ON + OFF = More Scent

Thursday, 28 February, 2013

ON + OFF = More Scent

ON + OFF = More Scent.

Scent perception is actually enhanced by stopping sensory stimuli for a while. Scent Marketing can take advantage of this biological fact.

Olfactory adaptation is the temporary, normal inability to perceive a particular scent after a prolonged exposure to it. This is a normal fact included in the broader phenomena of sensory adaptation. It is a decrease of repetitive and constant sensory input so as not to overload the brain with redundant information. It happens with all the senses but it is particularly important for smell because it can lead to complete absence of scent perception.

This is a normal phenomenon that we all probably have experienced. The typical example of olfactory adaptation is: a person enters a scented room and their smell receptors notice the Scent, activating the neuronal olfactory system. If the person remains in the room, these receptors will signal the same odour over and over again. However, after a while the olfactory adaptation phenomenon will take place: The redundant olfactory input will be attenuated (the system will adapt) and the smell will fade away and eventually scent perception will stop.The person will then have the impression that there is no scent anymore, even though the stimulus is actually still present in the air.

If this person goes out of the room for some minutes and then returns, they will perceive again the scent of the room.A remarkable point about olfactory adaptation is that the olfactory sensation only reappears if the input does not remain constant.When the person steps out of the room and returns, the input is longer constant and thus the smell sensation reappears.

An interesting application of this fact to Scent Marketing is that people will smell better a scent in a room with some ‘scented corners’ than in a fully scented room.  This will happen because olfactory adaptation will be avoided in the corner-scented room. For example, a shop can have four strategically placed ‘scented corners’ (entrance, 2 promoted areas and checkout). This way consumers will perceive the scent again and again, since the Scent stimuli will actually ‘appear and disappear’, when they move along the shop, passing by scented and non-scented areas.

For that reason, in some cases, scenting corners rather than full spacescan have, at least, the following advantages:

a)    It is more effectivesince scent perception is enhanced by avoiding olfactory adaptation

b)    It contributes to save money because fragrance costs are reduced.

c)     It is more ecologicalas it avoids ‘wasting’ fragrances by scenting the whole space.


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 www.open-senses.com/en/contact.


Related Literature:

  • Anthony A. Williams, Gillian M. Arnold, “The influence of presentation factors on the sensory assessment of beverages”, Food Quality and Preference (1991) 3, 2, 101.
  • O’Mahony, M. “Sensory Adaptation”. Journal of Sensory Studies (1986) 237-258.
  • O’Mahony, M.; Wong, Say-Yin. “Time-intensity scaling with judges trained to use a calibrated scale: adaptation, salty and umami tastes.” Journal of Sensory Studies 3 (1989) 217-236.