In 1993, researchers found that scent marketing campaigns were powerful enough to increase brand loyalty and sales. One of the most well-known studies in the industry was conducted by Alan Hirsch, a Chicago-based neurologist who founded the Smell and Taste Research Foundation.
For the study, scientists placed two identical pairs of Nike running shoes into rooms that were exactly alike, except for one difference. One room had a floral scent, while the other one was unscented. After the study, Hirsch and his team concluded that consumers were 84 percent more likely to buy the Nike running shoes in the scented room.
Research has shown that scent marketing can raise retail store sales by 11% and increase customer satisfaction scores by 20%.
To understand how important context is to scent marketing, researchers suggest that labeling a scent good or bad is as important as the scent itself. In one experiment, subjects were asked to inhale the scent of cheese. Those who were told it was cheese were delighted with the scent. But when researchers told other participants that the container was filled with vomit (even though it was the same cheese), people reacted with disgust. Psychologist Johan Lundstrom drew the conclusion that “you can go from extremely positive to extremely negative just by changing the label.”
Hendrik N.J. Schifferstein, et.al., (2011) conducted a field study at three dance clubs using three scents that are believed to fit the night club environment with an expectation that pleasant scents would increase revenue from drinks, number of visitors and improvement in the visitors mood and evaluation of the club environment as compared to no-scent condition. The three scents used in the experiment were orange, sea water fresh and peppermint. The results revealed that environmental fragrancing is the better solution to get rid of the unpleasant smells in the nightclubs. The study disclosed that pleasant scents stimulated dancing activity which further improved the evaluation of the evening, evaluation of the music as well mood of the visitors.
Ambient scent has created various success stories: Hyatt Place enhanced its brand memorability, Novotel increased its breakfast sales, and Samsung found that customers underestimated shopping time by 26% (Minskey, Fahey, and Fabrigas 2018; Scent Australia 2019).
In another real-world scent marketing experiment, the smell of fresh-brewed coffee at a gas station increased coffee sales by 300%.
Disney was one of the pioneers in this field. They diffuse different aromas to match the locations around their parks. Walking along Main Street in the morning and popcorn wafts through the air, at dinner time, Main Street smells of f warm biscuits, ride California Adventure, and the smells of oranges waft through the air as you fly over the orange groves, and so on.
Alan Hirsch, MD, neurological director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, has also explored the link between scents and sights. He asked men to estimate the weight of a female volunteer
while she wore different aromas or no odor at all. Some scents had no apparent effect on the men’s perceptions of her weight. But when she wore a perfume of floral and spice notes, the men judged her to weigh about 4 pounds less, on average. Even more intriguing, the men who described the floral-spice perfume as pleasant perceived her to be about 12 pounds lighter.