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July, 2021

Ask someone to tear a page into 2 with your eyes shut, along with the ripping sound, you will be able to visualize someone tearing the page. Or just take a whiff of the Johnson and Johnson’s shampoo or the oil-pastels you used to use, and you’ll be transported to your childhood, with childhood associations reignited in your memory. That’s what the power of our senses is, and that’s how brands forge emotional associations in our minds by appealing to our senses. A unique scent can bring back the memory of the associated products or events and even take us back to our childhood.

Have you ever wondered why many modern supermarkets have bakeries installed right at the beginning of a supermarket, or why movie theatres smell like popcorns? Because as soon as you get the fragrance of freshly baked bread in the supermarket or the popcorn in the movie theatre, you start feeling hungry.

The sense of smell has direct access to the emotional and memory parts of the brain and the subtlest of aromas can have a detrimental effect on us as shoppers. Most of us would believe that we can best recall something through virtual recognition, but our sense of smell is among the strongest of all senses and much more powerful than virtual recognition. About 75% of all the emotions we experience on a daily basis are generated by what we smell, and not what we see or hear. According to a marketing professor at Georgia State University, “All of our other senses, you think before you respond, but with scent, your brain responds before you think.” A scent is more impactful than any visual or sound, and the only sense that reaches us at a much deeper level and triggers our emotions, memories, and creativity.

A survey was carried out at a local clothing store in the Pacific Northwest showed that when “feminine scents” such as vanilla were sprayed in the women’s clothing sections, the sales of female apparel actually doubled because of that.

Many brands have created their unique fragrance to build a distinctive image in the minds of consumers and thus creating an emotional attachment for the brand. The signature scent of Singapore Airlines is Stefan Floridian Waters has been the same for about 18 years and this fragrance is present in the fragrant hot towels given to passengers as well as in the perfume worn by flight attendants. Abercrombie & Fitch has a distinctive smell, which not only allows the customers to flash its name in their head but also helps prolong the customer experience by being able to smell till they take the clothes out of the bag. Similarly, all the popular chains of hotels have induced their unique fragrances in their hotel rooms and lobbies. Sheraton smells like fig, clove, and jasmine, and Westin like white tea. Brands induce a sense of smell in the branding of their products as well, such as Play-dough or Johnson & Johnson’s have had a signature scent for their products for years, which are now built in our memories.

Scent marketing is thus a lot more than air freshening, it’s about conveying and supporting the brand foundation through the fragrance to be able to define a unique brand personality, tone of voice, and a prolonged brand experience.

The aroma of popcorn in cinemas or the distinctive scent of a new car has very little to do with improving the performance and quality of the product but plays a massive role in contributing to the brand experience and building a relationship with its customers.

  • Written By Diya Madan

Diya, Business Analyst at TSB, is passionate about marketing and human psychology, and believes that humans are conditioned to understand stories more than they are to understand logic.