The Power of Scent

Scent branding can be a powerful extension of a brand’s existing marketing strategy. For decades, it’s been a successful tactic for bakeries, popcorn stands and fast-food retailers. I dare you to pass by a Cinnabon or even a KFC and not have your mouth water!

Scent can affect your mood, your memory, in fact, your entire sense of well-being. We associate scents with people, places and specific memories because our olfactory nerves connect directly with our brains, where scent impulses create virtually instant memories. Case in point, to this day I will always associate the smell of Calvin Klein’s Obsession cologne with my hubby – even though he hasn’t worn it in over 15 years – because it’s what he wore when he first came-a-courting.

As scent is tied to memory and feelings, it’s not surprising that marketers and the like have been trying to cash in on this concept by adding smell to our media experience. In fact this has been happening through trial and error for over 50 years! In 1959/1960, competitors Hans Laube and Charles Weiss introduced to ‘Smell-O-Vision’ and ‘AromaRama’ respectively to North America movie goers. The principle was simple, movie goers experience would be enhances by experiencing the same scents as the characters on screen.

While the concept never really took off, researchers today are revisiting the concept to bring the power of scent back but this time to our personal media devices. Tokyo University researchers Haruka Matsukura, Hiroshi Ishida, and Tatsuhiro Yoneda, created a prototype of a “smelling screen” that they debuted at the 2013 IEEE Virtual Reality Conference. (IEEE is a professional association for the advancement of technology.) The “smelling screen” features fans on both sides of a computer screen and uses hydrogel pellets aka “aroma chips”, which are heated to create different scents to accompany content.

fb-shareNot to be outdone, a Tokyo company called Scentee has an app for that! Scentee’s app is used in combination with an add-on for smart phones that plugs into the headphone jack that releases scents on demand. For example, you can set it to give a burst of scent when you get a text from someone, or even LIKE on Facebook. They’re calling it a “new way of communication with aroma” as you can send an apology text and the scent of rose could be released (provided the receiver happens to have the rose scent disc inserted). I’m not sure how this will translate for marketers as the choice of scent is up to the user, but if you want to give it a go, a Scentee starter kit will run you about $70USD… and for an extra $7.50 you can have them toss in a bacon disc! Mmmmm bacon.


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