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The Power of Scent Marketing

With this piece, we take a look at the Power of Scent Marketing. The author of this piece is Kunal Mehta, Kunal is a MICAn (Batch’04), and is currently the Global Marketing Communication Lead at DSM Nutritional Products, Switzerland. He has worked with Britannia Industries and Nestlé India in the B2C space, and in his previous role before joining DSM in the B2B space, Kunal was the Global Innovation & Renovation Manager for KITKAT in Confectionery Strategic Business Unit at Nestlé Centre in Switzerland.

We’re really excited to host him for this piece. Let’s jump right in the piece!

Why Scent Marketing?

When people speak about marketing and think about the various hooks to interact with customers, they often talk about communication, advertising, packaging, promotion, sales, etc. Now if you pause and look at all of these things, they involve one of your most powerful senses – the sense of sight! It is your eyes that play a key role in making a decision for you and therefore it is critical for marketers to catch the attention of your eye.

However, there are categories where, other than sight, the sense of smell also becomes a critical part of the marketer’s toolbox. For example, in the case of perfumes, deodorants, skincare, cream, etc., your nose plays an important role in the purchase decision as your eyes do. This kind of marketing has many names – Scent Marketing, Aroma marketing, Olfactory marketing.

These are obvious categories where it is expected that the scent of the product is an important attribute that is essential to the success of a product.

What happens when categories that you do not necessarily associate with smell as the key hook, tap into that element and catch the customer by a pleasant surprise?

This happens when marketers understand the science of the fact that our olfactory glands are connected directly to our brain, especially the part that stores memory and emotion. So our sense of smell can be a great way for them to build a positive brand image and drive brand equity for their brands.

Today, in this article, I want to share few examples of brands who did fantastic marketing by using the power of scent to connect with their customers in an even stronger way.

Johnson & Johnson Baby powder:

“The smell of nostalgia is the best smell in the world” Why?

Simply because the smell of nostalgia brings back happy memories. No other smell comes close to that because a nostalgic smell takes you back in time, and reminds you of the place you were at, the people you were with, the feelings you had on that particular day and this smell tend to warm the cockles of your heart. In other words, this smell speaks to you and has an emotional conversation with you!

Related: Take a look at the story of Paper Boat

One of the best marketing that I have seen where a company and a brand has leveraged the strength of smell using nostalgia is Johnson and Johnson. A few years back, when people across the country in India opened their morning newspapers, they were taken back to a memory where either they themselves had been a baby or they had spent time close to a baby as a parent, sibling or any other relative.

The readers of The Hindu, The Times of India, Malayala Manorama and a few other dailies were greeted not only by a print ad of Johnson and Johnson baby powder but also with the aroma of the baby powder. This was achieved by sprinkling baby powder across the pages of the newspaper so that, as the reader would turn the page, the smell would waft into their nose again and again. It was no surprise that the Internet on that day was abuzz with this marketing coup that Johnson and Johnson pulled off.

Just imagine a parent who misses their kids because they have grown-up now and don’t get a chance to spend enough time with them because of other responsibilities. The moment such a parent would have smelled this baby powder ad, it would have brought back such wonderful memories of them nurturing their child and seeing him/her grow. There couldn’t be a stronger emotional bond or connection that a brand could build with its customers.

The team at J&J did a brilliant job, not only with the experiential marketing that they delivered but also with the beautiful copy that accompanied the ad. This would have brought back a flood of emotions to so many parents, especially mothers.

Dunkin Donuts

The case study of Dunkin Donuts Korea is quite well known in the world of scent marketing. A few years back, Dunkin wanted to associate itself with coffee and drive sales in the city of Seoul. They had a strong insight that a lot of working people left from home quite early without getting a chance to have their breakfast or coffee. These people would often use public transport like buses so Dunkin came up with a brilliant marketing activation plan.

The brand started running radio ads as it knew that these buses always play the radio. They then put up aroma machines in these buses and linked them with their radio ads in such a way that the nebulizer would release a wonderful aroma of coffee every time the Dunkin ad played on the radio. This was a combination of scent marketing as well as neuromarketing because the brand was subconsciously trying to associate coffee with Dunkin. The ploy worked as they saw a significant increase in their footfalls as well as their sales revenue.

Abercrombie and Fitch

How do you ensure that your potential customer spends more time in your retail outlet? This is where scent marketing comes into play. The international retail brand Abercrombie and Fitch is not only known for its cool collection and merchandise but is also known for a wonderful aroma that emanates from all its stores across the globe.

The brand has its own collection of colognes and perfumes that are sprayed generously throughout the stores including the clothing so that when customers pick up the clothes, open it or try them, they get an extremely pleasant and positive brand experience.

Cinnabon Bakery

Cinnabon is a chain of bakeries spread across many countries in the world. While you expect bakeries to have a delicious smell, the folks at Cinnabon are really smart cookies (pun intended). The team at Cinnabon makes fresh rolls every half an hour as the aroma of freshly baked rolls have the power to travel a significant distance, and when people are passing by a Cinnabon bakery, it becomes extremely difficult for them to resist coming in for a bite.

Hotel Chains and Airlines

When you are visiting a hotel next time, try and pay attention to the scent and aroma in that hotel. Now do this exercise in a hotel of another chain. Chances are that you will be able to notice clear scents that are being used in these different properties. It should be no surprise because there are a number of hotel chains in the world who like to provide a distinct smell on their property and it is a consistent smell across all their properties to build a sense of recognition and association. In fact, the marketing teams of these hotels work closely with perfume and flavour houses to come up with unique and exclusive aromas that can then become a part of the hotel’s identity.

For example:

  • The Lemon Tree group of hotels have a very citrusy scent on their properties because they use the smell of lemon.
  • Singapore Airlines has been using the power of aroma and scent for years to dial up the traveler experience for every passenger and leave them with a positive memory that they cherish for years.

These are just some of the examples of brands across categories that have been using the scent of marketing in a smart and creative way. Scent marketing is just a small portion of sensory marketing that could involve any or all of the five senses.

Do let me know if you know of more such examples.

The Author

The author of this piece is Kunal Mehta, if the piece adds value, head on to LinkedIn, and drop a thank you. Kunal writes some really interesting posts on a daily basis, if you love Marketing, you will love his thoughts. You can also share the piece with your best friend on WhatsApp.

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