The Use of Scent in Marketing

woman holding beaker

Different scents can evoke different emotions in people and marketers know it and will use it to manipulate you into buying stuff.

It is said that you are able to remember certain emotions much faster by smell than you can with other senses such as sight or touch.

For example, your own home grows to have a distinct smell that can make you feel at home the moment you arrive. Some scents might remind you of elements of your childhood, such as the musty school auditorium or the scent of your grandmother’s cooking or a perfume your mum used to wear.

Scent as as visual merchandising technique

I know you don’t see scent, but it can be powerful tool when used in conjunction with other visual merchandising techniques for retail stores.

When thinking about instances of this being put into practice, the first thing that springs to my mind is a chain of stores that doesn’t exist anymore, but made such an impact on my nose I can’t help but think of it. Although Daryl Lea’s retail stores are now gone, I will always smell their stores in my nasal memory.

Daryl Lea Retail Stores

If you’re not familiar with Daryl Lea, they are an exceptionally good Australian confectionary company best known for their liquorice. They used to have their own retail stores up until 2012, but luckily you can still buy their products in supermarkets and department stores.

Their brick and mortar retail stores used an oil burner of aniseed oil that could smelled from metres away from their entrance making it impossible to walk by without noticing and getting lured in.

Oil-based ambient oil diffusers can cover areas up to 5,000 cubic metres of oxygen, making it a great way to get your signature smell noticed and remembered.

Scent in Cinemas

We all know cinemas make most of their money from the concession stand rather than the actual sale of movie tickets, so it’s no surprise they ensure the place smells like their product with the greatest profit margins. Yes, they sell hotdogs and lots of other things, but they make sure the lobby doesn’t smell like hotdogs.

Scent Marketing in Real Estate

Some real estate agents will go to great lengths to make the home they are showing is as inviting as possible. This might include using scented candles or sprays to make the kitchen smell like cookies or baked bread. It can also be used to cover up cooking smells of current or former tenants that have been baked into the walls of the property. Or perhaps to cover up the smell of dampness in older, badly built properties.

I actually used to work for a major real estate website in Australia for several years and the most popular agent gift we ever gave away to our customers was a deodoriser spray for their inspections. They loved it.

Scratch and Sniff

Prior to the internet, magazines were infinitely more popular than they are now and advertisers would love to insert interesting gimmicks into them. From 3D glasses for viewing a particular advertisement or segment of the magazine to holographic print or lenticular moving photos, they tried everything. One that was always fun and exciting was scratch and sniff perfume samples.

While this has waned in popularity since the 80s, as a kid these were fascinating to me, even though I was clearly not the intended audience. I can imagine how this could have been a good way to make people order something out of a catalogue by either mail or telephone.

Scented Stationery

Whenever I think of this, I think of the scene in Hannibal where the titular character sends a scented letter. Why isn’t this more common? Just think of the branding possibilities. (And please try to forget that Hannibal did it first.)

According to sensory marketing expert, former employee at American stationer chain Paper Source , and fellow writer on this site David Frank, scented paper is not sold due to the obvious fact that it will lose potency quickly. While not scalable, you can scent a letter at home by various methods.

Also, who thought scented glue and scented pens for kids were a good idea?


Negative Retail Experiences with Scent

I hate the smell of fish and seafood. It makes me sick. Whenever I’m at a shopping centre or market that has fish stalls, the overpowering smell of fish can make me rush past that area. This is unfortunate for nearby stores that I never want to check out. This is probably great for the fish shop itself, I suppose other people who like fish probably respond well to this, but I don’t think this is a deliberate strategy by the stalls and shops, but a by product of their stinky produce.


What do you think?

Written by Keith Nallawalla

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