Scent Marketing: What it is and why it works
What it is?

Scented environments have been shown to reduce typos in office workers; improve the perception of product quality; increase purchase intent, average unit sales, and duration of a retail visit or stay among consumers; and boost the willingness of consumers to pay more for a product. But from offices and trade show booths to retail environments and the products themselves, the true power of olfactory branding (also known as scent branding) is in its unique ability to form immediate, powerful, and differentiated emotional connections with customers, particularly within a category of functionally similar offerings.

How and why does it work?

Scent marketing has three distinct advantages compared to other sensory marketing inputs on consumers:

Better Processing Fluency
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Processing Fluency is a cognitive bias in which our opinion of something is influenced by how easily our brain processes it and understands it. We tend to prefer things that are simple to understand and use, and will even find simple information more believable. An intuitive design, or a coherent piece of advertising copy, represents high processing fluency.


Low processing fluency occurs when we find something difficult to interact with or understand. This causes us to expend more effort, resulting in negative feelings and associations.


Due to the incorporation of the olfactory bulb into the limbic system, olfaction by far has the easiest, fastest and most prominent effect on processing fluency of our environment on our memory and emotions.


On a practical level, it means that negative or malodours will have the fastest and most prominent effect of negative feelings and associations with your brand and in-store experience. The inverse is also true in that a pleasant odour will result in a fast and prominent positive experience and association.

Higher Associative Learning and Memory

The definition of associative learning encloses several different types of cognitive processes and events. It is learning that takes place when two elements are connected in our brain. For example, if we associate the alarm clock to get up early, we will find out what this instrument is for and how little we like it.

See below three examples of higher associative learning and memory specifically regarding specific scent:


1. Students exposed to a scent associated with a previous frustrating task did more poorly in a maze challenge compared to children exposed to a scent, they were exposed to when completing an easy and fun task.


2. Participants exposed to scented pencils recalled information read significantly better two weeks later, compared to participants that used unscented pencils.


3. People show a 65% accurate recall of scent after one year past exposure compared to a 30% accurate recall after three months past exposure to a visual stimulus.

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This means, that when you incorporate ambient scent into your in-store or brand experience, that customers will remember your store, brand and experience at a greater level compared to no scent. The alternative is also true that should a malodour be present, that specific customers will have a higher likelihood of feeling frustrated and remembering the unpleasant experience more vividly. This will naturally have a significant detraction on your brand, in-store experience, time spends in-store etcetera.


Your customers are one hundred times more likely to remember what they smell versus something they hear or see.


Increase your brand experience and memorability by adding scent to your marketing staple.

Greater Effect on Emotions and Mood

Several studies, in both laboratory and real-life settings, have found that pleasant fragrances improved mood.


Mood affects cognition. For example:


Individuals in a positive mood exhibit higher levels of creativity.

Pleasant ambient odours were found to enhance vigilance during a tedious task and improve performance.

People exposed to a pleasant ambient scent in a shopping mall were more inclined to help a stranger.

Conversely, the presence of a malodour lowered participants tolerance to frustration.


When your customers feel great they perceive the environment and merchandise also as good. This explains the following results that studies have shown on ambient scent:


- Ambient scenting shows up to 40% increase in customer mood

- 20% more customers feel relaxed, comfortable, and confident

- Ambient Scenting increased positive product ratings by 25%

- Customers will linger longer in scented areas by 40%

- Scenting can increase intent to purchase by up to 80%

- 84% of shoppers perceived identical shoes more attractive in a scented area

- 70% increase in brand impact when all three senses triggered


Retail Stores can achieve the desired customer experience, brand recall, customer behaviour and likeness to return by applying a best in class ambient scenting strategy.