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Get a Whiff of This: Research Proves Marketing With Scent Increases Sales

By editorial staff, writer
Jun 17, 2015
Image Credit: Monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images
> Marketing

What does your brand smell Llke?

Yes, you read that right—not look like, smell like.

Because according to Scent World, research shows that marketing that employs a sense of smell is exponentially more effective than mere visual presentation (but don’t tell that to a graphic artist).

It’s not that the things we buy need to be scented, necessarily, but that environment associated with them should be. uthor of "Predictably Irrational," Dan Ariely, discovers that "to a large degree, we get tempted not by the smell of the object, but the smell of the place more generally—things like the atmosphere."

What Does Your Brand Smell Like; Scent World

Image via Scent World

Salon reports a study that found gamblers spend 45 percent more when there was a floral scent in the casino than when there wasn’t. Another found a pleasant scent cause shoppers to spend more on sleepwear. Four hundred consumers surveyed after shopping in a Nike store reported that a “pleasant ambient scent” improved their evaluation not only of the store and its products, but the likelihood they would shop there again, according to research conducted by the International Journal of Marketing Studies.

Lightspeed reports a German study in which the smell of freshly cut grass was diffused throughout parts of a large home improvement store—shoppers in the scented environmental viewed employees as more knowledgeable than those in the non-scented part of the store. Another study in Sweden found that a point-of-sale display of shampoo that emitted a pleasing odor increased sales at that location by 36.9 percent, while overall store shampoo sales jumped by almost 27 percent.

Related Article: 6 Out of the Box Marketing Ideas for 2015

Keep Smelling Simple

One caveat: for a smell to successfully stimulate the buying impulse, it has to correspond not just with the product, but the general surroundings. Bus stop ads scented with chocolate cookie chip aroma as part of a “Got Milk?” campaign so failed to register with consumer that the ads were taken down after a day. While milk and cookies is a natural association, the smell of baked goods in at a bus stop wasn’t, and unfamiliar smells, even those of cookies, are judged unpleasant in unexpected and unfamiliar surroundings.

Got Milk? Marketing Campaign, Cookie Scent

Image via SF Gate

Also, the scent should be simple. A study jointly conducted by Washington State University and Switzerland’s University of St. Gallen concluded that basic smells are best to get people into a “shopping state of mind.” More sales happened when shoppers were exposed to a simple orange scent than when they were exposed to a complex orange-basil and green tea aroma. The thinking is that a simple scent is easier for our brains to process, so people focus more on shopping.

You should also keep the number of scents to a minimum. If you’ve got a large retail space, it might be okay to have the smell of, say, flowers in one part of the store and bathing powder in another. But in a small boutique location, the conflicting smells would fight one another, causing consumers to get irritated.

Related Article: Don't Believe Everything You've Been Told About Marketing

The Nose Knows

Smell is one of the most unique human senses. Small Business Trends reports the scent marketing industry’s view that because scent goes directly to the brain’s limbic system, thus bypassing all cognitive and logical thought processes, smell instantly connects to our emotional and memory centers. The effect is instant.

As one “atmospherics” store designer puts it, the idea is to use smell to create an unforgettable experience that creates an emotional connection so consumers are more prone to buy and to return—but to avoid overwhelming them with sensory overload.

It’s like applying cologne or aftershave. A little dab will do you and your brand well. But overdoing makes customers think you stink.

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