It’s no secret: scents drive us to buy. Food is the most often and most obvious culprit. Mall chocolate shop scents turn us to cocoa-craving zombies. Whether you like that unmistakable smell or not, every kid knows the scent of McDonald’s means a Happy Meal is an immediate possibility. Oh, and that smell of fresh baked bread outside a bakery? Just to die for.

What’s in a Scent?

Scent marketing is an often-overlook brand component. It can be the missing arrow you need to get straight to the heart of your target market. Why? Because scent triggers an immediate and innate emotional response. This may be because the olfactory bulb is a component of thelimbic system, so our sense of smell is actually connected to this memory and emotional hub in the brain. Our ability to recall memories from smell over any other sense is the basis of the “Proustian phenomenon,” named after the descriptive writings of French author Marcel Proust.

At their most poignant, it’s the smell of your grandfather’s old leather wallet, the fragrance your long-lost best friend wore, or the aroma of those peanut butter cookies your favorite aunt bakes every Christmas. While these smells may be very specific, there are general smells that appeal to us as sensitive and sensory beings, as well. Hence, scent marketing is born.

Not Just For Food

You might be thinking, My business isn’t food-centric, so how could I use scents in my marketing? Take a look at these clever scent marketing campaigns:

  • The Brooklyn Nets’ Barclays Center has its own signature scent. The scent is meant to “enhance the consumer experience and build brand identities.” So there you go.
  • The Holiday Inn used aromatherapy and music combinations to enhance guest experiences as part of their new branding efforts a few years back.
  • Casinos and resorts have been known to use particularly blended musky scents that appeal to our more, let’s say, animalistic tendencies—encouraging patrons to spend more on everything from slots to amenities to food and drink.
  • You know how certain electronics brands have a very particular fresh-new-gadget scent? (I’m looking at you Apple.) Though it’s not known for sure, some speculate certain companies use those particular fragrances on purpose, to enhance the buyer’s experience and encourage them to purchase from the same brand in the future.

Domino’s: The Nose Knows

How about this scent marketing campaign from Domino’s Pizza in Brazil? Pop in your DVD rental and, as you watch your movie, you notice the aroma of delicious pizza wafting about the room. You remove the DVD from the player after the movie to realize the graphics on the DVD itself have transformed to look like a pizza! This scent marketing madness is all thanks to thermal sensitive inks and flavored varnish.

You can read more about the campaign and watch a video here. What do you think? Crazy or cool? Either way, I think quite a few people will be thinking Domino’s next time they rent a DVD in Brazil!


Bonus link: Check out ScentAir, the company responsible for so many of these enticing brand scents!


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