receives compensation from some of the companies listed on this page. Advertising Disclosure


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

Consumers are plagued with oversaturation of visual content. By adapting your marketing strategy to include scent, you can improve your ROI.

  • Sent marketing is a type of marketing that harnesses the emotional impact various scents and fragrances have on customers to trigger buying behaviors.
  • Studies have shown that marketing that incorporates a sense of smell are vastly more effective than those that do not.
  • In order for a smell to successfully stimulate people's buying impulses, it must correspond with the product.

What does your brand smell like?

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. Author of Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely, discovered 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."

Salon reports a study that found gamblers spend 45% more when there was a floral scent in the casino than when there wasn't. Another found a pleasant scent caused 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.

What is scent marketing?

For those who are yet unfamiliar with this concept, according to Aroma Tech, scent marketing is a form of marketing that involves using scents and fragrances to connect with customers on an emotional level. By harnessing the power of emotion that is linked to our sense of smell, scent marketing allows clients to create unique and memorable campaigns that are often highly effective in triggering buying behaviors in customers.

If you are interested in the benefits of scent marketing, according to Air Scent, some of them are as follows:

  • Improved brand recognition: One of the top benefits of using scent marketing is that it helps to improve brand recognition. This is because associating a pleasant scent with your brand can serve as an aromatic calling card to your customers. For instance, the flame-grilled aroma that emanates from Burger King Restaurants can be considered a well-known method of scent marketing.

  • Improve the guest experience: Another great benefit of scent marketing is that it can improve the experiences of your customers. For instance, companies such as Bath & Body Works sell many signature fragrances. They are known for burning candles and spraying different fragrances in the air as a means of attracting new and existing customers.

  • Make your brand memorable: Yet another great benefit of using scent marketing is that it can help make your brand more memorable. This is because your sense of smell is strongly tied to your sense of memory. Therefore, your customers will smell things that are reminiscent of the signature fragrances of your brand and they will immediately remember your brand.

  • Extend your selling window: Lastly, using scent marketing allows companies to extend the length of time they have to sell to customers. This is because customers tend to linger longer in areas in which they are smelling a pleasant scent.

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 failed to register with consumers, and the ads were taken down after a day. While milk and cookies is a natural association, the smell of baked goods at a bus stop wasn't, and unfamiliar smells, even those of cookies, are judged unpleasant in unexpected and unfamiliar surroundings.

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 alright 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.

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 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.

Image Credit: VLG / Getty Images editorial staff editorial staff Member
The purpose of our community is to connect small business owners with experienced industry experts who can address their questions, offer direction, and share best practices.