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Scent of a $ : The sense of scents to make cents


Smell of freshly brewed coffee. Soothing lavender. Freshly baked bread. mocha latte A macho cologne. I think we all know we fall for specific smells and buy impulsively. I can totally relate and agree the aroma of a product wafting on the breeze definitely entices me to buy it even if I wasn’t planning to before.  Have you felt like having a pastry soon after your nose buds were tickled by vapors coming off a fresh batch just out of the oven? Yes. Great, me too! In fact just writing about this is making me want one!  Have you ever felt like buying more pizza after you smelt lavender? Umm… come again? You might be tempted to say – “what nonsense”… but apparently you do buy more pizza when you smell lavender and gamble more when you smell citrus….

What we know.

We know that grocery stores use the smell of freshly baked goods to attract more hungry customers! [On a side note: Have you ever noticed the grocery stores smells like fresh bread even if there is no fresh bread available?] Almost every real estate agent sprays some kind of a good perfume before staging the house… But I didn’t realize there is a whole marketing strategy that is based on the ambient smell – scent marketing. Should have known… Marketers already use smell to sell things, why not use the aromas that make you more conducive buyers to sell you goods in general? Great strategy don’t you think?

What might surprise us?

Won’t believe me? Here are some of the interesting anecdotes/studies about  smell and consumer behavior:

  1. 20% Increased spending in the Pizzeria and bar. A study was conducted in a pizzeria situated in a small town of Brittany in France. 3 week study, first week no smells, second week smell of lemon was diffused and the third week, lavender. People spent more, both money and time, during the second and third weeks. The third week’s increase in sales was statistically significant 20%. Not bad for a small electric diffuser don’t you think? [Link to the study]
  2. Ambient aromas also affect gamblers’ behavior. The study was conducted by Hirsch, A., in 1995. During one weekend a slot-machine area in a Las Vegas Casino was odorized. The amount of money gambled in this area was compared to the amount of money gambled in the same area before and after odorization. The results showed that during the experimental weekend, the amount of money gambled was greater by an average of 45.1% compared to the weekend before and the weekend after the diffusion of the aroma. [Ref: Effects of ambient odors on slot-machine usage in a Las Vegas casino. Psychology and Marketing 12]
  3. Increased time at the jewelry counter. Knasko (1989) showed that ambient aroma had a positive impact on the duration of time spent by consumers at a jewelry counter. [ Ref: Ambient odor and shopping behavior. Chemical Senses 14 (5), 719]
  4. Scent Branding of unfamiliar items : Morrin and Ratneshar (2000) found that a pleasant ambient scent (geranium scent) improved brand evaluations especially for unfamiliar brands. These researchers also found that ambient scent increased recall of unfamiliar brand names. [Ref: The impact of ambient scent on evaluation, attention, and memory for familiar and unfamiliar brands. Journal of Business Research 49, 157–165]
  5. You will feel very helpful when something smells good :) People in a region of a mall with pleasant food odors (pastry, coffee shop) were more willing to accept a request for change from a stranger than persons in a zone with neutral odors (clothing shops, etc.). [Link]
  6. Hotels and other big stores have their own smell. Westin hotels waft a blend of green tea, geranium and black cedar into lobbies; Sheraton smells like jasmine, clove and fig. For Jimmy Choo stores it is cardamom & ivy, while Thomas Pink went with fresh linen. Bloomingdale, Abercrombie… all of them have their signature smells.
  7. Like your “new car” smell? You don’t know what you are smelling but it is not related to the car. Cadillac, for instance, wanting to ensure that its models smell not just like any generic new car, infuses interiors with a custom scent called Nuance. I will skip buying a new car and spray my old car with this Nuance.  Saves me a hugh chunk of money!
  8. Younger people are more influenced by smell than older folks.

Here are the Top 10 scents used in marketing compiled by Scent Marketing Institute

Different Fragrance what they mean

What is the problem?

  • We are not buying the product we are smelling. The product they are selling has no intrinsic odor. So stimulating our senses to relax and make consumers spend more sounds manipulative. I don’t know about the ethics of the practice but it sounds like a good strategy though.
  • Consumers cannot control it. I mean if you don’t want to tempt yourself into buying a diamond don’t look at it. But you can’t leave your nose at home, can you? Also the sense of smell is unfiltered. The other senses you think before concluding, but when you smell something you think after the smell has influenced you.
  • Allergies, allergies and more allergies. Some of these scents are over powering to the point that I feel annoyed going into the store. Not everyone is comfortable will all the scents.

Some of these we already know, some of them not; some are good for us and some feel manipulative. Our senses give us the most valuable information we need to choose anything in life. We touch our clothing to see how it feels, we want our food to smell good, we want our jewelry to look nice, we like hearing about the good & bad of a specific product before buying, but it can also trick us into buying something that is not related to our senses.  What is life without some challenges? Lets enjoy stimulating our senses but use our intelligence and not just our emotions to make a purchase :) shall we?

[Note: I have not started selling mochas on my website. I am conducting a new marketing experiment to see whether by posting nice pictures I can make people come back often ;)]

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