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Once upon a time… In the 19th century, bakeries discovered the fact that when they use air shafts to push the smell of baking bread out, their sales increased dramatically. It was quite a ground-breaking discovery.

Currently, this is called “oldfactory neuromarketing” (oldfactory epithelium is the specialized tissue in the nose for a sense of smell) or “scent marketing”. The main idea is to trigger some positive feelings in the customer’s brain by using odours.

But why does the sense of smell effect our decisions this much?

Primarily, sense of smell is our initial sense, so human beings discovered the world through that at the very beginning. Did you know that 60 genes of us are just dedicated to our sense of smell? It sounds a lot, right? Another interesting fact is that a person can identify 10.000 different smells. 95% of our nasal capacity is used to filter them. So, our brain has an amazing capability to archive odours. Each of them identifies with various feelings depending on our memories.

Moreover, the customers perceive smell subconsciously. If the store uses the right smell, they feel like they are in a pleasant atmosphere that they belong to and want to stay longer. When they spend more time, they purchase more products.

Stores should create an experience

How do you feel yourself when you go into the store of one of the top luxury brands? Privileged? Sophisticated? Like part of a community which is hard to reach? All these feelings come from the data that your senses have collected. The light, furniture, temperature and predominantly smells.

For instance, in 2012, Edeka Nord tested a concept that was tailored for all five senses in several of the brand’s stores. They installed fluorescent lights to their frozen food departments which were meant to reflect the idea of “coolness“ based on the colour. However, it was perceived as uncomfortable or too cold by the target audience. On the other hand, AirCreative decided to put cinnamon scent to their stores while increasing the temperature 2 degrees up. The customers got a warmer feeling and their sales rose up. It was because cinnamon triggered warmer feelings like Christmas, their grandmothers, warm drinks…etc. All of them were related to good memories.

Another example is when Nike found out that their purchases increased by 80% after using scent marketing in retail stores. Also boosting some fresh-brewed coffee smell at gas stations increased sales of coffee up to 300%. Gender-designed scents seem to make a difference as well. A “feminine” scent in a women’s clothing store helps to create positive purchase intent. It’s also important to see “scent marketing” as a “real-time marketing”. What does it mean? For example, using exotic smells in the summertime triggers the customer’s desire for a vacation. They would start to dream about what they are going to wear during the vacation. The formula is triggering the right context, making use of multiple human senses at once to reinforce the brand.

Retailers should decide what they would like to accomplish by using scents, what effects they want to create or which product features they seek to highlight. Think it as a way of building your brand image. Then, here comes a vital question, which smell is right for that image? Try different ones, take feedbacks from people, report the results and repeat. In the end, you will find the “soul mate” odour of your brand.

So, it’s time to ask this question to yourself: How will your customers sniff your brand to know it’s exactly for them?