Smells like retail

Photo by Flickr user misteraitch. Click for sourceBusiness Week has a fascinating article on the rise of ‘ambient scenting’ – a type of smell-based marketing used in High Street stores to alter the buying behaviour of shoppers.

There is now a small but determined scientific literature on the effect of scents on consumer behaviour. These studies have found, for example, that a well-chosen perfume can increase people’s liking of products, improve memory for aspects of the product, and when combined with similarly evocative music, can boost sales.

Interestingly, many studies suggest that shop scents seem to work well when they match the theme of the display but have a lesser or absent effect when the smell clashes with the product (and there’s been one study which found no effect at all).

In spite of the relatively small number of studies, the Business Week article charts how ‘scent branding’ has become big business with companies already offering to blend scents specifically for your store or product.

No longer confined to lingerie stores, ambient scenting became standard practice in casinos in the early 2000s and invaded the hospitality sector soon thereafter. Sheraton Hotels & Resorts employs Welcoming Warmth, a mix of fig, jasmine, and freesia. Westin Hotel & Resorts disperses White Tea, which attempts to provide the indefinable “Zen-retreat” experience. (Despite its abstraction, the line was successful enough to inspire Westin’s 2009 line of White Tea candles.) Marriott offers different smells for its airport, suburban, and resort properties. The Mandarin Oriental Miami sprays Meeting Sense in conference rooms in an effort, it claims, to enhance productivity. In the mornings, the scent combines orange blossom and “tangy effervescent zest.” In the afternoon, executives work away while sniffing “an infusion of Mediterranean citrus, fruit, and herbs.”

Scent branding is becoming just as prevalent in retail. Researchers believe that ambient scenting allows consumers to make a deeper brand connection, and data has led many other non-scent-related companies to join the fray. Recently, Gaurin, 41, helped create a fragrance for Samsung’s stores, which has been cited throughout the industry as a milestone in scent as design. He claims the research, which IFF declined to provide on account of contractual agreements, showed that not only did customers under the subtle influence of his creation spend an average of 20 to 30 percent more time mingling among the electronics, but they also identified the scent‚Äîand by extension, the brand‚Äîwith characteristics such as innovation and excellence.

Although this is touted as a relatively new innovation, more obvious applications of the ‘scent sells’ approach have been used on the High Street for some years.

For example, I notice sandwich chain Subway have designed their bread ovens so they vent the smell of freshly baked bread directly to the pavement so passers-by get an olfactory advert as they walk past the front door.

Link to Business Week piece on ‘Scent Branding’.

One Comment

  1. rita
    Posted June 22, 2010 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    The husband of a friend does this stuff – on his authority I have it that every car manufacturer has patented its own, distinctive “new car” smell, which people then associate with their new **** brand car, strengthening brand loyalty……

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