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Scent Marketing for Brands and Businesses
We use our traditional senses (sight, sound, taste, touch and smell) to help make decisions and navigate the world of consumerism. Most brands focus their relevancy strongest on only two of these – sight and sound. It is through the use of imagery, design, texture, colour and rich sounds that strong emotional ties are built between a brand and its customer. But the strongest sense for evoking an emotional reaction is smell.
Brand identity is more critical today than ever before, as more and more businesses and products compete for consumer attention across an ever-increasing variety of channels. Our senses play a vital and complex role in forming our thoughts, impressions and behaviors. By targeting the senses, brands establish a stronger and enduring emotional connection with their consumers. As online shopping continues to skyrocket it becomes even more important that every face-to-face brand time with customers become even more memorable.
Any business that has the ability to control the customer’s environment in relationship to their brand experience can use ambient and olfactive branding. High-end retail chains, hotels, airlines, stores, banks and, even cruise ships are using signature scents to build their brands.
After touring the mall with my nose front and center, the most obvious and somewhat irritating use of distinctive fragrance is Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister as they pump their musky and masculine colognes through their ventilation systems. But I need to hold my nose, as I’m not their target audience of 12- 24 age youth who desires a heavy-duty stimulus of smells and loud music to get a reaction.
Other brands like Anthropologie, Aritzia, American Eagle Outfitters, Urban Outfitters and Old Navy all had subtle, unique fragrances that resonated with their environments. Standing out was the fashionable Hugo Boss store with their signature-scent of citrus, tamboti wood and tonka bean, Lululemon with its grassy and rosemary fragrance and the posh Tiffany& Co jewelry store with is cotton-candy scent.
Many brands fail to make use of their customers’ sense of smell. So harnessing the power of scents is an excellent opportunity for you to differentiate your brand from your competitors. As human memories are closely tied to smell, the longer you build your olfactive brand the more positive memories will be associated to your brand down memory lane.
In a list of the best smelling things in life, fresh rain has got to be somewhere near the top—maybe above newborn babies and below chocolate chip cookies? Rain smells so good that there’s even a name for its signature odour: petrichor. Now, using high-speed cameras, scientists have captured a strange effect that could explain why rain smells so wonderful. In the video above you can see little particles popping up off the surface of the droplets, and The Washington Post reports that scientists suspect that it’s these aerosols that are responsible for the aroma.
DUTCH scientists are recreating the deaths of some of the world’s most famous personalities by reconstructing their last moments using scents and sounds.
From the sweet smell of Jacqueline Kennedy’s perfume, mingled with the scent of John F Kennedy’s blood to Whitney Houston’s last drug-fuelled moments in a Beverly Hills bathtub, scientists at Breda university say they offer visitors a unique, if somewhat macabre, historical snapshot.
“We all have seen the images of JFK’s assassination, but what did it smell like?” asks Frederik Duerinck, from the communication and multimedia design faculty of Breda’s Avans university of applied sciences.
To find out, visitors to the Museum of the Image in the Netherlands with a sense of the morbid are invited to lie in a series of four silver metal boxes similar to those found in a morgue.
The boxes, which are pitch-dark inside, are rigged with pipes leading to bottles containing pressurised smells.
A soundtrack is played and different scents are released into the box to recreate a specific “final moment”.
For around five minutes, visitors can relive the smells and sounds believed to have surrounded four people whose deaths are etched into the world’s collective memory: Kennedy (1963); Diana, Princess of Wales (1997); Muammar Gaddafi (2011) and Houston (2012).
For instance, those wanting to experience Houston’s final moments are transported to a bathtub at the upmarket Beverly Hills hotel where the diva died in February 2012 at age 48.
A coroner ruled the singer died of accidental drowning, with cocaine and heart disease listed as contributing factors.
To the sounds of splashing water and Houston’s voice, a visitor first gets a whiff of generic cleaner, used in hotels around the world, followed by the olive oil the singer used in her tub.
Then a strong chemical odour, similar to that of cocaine fills the box, grabbing its occupant by the throat, followed by the sound of rushing water and then silence.
“Smell is rarely used in communication and we wanted to explore its uses,” said Mr Duerinck. “It’s a very powerful means of communication.”
Scientists have proved smells are linked to the part of the brain that regulates emotion and memory.
Odours are often used in the retail industry to trigger a buying mood in customers.
“Who doesn’t want to buy a loaf after catching a whiff of fresh bread?” said Mr Duerinck, who together with other lecturers and students has put together an inventory of odours and is devising new ways of using smell: for instance in storytelling.
It’s quite surprising and spectacular,” said Riks Soepenberg, 31, who experienced a recreation of Gaddafi’s last moments as the former Libyan strongman was hunted and killed by rebels in October 2011.
“You can watch the pictures as many times as you want — it’s just not the same thing,” he said of the attack on Gaddafi’s convoy, forcing the long-serving leader to hide in a drainage pipe before being murdered.
“I almost felt myself being hunted,” said Mr Soepenberg.
In coming months, the installation will be taken across Europe.
According to the researchers this is not necessarily an effort to re-create historical accuracy but rather they aim to investigate new ways of “smelling” old stories.
Indeed the stories of today and the future will be told in new and exciting multisensory formats, however I am quite sure that the best stories will be those that retain the age-old campfire experience of storytelling.
Audi Spain enlisted the human sense of smell to provoke their customers into reliving intangible sensations, transported back in time, to happy memories from the past, such as spring days, the smell of salt at the beach, and holidays in the mountains.
For this campaign, the brand selected a total of four regions of Spain embued with memorable scent cues: the Mediterranean breeze, the refreshing gusts of Finisterre, the light winds of Tarifa and the air of La Mancha. Each of these scents were captured by the brand and packed into different cans with a minimalist design.
The cans are available on the official website for Audi A3 Cabrio at www.aireA3cabrio.es. Customers can order one for free in exchange for a symbolic tweet or post on Facebook. The cans will also be available in special vending machines, which will be available at different summer events across Spain.
The use of smell in marketing strategies is called “olfactive marketing”. According to Sensory Marketing, “today, a big part of the research in the sensory marketing field is dedicated to the expansion of olfactive marketing, as it has gained an undeniable importance”. “Human beings have 10 millions olfactive receptors, which enables us to recognize more than 4000 different smells. Our smell memorization is therefore stronger than the visual one”, explains the same source. Marketing professionals use smell as a way to attract consumers, but also as a way to build their brand identity.
This campaign is a very relevant and creative way to promote a cabriolet as drivers of convertible cars have the opportunity to experience another level of freedom by feeling the wind on their face and inhaling the scents of nature as they drive through beautiful landscapes. With this campaign, Audi is building new brand cues that encourage consumers to associate their brand with positive and highly emotive olfactive experiences.
According to our friends at Wikipedia, Sensory branding is a type of marketing that appeals to all the senses in relation to the brand. It uses the senses to relate with customers on an emotional level. Brands can forge emotional associations in the customers’ minds by appealing to their senses. A multi-sensory brand experience generates certain beliefs, feelings, thoughts and opinions to create a brand image in the consumer’s mind.
Sense: Any of the faculties, as sight, hearing, smell, taste, or touch, by which humans and animals perceive stimuli originating from outside or inside the body.
Sensory marketing: Marketing techniques that aim to seduce the consumer by using his senses to influence his feelings and behaviour.
Sensory branding is used to relate to the customer in a more personal way than mass marketing. It is a technique that does what traditional forms of advertising cannot. It is used in retail design, magazines, showrooms, trade-fair booths, service centres, and corporate headquarters. A multi-sensory experience occurs when the customer is appealed to by two or more senses.
According to Rieunier (2002), the sensory marketing approach tries to fill in the deficiencies of the “traditional marketing” which is too rational. Classic marketing is based on the idea that the customer is rational, that his behaviour is broke up in defined reasoned steps, according to the offer, the competition, the answer to his needs…By contrast, sensory marketing put the experiences lived by the consumers and his feelings in the process. These experiences have sensorial, emotional, cognitive, behavioural and relational dimensions, not only functional. It aims to create the adequacy of the products with their design and their packaging, and then to valorise them in a commercial environment to make them attractive. There, the consumer is behaving according to his compulsions and emotions, more than his reason.
Marketers mostly appeal to sight and sound. 99% of all brand communication focuses on sight and sound. However in many instances, sound and smell are more effective than sight when branding a product or organisation. Also, visual images are more distinctive when matched with a second sense.
The main use for sensory branding is to appeal to the consumer’s senses. It is also used to understand the emotions and experiences of the consumer when being drawn to, purchasing or using the product, penetrate and dominate market share, increase profitability and to ensure initial and repeat purchases. Sensory branding is used to create an atmosphere that encourages the customer to pay money and can be influenced by sight, noise, touch, taste and smell.
Sensory marketing is defined as a way of: • measuring and explaining consumer emotions • spotting and capitalizing on new market opportunities • an opportunity to maximize product profitability • ensuring first and repeat purchase (loyalty) • ensuring long-lasting product success 
Sight is the most used sense for marketing because it is the one most responsive to the environment. We can appreciate logos, corporate colors, characters and other graphical tools with which one can identify a specific product. According to fashion retailer Gina Tricot, ‘the eyes buy 70 or 80 percent of what people buy.’ Sight is how the customer knows the product offering, quality, changes, store layout, materials, lights and colours. Shapes and colour are the first aspects of a brand that is noticed by the customer.
Colour is a big influence on visual branding because it can affect people emotionally. According to the Seoul International Colour Expo, The colour of a brand logo improves brand recognition by 80%. And 84% of people believe that colour amounted to the major consideration when they choose a brand. Different colours affect people differently, for example, red ‘is the highest stimulation hue. It increases pulse and heart rate, raises blood pressure and stimulates appetite.’ This can be used by sensory branding in restaurants to stimulate hunger or in bars to because of its exciting properties.
Sound is used in branding to evoke emotions and feelings to influence brand experiences and interpretations. Perhaps the second most used variable by marketing and advertising is the sense of hearing. Sound when matched with a message is a powerful way to make the customer remember it. Background music is an effective way to influence customer behaviour at the point of purchase. If used properly, music can create a mood for the consumer that encourages them to buy, for example playing rock and roll music in a guitar store.
Smell is used in branding because it increases the customers’ remembrance of the brand. The human nose can distinguish over 10,000 different odors, besides being the most sensitive of the senses; it has a tremendous evocative power of memories and experiences over the years. Smell is the sense most linked to our emotional recollection. It can create instant connections between a brand and other memories. Neuromarketing studies show that 75% of emotions are triggered by smell. Smell is linked to pleasure and wellbeing, emotion and memory. Therefore it can influence customers’ emotional state and mood to make the customers more susceptible to impact customer behaviour. Restaurants sometimes send artificial smells into the areas around the venue to increase awareness of their product.
Research by the Sense of Smell Institute indicates that while people’s visual recall of images sinks to approximately 50% after only three months, they recall smells with a 65% accuracy after an entire year. Similarly, a study carried out at the Rockefeller University shows that in the short term we remember just 1% of what we touch, 2% of what we hear, 5% of what we see, 15% of what we taste and 35% of what we smell.
Taste fuses all the different senses together to create a holistic brand experience. Therefore name, presentation, environment, scent, sound and texture must all be considered when branding with taste. Taste is linked to emotional states, and so it can alter mood and brand perception. Gustative marketing is usually used (for obvious reasons) especially for food and beverage brands.
Touch strengthens brand identity and image by appealing to this sense. Touch considers physical and psychological interaction between the customer and the product. Touch is a way to control the ‘unconscious of the consumers, their perceptions, feelings and tastes’. Touch can be manipulated through materials, weight, softness, and comfort of the product.
What we know is that smell is the oldest sense, having its origins in the rudimentary senses for chemicals in air and water – senses that even bacteria have. Before sight or hearing, before even touch, creatures evolved to respond to chemicals around them.
Sight relies on four kinds of light sensors in the human eye, cells known as receptors, which convert light into the electrochemical language of our brain, and touch relies on different receptor types for pressure (at least four of these), for heat, for cold and for pain, but this pales into comparison for what is required for detecting smell. There are at least 1,000 different smell receptor types, which regenerate throughout your lifetime, and change according to what you are used to smelling. The result of this complexity is that we are able discriminate many, many different kinds of smells.
We do not, however, have names for all the smells we can differentiate. Smell is perhaps the sense we are least used to talking about. We are good at describing how things look, or telling how things sounded, but with smells we are reduced to labelling them according to things they are associated with (“smells like summer meadows” or “smells like wet dog”, for instance). An example of this “hard-to-talk-about-ness” is that while we have names for colours which mean nothing but the colour, such as “red”, we generally only have names for smells which mean the thing that produces that smell, such as “cedar”, “coconut” or “fresh bread”.
The part of the brain that is responsible for processing smells – the “olfactory bulb” – is next to a part of the brain called the hippocampus. This name means “seahorse”, and the hippocampus is so-called because it is curled up like a seahorse, nested deep within the brain, a convergence point for information arriving from all over the rest of the cortex. Neuroscientists have identified the hippocampus as crucial for creating new memories for events. People with damage to the hippocampus have trouble remembering what has happened to them.
Smell is unique among the senses in that it enters directly deep into the brain. If we look at the major pathways traveled by the other senses, such as hearing and vision, they start at the sense organs – that is, the eyes or the ears – and move to a relay station called the thalamus, before passing on to the rest of the brain.
With smell the situation is different. Rather than visiting the thalamic relay station on its journey into the brain, smell information travels directly to the major site of processing – the olfactory bulb – with nothing in between. We do not know what stopping off at the thalamus does for the other senses, but it certainly means that signals generated in the other senses are somehow “further away” from the nexus of processing done in the brain.
Could this be part of the reason why smells are both hard to put into words, but also able to trigger deeply hidden memories? Memory research has shown that describing things in words can aid memory, but it also reduces the emotion we feel about the subject. When we come up with a story about our memories, we start remembering the story as much as the raw experience.
Yes really they did it.
A US meat firm sent its customers diffusers for their iPhones which make a sizzling sound and give out the whiff of bacon when it is time to wake up.
The gadgets were delivered in padded boxes along with bacon-scented liquid and a charger. They are plugged into the audio jack of the phone and work with an official app.
“At 6:30am I was awoken by a sizzling sound from the app and a sizable puff of bacon fragrance which dominated the room and led my wife to ask me what the hell was going on. ‘It’s my bacon phone,’ I said in a pre-coffee haze, and hit the snooze.”
According to Viora, the nose delivers 75 percent of a drinker’s taste experience of coffee and even more of the taste experience of tea. With the new lid, the actual drink opening sits beneath the nose, while the recessed well leaves some of the drink outside of the cup to release even more aroma. The lid even improves retronasal smelling, which occurs when aroma travels through the pharynx in the back of the mouth to the olfactory membrane. When drinkers purse their lips to suck through the small opening of a conventional lid, it closes the soft pallet and blocks the pharynx. With the Viora Lid, lips stay relaxed, and this problem is removed.
Just arrived in the post, time to get stuck in! We see the city, we hear the city, but above all, we smell the city. A notable contribution to the growing body of literature on the senses and design
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