Is Scent Advertising intrusive?

Monday, 9 June, 2014

Scents are being more and more used to attract consumers and improve their Shopping Experience. 5 years ago ‘Scent Marketing’ was a rather unknown concept, today it is already a need for all businesses to which scent plays a key competitive role. The new ‘Scent Advertising’ concept will be as familiar in 5 years’ time.

Today, due to hygiene reasons, mass market products are well packed, and their smells are enclosed in the ‘black box’ of their packaging. Purchasing experience does not include any Scent Element. This problem is as purchasing music without listening to it how it sounds like: such ‘purchasing experience’ has room for improvement.

Advertising uses images, sounds and texts, and the same way it can integrate scents to explain the product benefits to consumers. The main difference, though, is that Scent Messages are not digitalizable: scents are diffused to the air till they reach nearby people. This fact raises doubts regarding the possible ‘intrusiveness’ of using scents in Advertising. This article analyzes and clarifies some questions about the application of Scent Advertising at the Points of Purchase.


Is this too innovative and risky?

One of the main pleasures of traditional markets is the variety of nice scents of fruits, vegetables, spices and flowers. Who has not purchased the strawberries that spread their irresistible scent just next to the passing-by area? And then has also purchased oranges, apples and even onions? Scent advertising has been used from time immemorial.

Most perfumery products are already using scent testers. In general, one of the products is labeled as ‘tester’, so that consumers can try a bit of perfume to see if they like the smell before purchasing it. But, if they are not well monitored, testers are often spoiled, broken, lost, stolen, or simply put in the wrong place.

The elements of the Shopping experience that consumers like the most are always sensorial: people like touching, hearing, touching… and smelling! Advertising at the Point of purchase includes attractive images and texts to explain consumers the sensations and emotions that the product elicits. Why not including also a place where consumers can smell the product without having to manipulate it?


But… Who wants to smell?

Consumers are interested in knowing the product before purchasing it: To a consumer willing to purchase, for example, a fabric softener, making sure they will like the smell is a must. Because otherwise, if they take the wrong product, they will have to throw it away, or, worse, they will have to put up with the nasty scent in their laundry until the product is consumed and a new one can be purchased. For this reason many consumers open a product container, they smell it, they decide if they like the smell or not and… they purchase another one. This way many products are open in the Point of Purchase, with their corresponding wastages.

Consumers love looking, touching, listening and smelling before purchasing. This improves the Shopping experience, it educates consumers and helps them to choose better.


Smells will not be mixed-up?

Actually, there is already a lot of mixed-up smells in supermarkets, in a ‘scent-background noise’: it is this nasty smell that all supermarkets have in common. One can just ask any child about it, since we adults are used to it and it is olfactory ‘invisible’ to us.

The same way we can listen music mixed with some background noise (the music at the supermarket and the noise consumers make), it is also possible to smell a deodorant in an area where other scents are present. If conveniently located, scents in an area do not interfere with scents in another area. In order to avoid the ‘scent chaos’, scent advertising has to limit the localization of scents in concrete areas. As scent diffusion is directly related to costs, scent advertising is necessarily self-adjustable.


What if people dislikes the smell of my product?

In such case, it is much better that they do not purchase it. A person that purchases, for example, an air freshener, and then once at home they dislike the perfume, will very likely leave the whole air care category. With the consequent discredit of the whole industry. And this is already happening. It can also be the case that this person becomes very conservative and, confronted with the risk of nasty perfumes, they decide to purchase only what they know. This is already happening, and it is detrimental to fragrance quality, and modernization of the scent culture. This last element is making it more difficult for younger people to enter the fragrance categories.

Offering Scent Quality and allowing consumers to smell products before purchasing them is a must. If they do not like the product, then they should purchase another one, but never to leave the category.


Will Scents bother consumers?

This is like asking if music will bother consumers. The answer is no: the same as for music, we can assume that scents not only do not bother people, but they please them. Scents enrich the shopping experience and make it more fun, stimulating sales. And, the same way a strong music should not be imposed, a strong scent should not be forced either. It is all about seducing consumers by means of their senses. And the sense of smell is an expert in seduction.


At Open-Senses we are Experts in Scent Marketing and Advertising, and we offer the best Design Services, Scents and Diffusers for Scent Marketing and Advertising. We have designed a Scent Diffuser System for Scent Advertising at the Point of Purchase. More information at: