Within a broader movement known as "full-sensory branding," the practice of scent marketing -- using specially formulated fragrances to make you buy unrelated products and services -- is on the rise. Smell, it is said, has an unrivaled power to evoke emotion, and this power can be harnessed to boost sales.
Hundreds of companies already set your mood with piped-in aromas, in everything from real estate show rooms to shoe stores. Advertising Age named the practice one of the top 10 trends to watch in 2007. ScentAir, a producer of aroma-marketing systems, stated their business quadrupled between 2005 and 2006.
But why use scent?
Because companies have realized that to stay competitive, and be successful in an advertisement-crammed world where consumers are bombarded with sights and sounds, other avenues must be tapped. "Fragrance is the only thing left," says Harald Vogt, founder of the Scent Marketing Institute. "You cannot turn off your nose. You have to breathe."
So, with between $50 million to $80 million being spent on scent marketing in 2006 alone, does it really work?
According to researchers, yes. According to Martin Lindstrom, author of "Brand Sense," the bible of full-sensory marketing, "People will make quicker decisions, be willing to pay more, and most likely be so emotionally engaged that they are removed from the rational part of their behavior."
There are hurdles however, as one man’s scent is another man’s nuisance. Scent preferences are not only gender biased, there are also cultural and generational preferences -- there is no such thing as a universally admired scent. Additionally, people often form negative associations to smells more easily than positive ones.
Another problem is the possibility of scent overload, similar to noise pollution. And smells might downright torture people with chemical sensitivities, for example. This is not a deterrent for many businesses though, who want to appeal not just to your mind, but also to your emotions, psyche, heart and soul, in an effort to make you buy, buy, buy.
New York Times September 9, 2007