging
- Sex, Love & Marketing: How To Market Yourself On Online Dating Sites​
- How to Market Tobacco (Despite Those Pesky Advertising Bans)
Learn more at

In his spare time, David is an avid gardener.

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