The Art of
Utilizing the Science of Smell to Influence Customer Behavior
For several years, various types of businesses have been utilizing the science of smell and Scent Marketing to their advantage, allowing them to dictate brand loyalty and higher profits. Companies like Nike, Apple and Starbucks benefit from this by dispersing specific, strategically formulated scents throughout their stores, and even in their products. These scents are used to trigger a certain emotion in potential customers, subtly encouraging them to not only attach a scent to their brand (brand image), but also to spend more time in their stores or places of business (customer experience), all the while creating positive memories with those scents that will keep them going back to the product or service (brand loyalty).
A study done by Nike discovered that they could increase the intent to purchase by 84% through the introduction of scent into their stores.
Olfaction (the sense of smell) is not the “one size fits all” experience we perceive it to be. How the smell is first processed depends on how well (and if) an odor molecule attaches itself to the receptors on the olfactory epithelium, a strip of tissue with millions of sensory neurons that lives in the back of the nose. Smell begins there, finding itself going over the tips of these neurons that bind odor molecules. We have approximately 450 different types of olfactory receptors that are activated by different odor molecules.
Then the brain comes into the equation. When the odor molecule attaches itself to the receptor, an electrical signal is sent to the olfactory bulb (a structure at the base of the forebrain that sends the signal to other parts of the brain for more processing). One of these areas is the thalamus, which transports some of the smell information to the hippocampus and the amygdala. These are the regions of the brain that are involved with learning and memory. That’s the reason thoughts of that special someone come to mind when you smell a certain perfume.
But what about the immediate emotional response? Our sense of smell is processed by the limbic system-which is on the same left side of the brain that emotions and memories are kept. This direct path to the emotional part of our brains means scent doesn't have to be processed or interpreted.
Scent Marketing, with its subtler approach, is very unassuming and on a subconscious level, giving the customer an invisible key to the “driver’s seat”. Scent is the strongest of the five senses tied to memory and emotion. This gives scent marketing the perfect opportunity to attract customers by playing an essential role in transforming perceptions and creating an experience for maximum effect. It helps to explore more opportunities for business and helps to further push the essence of a company’s brand.