In Blog / Retail

Olfactory Marketing: smells that make you buy

20 May 2021
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Marketing has now saturated our every sensory channel - first with billboards, advertising flyers and easily catchy jingles, then with a media bombardment that includes all kinds of social networks and videos. Here, the music is cleverly chosen to activate our neuroreceptors and make us more likely to receive information. Our mind is saturated and filled with information.

What’s left?

Little, very little, almost nothing. According to a research of the Rockefeller University of New York, after 4 months people remember 5% of what they see, 20% of what they hear, 1% of what they touch, but 35% of what they smell. Nowadays, brands invest nearly 83% of their resources in visual campaigns, thwarting the memorability of the approach at the outset. How to stand out and be appreciated for the freshness of communication, making it more effective and pleasant? Go for olfactory marketing!


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The persuasive power of fragrance

Smell is the second most important sense for sensory marketing. It is our sense par excellence, developed from birth. developed from birth, it carries within itself an infinite amount of genetic information such as to allow us to arrive at the homo sapiens of today. A few examples: the smell of rotting food disgusts us, but no one has taught us this; the smell of burning puts us on alert, but no one has ever explained it to us. This information is naturally part of our olfactory background. Smells are so evocative because the pathway that connects a scent to our processing centers is direct, from the nose to the brain.

By inhaling, scent molecules are carried internally to the amygdala, a nuclear complex located in the brain that is responsible for our emotions. That is the reason why there are some odors that take us by the belly, and each person has his own based on his experience. Generally, these are scents that bring us back to childhood, such as rosewater, talcum powder, the scent of cream, cotton candy and fairground pancakes. Pleasant scents, connected to past experiences, remain imprinted in our minds. Man is led to remember a scent effortlessly and unconsciously. The memory is simply there, in our memory. Perfume, like a magic potion, brings back memories, evokes sensations, creates new connections.

 Perfume has a more convincing persuasive power than words, appearance, feeling and will. One cannot refuse the persuasive force of perfume, it penetrates us like the air we breathe penetrates our lungs, it fills us, it totally dominates us, there is no way to oppose it.
Patrick Süskind 


Olfactory marketing works with our library of smells. By linking a fragrance to a brand you can offer a more relevant experience and get better results in terms of interest, purchase, popularity because the fragrance gives uniqueness to the product and makes the perception of its brand higher.

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How to choose the right fragrance for a brand?

When choosing a fragrance, it is crucial to maintain a close consistency between the brand and its audience, though the company's values and tone of voice. Therefore, in order to choose a fragrance, the customer's needs, the product and message to be conveyed, and the goal to achieved (e.g., finding new customers or building loyalty) must first be investigated. It is necessary to analyze the public to which the fragrance will be proposed: age, sex, habits, hobbies and preferences based on olfactory geography. And more: the diffusion protocol, the position and the setting of the devices that will scent the space, the intensity and modulation of the fragrance over time.

The applications of olfactory marketing techniques are many: we can find them in hotels, for example in the Mandarin Oriental or Park Hyatt chains, in car manufacturers such as Rolls Royce, in the offices of Banca Intesa and in airlines such as British Airlines. These brands use researched, customized and ad-hoc scents. The goal is to strengthen its image and ensure a "total retail" experience to consumers, creating new points of contact and promoting the mental association with the reference brand.



The benefits of sensory marketing

Over the past year and a half, the retail world has undergone tremendous changes. But we must keep in mind that for some targets, stores are one of the few tools that brands have to get in touch with their customers. Shopping, like a vacation or an event, is lived as an experience, and if we can make it multi-sensory, it will be more remembered and appreciated. Numerous studies show how scent becomes crucial in the decisions of a customer or possible customer.

Sensory marketing:

  • enriches the sensory experience
  • increases the time spent in the place
  • increases the sense of familiarity and thus
  • increases the customer's desire to relive the emotions experienced
  • increases sales

Research shows how scents and fragrances can improve our mood and sense of well-being at home, in the office, in hotels and in stores. Indeed, many companies are working to create an olfactory connection with their customers.

The use of room fragrances can really be the most cost-effective and fastest way to enhance a brand's multi-sensory offering. That is why the sense of smell remains a key element in the process of building a brand image. The 5 senses, when properly solicited, are excellent avenues for influencing consumer perceptions. Our sense of smell cannot be stopped, we all breathe about 20,000 times a day, so there are 20,000 opportunities a day to create a powerful connection between the customer and the brand!

If you would like to learn more, please contact us!


- Il Senso Perfetto, Mai sottovalutare il naso; Anna D’Errico, Codice Edizioni, 2019
- Il Profumo; Patrick Süskind, traduzione di Giovanna Agabio, Longanesi, Milano, 2016
- The Secret of Scent: Adventures in Perfume and the Science of Smell, Luca Turin, Harper Perennial, 2007
- Spangenberg, E. R., Sprott, D. E., Grohmann, B., & Tracy, D. L. (2006). Gender-congruent ambient scent influences on approach and avoidance behaviors in a retail store. Journal of Business Research, 59, 1281-1287. 
- Lindstrom, M. (2005). Brand sense: How to build brands through touch, taste, smell, sight and sound. London: Kogan Page; 

Eleonora Rosso