Fragrance marketing as the ultimate communication tool.

Everyone immediately understands why it is better to play music in a commercial environment, say in a clothing store, or why you should make sure there is a good lighting is. That a coffee machine and a friendly welcome also help, and that everything is should be exhibited in an orderly fashion, everyone understands that too. But now comes the key question: should you also provide a pleasant fragrance in your store? The answer is unequivocal and undeniably a resounding “yes! Of course it does … Anyone who thinks about it for just a moment will immediately come to the same conclusion, but the arguments and examples in this article help
you certainly on your way.

In a presentation on scent marketing, I sometimes ask my audience what a cat actually needs to catch a mouse. Funny thing is that I always get the same answers: speed, claws, good eyes … But what we tend to forget is that the cat must first of all have an appetite for a mouse. Just like consumers have to feel like buying a certain product in a specific store. So how do you reinforce that sense and how can you steer it in the desired direction? The answer to that question brings you to marketing. The more tools you use in your communication and marketing mix, the stronger you can steer that sense and the more effective your sales message will be. Moreover, by doing so, you also increase the brand value of your product or service and influence the emotions your product arouses in people. Therefore, the main point of my plea is: pay attention to emotions and steer them. Moreover, those emotions determine, even more than before, which preferences consumers have. Indeed, in general, rational factors and values are losing a lot of power, precisely because we are flooded with them on a daily basis through the media, especially social media. Emotions as a guiding and distinguishing factor go much deeper than purely rational arguments and are less easy to steer in the short term. And the trick is to influence these emotions in such a way that your potential customers are attracted to your product or service.

How can you influence those emotions? The more tools you use in your communication, the deeper your message will penetrate and the better your target audience will understand exactly what you want to communicate. Not for nothing is the adage: Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I will remember. Involve me and I will understand.
So my advice is to use all possible tools in your communication and thus “entice” all the senses. Don’t just stick to visual or auditory stimuli, but also use the senses of taste (coffee, cavate …), smell and touch. Only in this way will your message stick and someone will remember you or your product. For the mathematicians among us: emo + ratio = fun + profit.

Martin Lindström writes in his book BrandSense (2005) that 83 percent of commercial communication focuses on our eyes. The other senses -touch, taste, smell and sound- are hardly used in marketing. And that while, for example, 75 percent of our emotions are determined by what we smell. How crazy can it be? Let’s wake up, let’s use our knowledge about our senses and stop focusing on what we see (or don’t see). Scent marketing or olfactive marketing originated in the Far East. Scents have been used there for thousands of years, both in everyday life and in the commercial world. Very rudimentary stores that pay no attention to any form of marketing are doing scent marketing there. Vendors put flower petals or burn incense at the entrance. When residents of the United States discovered this about 40 years ago, they started applying it by developing professional scent devices and fragrances. That knowledge made its way to Europe about 20 years ago and has been

now on a strong rise. Germany is currently the most advanced in Europe when it comes to scent marketing.

“75 percent of our emotions are determined by what we smell.”

Why are scents so important? Scents are powerful carriers of memories and emotions. Whenever I vacationed in Provence with my parents as a child, I unconsciously smelled the wonderful fragrance of the vast natural lavender fields. When I smell the lavender scent now, 40 years later, I can’t help but think back to those wonderful, carefree summer vacations with my parents. The smell of lavender has the same effect on me as the taste of madeleines had on Proust. Scents, like tastes, create associations and evoke memories. Moreover, it has been proven that you don’t even have to smell scents consciously. Even in an unconscious way, they can influence your behavior and preferences. Scents play directly on our brain’s limbic system. After all, that’s where emotions are processed. The interesting thing about this, for the marketers among us anyway, is that there is no filter standing between our sense of smell and our limbic system. Of course not, because primal humans had to be able to smell a dangerous animal immediately – that is, without a filter – in order to run away in time. Survival, it’s called. The funny thing about that is that when you enter a store

and steps, you can decide for yourself whether or not to see or hear something, but with smelling that doesn’t work: you can’t decide for yourself not to smell something. A smell just overwhelms you. So another good reason to make sure that your environment always smells good when you receive people, whether business or personal.


In Las Vegas, for example, every casino has its own ambient scent. Those scent molecules have mostly calming ingredients, with only one purpose: to ensure that the gambler stays calm longer, thus losing more money. It seems funny, but the casinos see their sales increase with every improvement in the calming effect of their scent. So maybe those scents are effective after all? Hotels, for example, massively use an ambient scent at the front desk. After all, a first impression is very important. A bad smell at first contact would immediately give many customers a negative impression of the hotel and they would most likely not return. Some Belgian examples are De Gulde Schoen in Antwerp, Hotel Lindner in Antwerp, Le sanglier des Ardennesin Durbuy, Hotel Mercure Vé or the Different hotels. The hospitality industry especially uses coffee scents. They know that the smell of a delicious cup of coffee prompts us to order a coffee. In some exceptional cases, the original smell of the coffee machine is enough, but that is only possible in small spaces. The intensity of the smell also depends on the number of coffees prepared, which is thus very variable. To make sure that the coffee smell remains constant and strong enough throughout the day, they set up a scent device in the room, preferably invisible to the customer. This is the only way to influence the number of coffees sold. A rough calculation quickly shows that even if you only sell one more coffee a day, you break even versus what scent marketing itself costs (device and scent together). Not exactly excessive, I guess. Hot bakeries are becoming rare on our streets. So we are getting more and more cold bakers in our neighborhood. They are uniting more than before and buying their bread together. As a result, you can often no longer smell the aroma of freshly baked bread at bakeries. To compensate for that, more and more bakers are buying scent devices that spread the freshly baked bread smell. Similarly, more travel agencies are spreading the smell of sun milk in their offices. Potential vacationers can smell their sunscreen there and are thus more quickly tempted to book their trip to the sun.

Those who receive potential customers in a room only get one chance to present their product or service. Therefore, it is a good idea to make the most of every opportunity, integrating scent in addition to interior design, music, temperature and taste. It may not be the first thing you think of, but it is the most important. You can never make up for a bad smell in your commercial space with all the other tools at your disposal. You have lost and that is the very last situation you want to find yourself in….

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