Thursday, October 3, 2013

What's that Smell?

Have you ever walked into a grocery store and been drawn to the bakery section by a scent of fresh bread, only to discover that there is no fresh bread being baked? Have you walked into a department store and noticed a light scent of smell that you like in the air? You are not imagining things, businesses are trying everything they can to draw consumers into their stores and get them to stay in the store as long as possible. Businesses, understand that consumers are always using their sense of smell without even thinking about it. I have yet to see anybody shopping with a clothespin on their nose, so we must all be using our sense of smell while we shop.

Scientist conducted experiments to determine if and how scents affected how consumers felt. These experiments included an experimental group and a control group, and were performed in a controlled environment to get the most accurate results. The results determined that scents can indeed influence an individual's emotions and consumers can be affected by merely recognizing the scent. According to the experiment, there are three very important factors that will determine whether a scent will have an effect on a consumer or not.

1. The scent must be relevant to the product or business. The consumer must somehow be able to make a link in their brain with the smell and with the business in which they are in or with a product. If the customer cannot make a connection then the smell will be irrelevant to the consumer.

2. The smell must be recognizable and stand out from all other smells in the air. As soon as the consumer walks into the store, they must easily recognize the smell from their last trip. Consumers are not going to try to figure out the smell if it blends in with the rest of the scents.

3. The consumer must be motivated to decode the smell through the rest of the smells. In order for a consumer to try and determine what scent is in the air, they must be motivated to do so.

As long as the scent is relevant to the product , the smell is recognizable, and consumers are motivated to determine what the smell is, most consumers will be affected.

If you get uncomfortable when you fly cross country on a trip, then British Airlines might be a good choice, when in England. The airline's aircrafts have a scent of meadows in order to help flyers feel more relaxed and comfortable. Also in England, an upscale shirt retailer, Thomas Pink, uses an artificial scent that smells like freshly laundered cotton in their stores. I love the smell of fresh laundry, so I could see how this tactic can lead to a customer enjoying the smell and buying more items, or returning because they liked the scent. However, using a scent to attract buyers can backfire as well. I cannot stand the smell of the Abercrombie & Fitch store in The Galleria. The best way I can describe the scent is "overbearing" and "nauseating". In this specific example, the scent is actually repelling me away from their store and I'm sure it is repelling other shoppers as well. Companies have to be careful to not hurt their sales by spraying their stores with a scent that pushes consumers away.

Retailers and other businesses will continue to try to gain an advantage in any way possible, against their competitors. As technology advances, these methods will get more and advanced. Who knows, maybe one day websites for restaurants will release a scent of their signature dish when consumers log onto their website. Pappasito's website will smell like fajitas, Pizza Hut will smell of fresh pizza, and Starbucks will have a scent of your favorite coffee drink.

Anick Bosmans
Journal of Marketing 
Vol. 70, No. 3 (Jul., 2006), pp. 32-43
Published by: American Marketing Association
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