Scent Marketing: 11 Research-Backed Benefits To Bottom Line Profits

Technically, some form of scent marketing has been around for as long as the people of the world have had noses. Scent has been employed throughout recorded history and almost every ancient culture known to civilization has used fragrance in one way or another, probably making it the most ancient and automatic way for humans to understand the world around them.

Clocks in ancient Japan burned a different incense fragrance every 15 minutes and Queen Cleopatra of Egypt was known to perfume the sails of her royal barge so all would know she was about to appear. Ancient Roman pets and Greek athletes were anointed with fragrant oils and the Elizabethans perfumed their precious jewels. In Paris during the roaring 1920s, cigarettes for women were sprayed with a blend of peach, jasmine, rose, patchouli, cedar and other scents to make them more alluring and sensual, signifying one of the earliest examples in modern times of using scent as a marketing tool.

The world has dramatically evolved since then, as has the use of scent, and with consumers increasingly tuning out the endless array of traditional ads hitting them at every turn, brands are turning to the one method of communication that can’t be turned off — the olfactory bulb. According to Advertising Age, scent marketing is now exploding as the next frontier in advertising and retail branding across an endless array of industries.

But how does a carefully chosen, effectively diffused fragrance affect a business’ bottom line, and is there statistical data to back up the results? This article probes into the science of scent marketing, how it works, its rapidly growing commercial appeal, and eleven data-driven, research-backed benefits it’s having on the revenues of every industry under the sun.

Scent marketing and the competitive modern marketplace

In 20I6, the fragrance and perfume industry was valued at more than 40 billion, and according to Global Industry Analysts, the global scent marketing industry is expected to net a whopping $45.6 billion by 2018. One of the reasons scent marketing is so successful as a sales strategy is because visual advertising no longer captivates the attention of modern consumers the way it once did. Shoppers have grown tired of visual ads, commercials and presentations, so much so that their eyes quickly slide over what the nose permanently captures. The inclusion of scent marketing in any business, whatever it may be, promises imminent improvement in the bottom line and ROI.

Some examples of the power of scent marketing

Research conducted by the International Journal of Marketing Studies indicated that a survey of four hundred consumers after shopping in a Nike store reported that a “pleasant ambient scent” improved their opinion not only of the store and its products, but the chances they would shop there again. Further, a Salon study revealed that gamblers spend 45% more money when a floral scent is there to fill the casino than when there isn’t. Another example concerns Sony stores, which are scented with a mandarin orange vanilla blend, designed to put female shoppers at ease while purchasing electronics.

According to Elizabeth Musmanno, the President of The Fragrance Foundation, “Scent can entice consumers to stay longer, shop longer and purchase more.” This translates into increased revenue. Hotels, casinos, retail environments and workplace settings of all types can benefit from and should utilize scent marketing. Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational, asserts that “to a large degree, we get tempted not by the smell of the objects, but the smell of the place, more generally, the atmosphere associated with them.”

To further illustrate this point, a German study reported that when the smell of newly mown grass was diffused throughout different areas of a large home improvement store, shoppers were drawn to the scented areas and considered employees more knowledgeable than those working in the store’s unscented sectors. Another Swedish study indicated the power behind scent marketing when it was discovered that a pleasantly scented point-of-sale display of shampoo increased sales at that location by 36.9% and overall store shampoo sales by almost 27%.

Scent marketers must strategically match products with their proper settings

To activate the impulse to buy within the fickle heart of the modern consumer, a scent must have contextual meaning and correspond both to the product and the environment in which it is sold. The aroma of cookies baking in the oven for example is a perfect scent for a ‘Got’ campaign, but when it was diffused in ads at bus stops recently, scent marketers ultimately had to remove the ads. Scent marketers must understand that in order for a scent to work, it must be more than pleasant; it must also be congruent with the shopping environment.

The best scents are those that are simple. Washington State University and Switzerland’s University of St. Gallen conducted a joint study about scent, which concluded that it is the basic aromas that create “a shopping state of mind.” A simple scent of orange for example, is not only easier for the mind to process than a more complex orange-basil and green tea aroma, it also helps consumers focus on the goal at hand; namely, shopping.

How does scent marketing trigger memories and affect human emotion?

According to Small Business Trends, smell is unlike all other human senses. Any aroma has an instantaneous effect because it bypasses cognitive thought and goes directly to the brain’s limbic system, which controls emotion. For scent marketers, this calls for a delicate balance, as complex scents run the danger of creating a sensory overload for the consumer. The idea is to develop an unforgettable experience and forge an emotional trinity between store loyalty, the fragrance and the consumer.

How does the scent marketing trigger work?

The scent-marketing trigger works in a simple fashion for both products and locations. A wonderful dinner in a restaurant with a signature scent is likely to make a diner revisit much later, especially when the same scent pervades and allows previous memories to be automatically retrieved. The same response goes for both positive and negative reactions to any given physical product. Take for example, Apple computer products, all of which have the same scent. This translates into the fact that all products from this company will evoke the same chain of memories.

Scent marketers know to use scents sparingly and keep their numbers down to a minimum. Bear in mind that old Brylcreem television commercial warning that “a little dab’ll do you.” If you own or manage a large retail store you can initiate a few different scents in diverse sections of the store, but if you have a small boutique, too many conflicting scents won’t work at all.

For the last decade, scent marketing has been billed as one of the top ten business trends to watch. According to the Sense of Smell Institute, the average human being is able to recognize approximately 10,000 different odors. The power of scent is always underestimated because few people realize that on average, humans breathe 20,000 times a day. In scent marketing terms, this translates into 20,000 opportunities to pitch a product because, as one 2006 study suggests, the sense of smell cannot be turned off. Retailers, hotel and restaurant owners and others are jumping on the scent marketing band-wagon with the hope that this strategy will increase consumer spending, attract new customers and create unforgettable brands.

Scientific facts about scent marketing

Scent marketing research is complicated and requires rigorous scientific inquiry. Three British scientists (Rimkute, Morales and Ferreira) have recently tackled the arduous task, covering every aspect of the connection between our sense of smell and scent marketing. All businesses should be aware of these findings and the answers they pose about how smell influences choices, thoughts, emotions and memory.

A pleasing aroma serves as a delicate portal leading to the behavior-approach system in the human brain. This in turn, initiates a range of actions that are somewhat predictable. While shopping anywhere, a distracting aroma can make the time spent in a store seem like less, which of course results in more spending and impulse buying.

Whether or not a fragrance is pleasant depends in great part on its intensity. Neutral aromas become more distasteful as the strength of the fragrance increases. A good rule of thumb for neutral retail environments such as offices and hardware stores suggests the use of neutral scents, but less is best. Delightful fragrances, such as chocolate or fresh bread however, are another story. These scents all display a sweet spot of optimal intensity. Once that point is surpassed, however, the fragrance becomes unpleasant.

A pleasant smell serves as a cerebral switch that tells the recipient the world is an agreeable and positive place. Scent marketing is a powerful tool because it entirely reshapes the consumer experience. Altering personal moods is one attribute, but the proper scent in the proper place goes much further. It can actually influence the way shoppers think and process information, making it a very effective tool for any business. Fragrance has the power to transform an average run-of-the-mill store into an exclusive boutique.

The top eleven benefits scent marketing has on a businesses bottom line:

1) Improve Brand Recognition

Scent marketing can be a vital force behind reinforcing and improving brand recognition because it has the power to unify a brand or product with a buyer’s emotions. A brand is a whole package experience for all consumers and once a shopping adventure occurs, consumers draw their own conclusions about a company brand. Scent marketers realize that aroma branding is the hook, and for many industries it is the only thing that may differentiate your particular business from your competition.

Scent marketing allows for the creation of a new and deeper dimension in your existing brand because it reaches the emotional triggers of targeted consumers. Sensory cues repeated consistently increase sales, traffic, time spent shopping improve brand recognition and loyalty.

2) Improve Guest Experiences

Scent marketers know that the very first impression a guest in a hotel perceives is that of scent, and it is intensified at that exact moment of entry through the hotel doors. For this reason, a scent must be an integral strategy, as it will fail if it is used as an afterthought. According to Loren Nalewanski, VP of brand management for Spring Hill Suites and Towne Place Suites by Marriott: ”The goal of a branded scent should be to lodge it within a guest’s memory. Visual memories fade by 60% after a year, while the memory of a scent only fades by 40 %.

In the words of Nadim Barrage, director of operations for the Conrad Miami, “the sense of smell as another piece of the guest experience has become incredibly important. It’s about creating an entire experience from the arrival process through to departure. All senses come into play when creating and improving a hotel guest’s experience.” The Conrad Miami’s lobby is on the 25th floor, so the olfactory experience initiates on the ground floor, starting with music and flowers. Barage states: “It’s about bringing guests into different moods as soon as they step into the hotel…which uses a white tea and thyme scent that is diffused through air conditioning vents in the lobby for a relaxing atmosphere, and a mango-peach option by the elevators and bar entrance. It creates a unique Miami vibe.”

3) Make Your Brand Unforgettable

Scent marketing makes your brand unforgettable by using fragrance to imprint a pleasant memory that is associated with your product or services. In the case of hotels, Roberto Payer, general manager of the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam, states: “Hoteliers must be careful when selecting a scent—not too strong, not too light. The hotel must also select a scent that reflects the property and its values, rather than being everything for everybody. We want the smell to provide an ambience, something that’s ours.”

4) Extend The Time Customers Linger

According to a study conduced a few years ago, stores that utilized scent marketing witnessed increases of people staying up to 20% longer on average and 300% sales increases in particular products. Those consumers who identified with the store’s signature scent without even being aware of having done so, spent more time lingering and browsing in the stores surveyed. Scents are persuasive and have the ability to make shoppers feel warm, familiar and comfortable, like a cozy fire on a cold winter’s day.

Mike Gatti, the executive director of marketing at the National Retail Federation, claims there are five companies in the US that control around 80 % of the world market in scent branding and an estimated 10-20% of retailers in the US are their customers. He says: “Its fairly widespread. A lot of retail companies use scent marketing and the purpose is really to keep customers lingering in their stores.”

5) Attract New Customers

A pleasing scent can serve as a lure to potential customers who have never stepped foot in a store or business before, but what could motivate a consumer to make that decision? The answer to this important business question lies in a combination of factors, but scent marketers know that the allure is purely sensory. It could be visual, like a striking or colorful window display, or auditory with appealing music, but more than likely it will be a complete sensory experience, which includes the most potent element in the mix; namely, the welcoming signature scent.

The scent’s immediate connection to the brain creates a first impression that is either positive or negative. Establishing a positive memory unconsciously creates a desire to repeat it. Scent marketers play on this psychological fact and place great importance on the chosen scent and its power to suggest the recall of positive memories.

6) Create Heightened Value Perception

Although this is a very important aspect of scent marketing and its affect on a company’s bottom line, according to B2B International, only 54% of businesses have initiated a branding strategy that can evaluate brand perceptions. This concept refers to how consumers are exposed to, attend to, and comprehend stimuli in the environment. There is no doubt that the proper ambient scent contributes to the building of a favorable perception of the store or business and helps buyers develop a certain ”feel” for their surroundings. Farah Abassi, owner of the Aroma360 Scent Marketing Company, believes that aroma has the power to alter personal perception, even before the consumer is aware of a particular scent.

7) Encourage Repeat Business

Fifty-seven percent of small business owners claim that having a relationship with their consumers is what drives repeat business. According to Bain & Company, returning customers typically spend more than 67% than first time customers. The right scent in the right place propels the consumer into a pleasant vortex of swirling memories and associations that repeat themselves automatically whenever that fragrance hits their unsuspecting nostrils.

Savvy scent marketers understand that the average person is 100 times more likely to remember a smell than something seen, heard or touched. Tapping into this concept, a signature scent requires strategy to provide the ultimate customer experience, which is completely sensory in nature. Repeat business is not so much dependant on satisfaction with products or services as much as it concerns the positive look, feel and aroma surrounding the atmosphere of the store.

8) Increase Sales

Increasing sales is the ultimate goal behind any successful scent branding campaign. Major retailers like Nike found that scent marketing in retail stores “increased intent to purchase” by 80%. One scent marketing experiment revealed that the aroma of freshly brewed coffee sold at a gas station increased coffee sales by 300%!

According to a 2003 study conducted by Lindstrom and Kotler, 84% of customers were more likely to purchase a pair of shoes (or at least like them better) when they were on display in a scented room. That very same study revealed that many of the participants admitted they would be willing to pay 10-15% more for a scented product. Another study indicated that the introduction of a sweet citrus aroma in a retail setting nearly doubled the average total purchases from $55 to $90 per customer!

9) Inspire Loyalties

According to research conducted at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, up to 15% of a business’s most loyal customers account for 55-70% of its total sales. This is the value of brand loyalty in dollars and cents. Further, some 80% of any company’s future revenue will come from 20% of its current customer base. Scent marketing accounts for at least part of these statistics because a significant scent branding strategy inspires brand loyalty by attaching a positive emotion to a brand. This in turn leads to both recognition and trust.

10) Affect Performance in The Workplace

Scent marketers are well aware that the proper scent introduced in a workplace can have a powerful impact on employees. Whether you are an entrepreneur managing a startup, or a corporate executive with thousands of employees, you know that happy employees translates into productivity and according to the Harvard Business Review, 31% more so, as well as 37% higher sales and 31% higher creativity.

Scent in the workplace influences mood, alertness and productivity. Some of the best scents for affecting workshop performance are: strong, woodsy rosemary, which is know to lower stress levels; lemon which energizes and relieves tension, anxiety and anger in the workplace; lavender with its calming properties; cinnamon, which is mood-altering and an aid to productivity. It also is known to improve focus and attention to detail. Jasmine is subtly sweet and revitalizing, as is peppermint, which stimulates alertness and mental clarity.

11) Counteract Malodors

Probably the most formidable task and most appreciated benefit of scent marketing is its ability to eliminate bad odors. Air-Scent has the best solution to this problem with its Metazene® formula. By neutralizing odors at a molecular level, Metazene® does so much more than just cover up the bad smell; it completely destroys it. In addition, this proven, efficient system is very effective and couldn’t be simpler to use.

Sumary

Scent marketing is a billion-dollar business that spans many diverse industries. It popularity is bursting at the proverbial seams because it has demonstrated over and over again how introducing a signature scent into any type of business affects customer perception, brand loyalty and increases the bottom line.

If you’re looking to have your establishment benefit from the power of scent marketing, would like to add-on profits to your route services business, or if you’re a air care supplier and would like to represent our products, click here to learn more about our scent marketing opportunities and speak with our team today!


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