Research

Businesses use a lot of techniques to convince customers to buy their products or services, but these techniques are commonly unbeknownst to the buyer.  This has been made apparent with marketing that most of us know, like subliminal messaging.  Now marketing has gone to whole new levels with scents and they may use many different kinds of scents and smells to get in a consumer’s mind.  These smells awaken memories and create new ones associated with the business.  From the use of smells, consumers get a positive subliminal message that excites the brain making customers happy with the product that they are being subjected to.  The hidden scents are put into the consumer’s noses in many different ways and continue to please customers unexpectedly.  These revolutionary marketing techniques are. happening under our noses.

When a customer first walks into a Subway, their sense of smell kicks in right after opening the door and they get a good whiff of fresh bread.  That fresh bread smell is not coming from behind the glass or from their oven, but rather pumped into the store through its ventilation system.  This is the use of a Primary Product Attribute which is when companies bring ambient scents in a room (Krishna 76).  This is one of the main reasons why customers are more willing to purchase the products and puts the store, say Subway, in a better reputation to its customers.  Another idea that marketers use a lot is Secondary Product Attribute which is the use of a fragrance to help customers associate a smell with a product.  A good example of this is when the California Milk Producer Board put in the smell of chocolate chip cookies at a bus stop with a Got Milk ad.  Marketing teams go through a lot of lengths to put a smell down our noses with other strategies like with the partnership of Omni Hotels and Starbucks.  The two worked together to put the scent of blueberry muffins in the hotel patron's newspapers to encourage them to visit the Starbucks in the downstairs lobby, which of course sold blueberry muffins.  Nowadays even junk mail can have a special seal to release a smell once opened, this easily catching the reader's attention right away (Krishna 76).

If a scent goes with a good memory than that scent whenever brought up again brings a good mood.  The attachment with smell and memory can last a very long time.  Jane Sutton shows in her work some of the science that is behind our actions as customers: “Aromas stimulate the amygdala, which is also the emotional center of the brain. Once an odor is connected with an emotional experience, it can elicit that emotion later, which can in turn affect behavior...” (Sutton_Scent Makers).  This is widely known to marketers and they make good use of this, and studies have shown that the pleasant smells in the environment can lead to increasing revenues.  The success of smells are also seen in clothing stores, convenient stores, and even concert tours; the marketing can uses non-food smells as well in their stores.  With the use of pleasant smells shoppers will spend more time browsing and buying.  As seen in Aradhna Krishna’s research, “In a field study, Gueguen and Petr (2006) found that the scent of lavender (but not lemon) increased actual time spent in a pizzeria by about 15% compared to an unscented control group”(Krishna 81).  The scents in stores work mainly for the unplanned purchasers and leave with more items than those who know what they are purchasing.  While it is great for businesses to use senses in marketing it is not a good idea to use more than one sense.  Studies show that pleasant music and pleasant smells are no where near as effective than just one of the two.  Too much stimulus somehow brings an outcome unexpected and is still under research.

The grand slam of scent marketing is during the Holidays.  Christmas marketing feeds on the idea of scent marketing knowing the joy that people get out of Christmas and the many smells that are associated with that joy.  Pine trees, gingerbread, wood burning, sugar cookies all present during the Holiday preparations(Smith_Want to Increase).  With all of the smells that we remember experiencing and loving from times during the holidays, it brings a joy and a happy moment in our brains like a drug.   

So what about the marketers point of view?  What big decisions, risks, and budgets do they deal with? While most of the works of ventilation system is unknown and secretive, a few things we do know of.  Initially the practice was flimsy at best and expensive to get a hold of but currently the average retailer can afford to have it installed.  The upkeep for a regular system of ambient scent marketing is about $100 a month but can be a lot more expensive depending on the spaces it is spreading scents.  These can be as large as casinos and hotels (Interestingly these two use the tech for masking cigarette and cigar smoke) so the price can be high up there but the payoff is worth it for the businesses.  Some risks that can come from scent marketing is accidentally creating the opposite effect on customers, this is unexpected bad smells that would send the customers outside rather than in.  Larry Mogelansky describes why bad smells cause the opposite effect: “Just as pleasant aromas can relax and rejuvenate, bad smells can ignite the fear and danger centers in a person’s brain, causing discomfort and chagrin...”(Mogelansky_Ambient Scent).  This is seen in McDonald’s amongst the European countries when they get the smell that they describe as “stale oil” in their restaurants which pale in comparison to their competitor “Burger King [which] consistently outperformed McDonald’s” in terms of ambient scents (Dooley_Does Your Marketing).  The second risk that might affect customers sourly is using a heavy chemical artificial scent that people are sensitive to.   In these cases it might be a better idea to stick with good music rather than a disturbing scent (Smith_Want to Increase).

While scent marketing is one of the techniques marketers use on customers it isn’t the only sense they use.  Use of scent however is very unknown to consumers and that is why companies love it, they can promote sell and be appreciated without consumers fully being aware of it.  The technique is still and has always been used professionally in the last decade and is further understood in our society.  Who knows what it can accomplish in the future, for we only started using this frequently in the 20th century.  The whole idea still is being worked out and a lot of research yet to be discovered on the subject.  This is very important for my future because something that I’m considering for a career is to go into Food Marketing.  This type of Food Marketing is really interesting and has caught my attention earlier this semester.  That said though scent marketing will be fast growing and will be more effective in its future.  Although probably not for us at this point, by then our noses would have lost most of its olfactory nerves and we will be too old to fall into the smelly trap.  Those who are snared though have no idea that it is taking charge of their actions.




Works Cited

Dooley, Roger. "Does Your Marketing Smell?" Neuromarketing RSS. N.p., 30 July 2007. Web.

25 Oct. 2013.

Krishna, Aradhna. Sensory Marketing: Psychological Research for Consumers. Florence:

Routledge, 2009. Print.

Mogelonsky, Larry. "Ambient Scent Marketing Activates Olfactory." Ambient Scent Marketing

Activates Olfactory. N.p., 7 Feb. 2013. Web. 25 Oct. 2013.

Smith, Joel. "Want to Increase Retail Sales This Christmas? Keep It Simple (and Orange)."

Pacific Standard. N.p., 7 Dec. 2012. Web. 25 Oct. 2013.

Sutton, Jane. "Scent Makers Sweeten the Smell of Commerce." Reuters.Thomson Reuters,

19 Jan. 2011. Web. 25 Oct. 2013.