For many years, businesses have employed sensory branding to enhance the shopping experience, increase brand awareness, and ultimately influence shoppers to purchase. Sensory experiences such as music, in-store ad messages and digital signage with stunning and attention-grabbing visuals have dominated the market. Now the new frontier: Scent Marketing. 

Our sense of smell triggers the most powerful sensory recall out of all five senses. We’re able to recall smells with an impressive 65% accuracy a year after smelling them, compared to just 50% of visuals after only three months. Numbers like these demonstrate why it’s all the more important to use this additional sensory tool when trying to engage and connect with customers. 


Smell affects our emotions

We all know that smell can affect our feelings, whether it’s a loved one’s favorite perfume or the smell of a pastry in our favorite bakery. Smell is becoming an increasing area of focus for marketers. Realtors have been using scent for many years by filling model homes and open houses with the scent of freshly baked bread or coffee to create a homely feel for potential buyers. 

Smell can have a number of uses in retail, hotels and offices, by creating a positive ambiance and an added connection with the customer. In a world where visual and aural stimuli have been exploited to the max, businesses should be aware of how to capture the power of scent to influence customer behavior and create an enhanced experience. 

When you first perceive a scent, you connect it to an event, person or object. When you smell the scent again, it often triggers a memory in the form of a conditioned response. Incredibly, it is believed that 75% of the emotions we generate on a daily basis are affected by smell, and no two people experience a scent in the same way – making this sense a very personal one. 

Research indicates that 40% of customers stay longer in pleasantly scented environments, and the longer people stay, the more likely they are to make a purchase or form a connection with a brand.

Simply put, scent should be branded to fit your business.

Various scents can encourage different behaviors and emotions and it is worth taking the time to carefully choose the right scent for your business, depending on what you want to achieve. Fresh, crisp, citrus scents such as mandarin, work well in office environments and fitness centers, as they create an invigorating and energetic atmosphere. On the other hand, smells such as leather are bold and mature in nature and work well in more sophisticated environments. 

Also popular are fruity fragrances, such as apple and pomegranate, as they create a youthful and uplifting vibe, befitting casinos and hotel lobbies.

Even though there are hundreds of scents available, having a bespoke scent for your brand is recommended. A signature scent can take weeks of consultation, design and testing to get right, and specialists work hard to create the right smell for the brand. But the benefit of creating something new is that the association with the brand will be even more unique.

Scent marketing makes good financial sense. According to research by Eric Spangenberg, Dean of the Washington State University College of Business, an experiment within a retail environment showed that a group of approximately 100 people who had shopped in the presence of a simple scent typically spent 20% more money and bought more items. 

Fifteen seconds is all it takes for a customer to decide whether they stay in a store or not, so it’s vital that a scent attract and entice customers in that short period of time. Separate research also found that in an environment scented with a relevant fragrance, every single person questioned estimated the value of a pair of shoes to be more than $5 higher than their actual value.

Experiments have also been carried out in casinos on cruise ships to directly gauge the effect of scent on spend. In a 2006 study by Holland America Cruise Lines, two identical cruise ships, one scented and one non-scented, were measured on the amount of money that was spent in the casino and at the bar. The scented ship showed an increase in the bar spend of 17.5%, while spend in the casino increased by 8%.


Use Scent to create a certain mood

The use of scent is also instrumental in hotels. Frequent travelers often cite the smell of a hotel as being associated with “home.” Hotels like the MontCalm in London, have taken scent marketing a step further by launching a personal scent offering in each of their guest bedrooms. Guests are able to choose an aroma for their room from a “scent menu,” which includes Saw Grass, Lotus Flower and Marine Fresh.

Hotel Bloom! has gone one step further still by using scent at the core of its offering to differentiate itself as a modern hotel where every room is decorated with a unique feel. The hotel’s tagline is “Stay away from the ordinary” as they wanted to provide a full sensory experience across all public areas of the hotel using the bespoke scent BLOOM! 

In today’s competitive climate, the retail and hospitality sectors need to work even harder to drive customer satisfaction and encourage spending. Scent marketing is an excellent tool to help businesses achieve this objective, and should be considered alongside music and digital signage as an effective and subtle way of enhancing the customer experience.  

It’s no mystery that scent and sensory marketing have the potential to increase sales, boost brand loyalty, spur brand advocacy and create a strong lasting emotional connection with customers. Customer experience goes far beyond simply what meets the eye, or the ear, so try and create a lasting impression for your customers which appeals to all of their senses.


Click HERE to learn more about how to leverage the power of scent marketing at your business or contact us today!

Some excerpts above from Ambius and Prolitec, two of the world’s leading sensory branding providers of Scent Marketing.

– Submitted by Jeff Sheerin, Marketing