The Competitive Advantage of Scent Marketing

In a time where technology and new lines of consumer-centric communication are so readily available to companies, businesses still struggle to set themselves apart from the competition.

In the 21st century, focusing on product or service and a competitive pricing is simply not enough.

That’s why businesses have to look for alternative branding-methods.

In order to stand out from the competition we have to focus on branding through association. This can most effectively be achieved through appealing to our emotions, through our senses. More precisely, through scent.

Olfactive Persuasion

You might be asking: Why scent? And why not just music or visual cues?

Because our sense of smell is the only sense that has a direct and immediate effect on our emotions. In fact, physiologically our sense of smell is the only sense directly connected to our limbic system, which controls our emotions.

This physiological phenomenon has led Anick Bosmans, Psychologist at the University of Ghent, to found the “Research Centre for Consumer Psychology and Marketing”. There she has conducted numerous studies on the effect of added scents on consumer behavior.

Besides that, you can not “choose” to not smell something. You smell a scent and within a second you may experience a change of mood. Whether it will be of a nostalgic memorial state or a state of repulsion. Nothing has a more profound and powerful effect on our emotions than scent has.

That’s the theory though. How does scent marketing translate into actual in-market researches?

Case Studies

It turns out, there’s plenty of studies conducted on the effects of scents on consumer behavior.

  • One study, by the University of Paderborn Germany, measured a 15,9% increase in time spent in store through adding pleasant smells. This led to a 14,8% increase in buyer intent.
  • Marketing Expert Art Frickus of Conspicious, says big brands have been doing research about olfactive marketing as well, e. g. Shell. He claims they experienced a 15 – 30 % increase in revenue for bread-products when fragrancing the salesroom with a scent of fresh bread.
  • Joep De Heer, professor at the University of Inholland Delft, wanted to measure the impact of smells on revenue in supermarkets. To achieve this, he added a coffee-scent in the confectionery section of a COOP supermarket for a duration of 6 weeks. The results? An increase in sales of waffles by 100%, of candy cakes by 166,6%, of Verkade Dora Cookies by 86% and a decrease of Maria Biscuits by 55%.
  • When olfactive marketing is strategically used just before point-of-sale-moments retail-stores experience an increase of turnover by as much as 100%.

These are just a couple of many studies undertaken on olfactive marketing.

I hope this shows you exactly how powerful scent can be as a marketing- and branding tool.

And maybe next time you smell warm bread in a Shell gas station, you’ll know that’s marketing. But you also know your lymbic system won’t be able to resist ...

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