Olfactory Marketing – How Scents Help Your Brand

Here’s how the sense of smell, one of the strongest memory association, can help your brand

Back  in college, I had to take a bus from my home everyday. Sometimes, the bus would get so crowded that I could no longer see the road. But every single day, I could smell the scent from this tiny attar shop on the way, selling one of the most fragrant scents I’d ever experienced. Soon,that particular bus stop came to be associated with the perfumes in my memory and every time I crossed it, I couldn’t help but glance at that shop.

The sense of smell in humans, or olfactory sense is an incredibly vast area of research, still pondered by scientists. Scents play a very important role in our life, which often goes overlooked. From the smell of your old books to the smell of your favourite childhood snack, olfaction is present everywhere.

Earlier, scientists believed that olfactory sense is of lesser importance, modern day cognitive science would disagree. In fact, historian and scientist Ann Sophie Barwich has authored a book dedicated to the study of smell, Smellosophy: What the Nose tells the MindThe study of the role of smell in memory has garnered considerable attention, with olfactory memory gaining new perspectives.

So, how does marketing come together with smell? Olfactory marketing uses the sensory stimulation of smell to transmit brand values. It is not merely using a good smelling perfume. The scent is carefully selected and used to navigate the customer’s memory towards a particular brand. Scent marketing, if used effectively can become a brand identity and people would immediately connect the smell to the brand.

Scent marketing also instills a vivid customer experience that gets etched in their minds for a long time. Olfactory memory studies have shown that memories of smell stay in our minds for a longer period of time than visual memories. It is said that humans can recall smell upto 65%, while images can be recalled only up to 50% after 3 months.

It is similar to the attar shop experience from my childhood. I may forget the name of the place the shop was at, but I’ll always connect with the scent, even after years.

This brings us to two marketing strategies involved in scent marketing.


Some brands use scent as an effective sensation to resonate their brand identity with their customers. Basically, this means that you may forget the brand name, logo and everything else about the brand. But when you get a particular scent associated with the brand, you can only think of that brand. One of the first brands to use this technique was Abercrombie & Fitch, a clothing brand. They own a line of scents that they usually spray inside their shops. Thus, a customer entering the store would connect this smell with the brand and it would get etched into their memory.

Source: Forbes

Setting the Ambience

Another effective method of marketing using smell is setting the right ambience. This is a quite popular technique of olfactory marketing. When you walk into a theater to watch a movie, right around the time of the intermission, the smell of popcorn surrounds the theater. Thus, when the intermission hits, you will be tempted to buy the popcorn. Gyms also use scents that set the tone for their space, which motivates one to work out.

Another example is of Dunkin’ Donuts, who nailed the olfactory marketing technique, by installing nebulizers that provided an aroma of coffee in several buses in Korea. Soon enough, the sale of coffee went up to 29% and customer visits increased to 20%.

Source: Unsplash

Providing Character

A scent can add a character to the brand or product. It becomes almost humane and this can help to increase the sales of the product.

Here are a few tips to make scent marketing work for your brand:

  • Simplicity is the key – The scent has to be really simple (read: subtle), so that it can easily be registered in the customer’s minds. A very difficult smell might be difficult to be accepted into the minds of the people.
  • Do not overdo it – Smell needs to be sophisticated yet not over the top. When the smell is too overpowering, the customer tends to get confused and it can even be a headache sometimes.
  • Choosing the right smell – Just because a fragrant is really nice does not mean that it is the right one for your brand or product. Thus, choose your scent carefully. The scent chosen should be providing another dimension to your existing brand values.

Scent marketing is immensely useful for a brand that is looking to live in the customer’s mind. If used effectively, scent marketing can provide definition to your brand identity and can really help in the sales of your product.

Feature Image Credit: Prachi Popat

No Comments

Leave A Comment