Can Scents actually raise sales?

Wednesday, 9 October, 2013

As it elicits instant, emotional responses, the sense of smell is useful in communicating with consumers. It is linked to the limbic system: a primitive part of the brain responsible for emotion, instincts, motivation and memory. It always works, independently of how aware we are of it, and it activates our brain more effectively than the other senses. A scent can instantly evoke past images, sensations, memories and associations.

Combined with positive experiences, scents can build Brand loyalty because they can create longer-lasting memories than the other senses. A Signature Brand Scent can build a deep emotional connection with the consumer that is remembered for a long time.

Shoppers take an opinion about a product in 3 to 7 seconds on a store shelf: this is the most important marketing opportunity for a brand and it determines trial. At Procter & Gamble it is called the ‘first moment of truth’. Then, ‘the second moment of truth’ happens every time consumers use the product, and it determines Brand Loyalty. What if the ‘moments of truth’ are linked to pleasant scents in order to raise sales?

For scented products such as fragrances, cosmetics, air fresheners or cleaners, scent is an obvious key purchase element. However, these products are usually difficult to smell and consumers keep opening them in order to get an idea about how they smell like. Enhancing Scent perception at the Point of Sales can raise product trial and cultivate Brand Loyalty. Scent can also provide added value as part of the overall Brand Experience for ‘non-scented products’, such as shoes, automobiles, hotels or shops. Scent Marketing is an interesting arena that many marketers are already exploring. This article discusses some proven facts about using scents for marketing purposes.


A pleasant ambient scent raises attention, memory and the amount of time evaluating a brand, so it can improve Brand name recall.

A research performed in 2000 with brands of fine fragrances, cosmetics and home care products proved that a pleasantly Scented environment raised 30% the scores of evaluations for unfamiliar brands. While attention time for unfamiliar brands (3.08 sec.) was lower than for familiar brands (3.29 sec.) in a non-scented atmosphere, it was significantly higher (3.64 sec.) in a pleasantly scented atmosphere. Unfamiliar brands had a Brand name recall percentage 5 times higher in the scented ambient.

Strategic management of scents and music can raise impulse buying and help retailers to differentiate their stores from competitors. 

In 2001 a research proved that the combination of pleasant scent and music in a retailing environment can make consumers rate the environment more positively, exhibit higher levels of approach and impulse buying behaviours, and experience enhanced satisfaction.

A scented atmosphere can increase sales and value perception of ‘non-scented’ products:

In 2005 Martin Lindstrom and Philip Kotler proved that 84% of people preferred a pair of Nike shoes placed in a room scented with floral notes (as opposed to an identical pair of shoes placed in a non scented room). And the value of the ‘scented’ shoes was estimated, on average, 10-15% higher than the ‘unscented’ shoes.

Scents can improve other non-fragrance-related perceptions of product benefits:

In 2007, the Research Agency Millward Brown was involved in a test of two types of cleansing wipes: they were identical except for the presence of a fragrance. Twice as many people agreed that the fragranced wipes were ‘very pleasant’ compared to the unscented ones. Purchase intent was 75% higher for the scented product. Interestingly, the positive reaction to the presence of a scent showed a correlation with other measures of product performance: 28% more people agreed that the scented product ‘cleansed effectively but gently’; and 26% more people agreed that the fragranced wipes ‘left the skin feeling smooth’.

A Scent Marketing Campaign can raise traffic to the stores and increase sales:

In 2012 a marketing campaign for Dunkin’ Donuts in South Korea included the combined use of radio ads and scent. Scent diffusers placed on commuter buses in Seoul released coffee scent when the Dunkin’ Donuts ad sounded on the radio. The multi-sensory message reached around 350.000 people and it was very successful: Traffic to the stores increased by 16% and sales raised by 29%.


Scents can be much more than just a means to please clients. The Sense of Smell offers a strong way to create competitive advantage. It can provide a unique brand experience, support a distinctive brand identity, and enhance the emotional bond to ultimately raise sales.


At Open-Senses we are Experts in Scent Marketing and we have the best Scents and Diffusers for the Point of Sales. You can contact us at



Bradford, Kevin D and Desrochers, Debra M (2009). The Use of Scents to Influence Consumers: The Sense of Using Scents to Make Cents. University of Notre Dame and Tulane University.

Dowdey, S. (2008). Does What You Smell Determine What You Buy? published by How Stuff Works? available at, accessed March 2013.

Dublino, Jennifer (2012) Multi-sensory Dunkin’ Donut Campaign Spikes Sales. The Scent Marketing Institute.

Lindstrom, Martin and Kotler, Philip (2005), Book: Brand Sense: Build Powerful Brands through Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight, and Sound, New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Mattila, Anna S. and Jochen Wirtz (2001), Congruency of Scent and Music as a Driver of In-store Evaluations and Behavior, Journal of Retailing, 77 (2), 273-289.

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