Come to Your Senses

How Smell Plays an Important Role in Experiential Marketing

Smell, taste, and touch are the least utilized senses in marketing, but they don't have to be.

In many ways, experiential marketing is often defined as engaging all five senses. There are of course, many technical exceptions to that rule. After all, you can certainly give your audience a great experience without them having to actually taste anything. Obviously, taste is going to be a pretty important sense to engage if you’re promoting a new winery, however, for a sports team, taste isn’t going to necessarily be part of their stadium tour.

When asked what the strongest of the five senses is, most people might say sight. However, the sense of smell is the powerhouse of memories and most linked to emotions. Unless you’re talking about a scratch ‘n’ sniff perfume advertisement, marketers have neglected the strongest sense of all. Smell, taste, and touch are the three least utilized senses in traditional marketing - but they don't have to be. 

With experiential marketing, smell can move to the forefront. And why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of the alpha of senses?

Smell This!

Numerous recent studies have confirmed that our sense of smell is the most powerful, including researchers Kevin Bradford (University of Notre Dame) and Debra Desrochers (Tulane University) in their findings “The Use of Scents to Influence Consumers: The Sense of Using Scents to Make Cents” published in The Journal of Business Ethics. However, for brands trying to make “cents of scents,” one question is why. The bigger question? How can we capitalize on that?

Smell is the only sense that’s linked directly to the limbic system. The limbic system encompasses the amygdala, hippocampus, thalamus, hypothalamus, basal ganglia and cingulate gyrus. Medical jargon aside, it’s basically our “emotion hub” within the brain. It’s the main driver behind forming new memories. When we use our sense of smell, we get more emotional and can form better memories attached to that smell. Scientists believe that because primitive mammals were largely nocturnal, they had to depend on their sense of smell to tell if food was edible.

Anyone who’s been brought briskly back to another place in time thanks to sniffing a cologne they associate with a high school love knows the powerful sense of smell. According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, MD, a physician specializing in alternative medicine, smell kickstarts “odor-evoked autobiographical memory or the Proust phenomenon.” He says that odors are particularly good at being “reminders of past experience, much more so than cues from other senses.” Dr. Mercola points out that “smells get routed through your olfactory bulb, which is the smell-analyzing region in your brain.”

No matter what your memories are of Abercrombie & Fitch, the company built an empire in the 1990s based on their signature colognes wafting out of brick and mortar establishments.

 

Smells Sound Awesome. So How Can We Leverage That?

No matter what your memories are of Abercrombie & Fitch, the company built an empire in the 1990s based on their signature colognes wafting out of brick and mortar establishments. In fact, the company reportedly spent over $3 million on scent-spraying machines just for its flagship store. Going into the stores was an experience, and one that boosted the brand to serious popular kid status in the 90s.

Get creative - just as Abercrombie & Fitch used scents to sell clothes, in your branded experiences, you can build an olfactory connection to your brand and bring your consumers closer - one breath at a time.