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Use scents to earn your cents – Dive into olfactory branding

             JAYAJIT DASH

YOU must have done this activity on numerous occasions, consciously or unconsciously. Walking into the swanky outlet of a marquee brand and sighting on the eyeball grabbing images and the tastefully done interiors. But beyond visuals, there’s something that must have gripped you. And left a stronger imprint on your mind than what you saw. I’m alluding to the scent, the aroma, the fragrance at those outlets.

Great brands have known the secret sauce of diving into a customer’s mind and psyche. They have used aroma to arrest our attention. That’s the power of scent marketing or olfactory branding. The human psyche attests to it. Research validates it. What we sniff stays with us for longer than what we see. Smell forges a stronger emotional connect than sight. Starbucks is one of the most famous examples of olfactory marketing. It intentionally fills its stores with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. The strong smell attracts passers-by, causing them to want to get a coffee and walk inside.

Understanding olfactory branding

Businesses are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to engage their target audience and create lasting impressions in the competitive world of marketing. A powerful sense is often overlooked – the sense of smell. Visual marketing has long been the go-to strategy, but it’s not the only one. Using scent to create a unique brand identity and enhance customer experiences through olfactory branding is becoming increasingly popular. When we think of branding, we often think of visual elements like logos, colors, and designs. However, consumers are also influenced by another sense: smell. Olfactory branding involves using scent to create a memorable brand experience. By contrast, optics marketing focuses on visual elements to make brands more recognizable and appealing.

How does olfactory branding score over optics marketing?

Unlike traditional optics marketing, olfactory branding can have a more profound emotional impact on consumers. Scents can:

  • Increase the time customers spend in-store
  • Improve customer loyalty
  • Create positive associations
  • Build trust and familiarity between customers and a brand
  • Create a welcoming ambience
  • Entice customers to explore and linger in a retail space
  • Capture attention
  • Create memorable experiences for customers

Scent marketing is widely used in the hospitality and food and beverage industries. Apple and Starbucks have both used scent marketing. Even though optics remain crucial, research suggests ambient scents are more powerful emotionally.

Do you remember the last time you caught a whiff of a familiar scent and felt transported back in time? Our brain’s emotional center is directly affected by smells. Marketers can tie scents to specific emotions and create deeper connections with consumers by strategically incorporating scents into brand experiences.

How leading brands have tapped it

Scents can be used to extend a company’s brand identity through olfactory branding. The odors may or may not emanate from the company’s products. Here are a few examples of how some leading brands have used olfactory branding to good effect.

Abercrombie & Fitch: One of the first companies to use scents in their stores and marketing, Abercrombie & Fitch has a woody, intense fragrance.

McDonald’s: Their signature scent combines vanilla, cocoa, cinnamon, and nutmeg to create a feeling of comfort and familiarity.

Cinnabon: They use aroma billboard marketing by placing their ovens at the front of their stores to attract customers.

Intercontinental Hotels Group: They use scent to differentiate their three lines of hotels.

Vistara: Their signature “ether” fragrance is a blend of bergamot, lavender, and patchouli.

Other companies that use olfactory branding include Burger King, Metro de Madrid, Rolls Royce, Disney, Dunkin Donuts, Inditex, etc.

Leveraging the Sense of Smell

Creating a Signature Scent for the Brand: A signature scent can become an integral part of a brand’s identity, just like a logo or tagline. The right scent can reflect the brand’s values and resonate with customers by working with perfumers and scent experts.

Incorporating Scent into Marketing Materials and Environments: A variety of touchpoints must be incorporated into olfactory branding to maximize its potential. Scents can be used on packaging, product samples, or even advertisements. A multi-sensory brand experience can also be created in businesses using scented environments.

Delivering Consistent Olfactory Branding across Touchpoints: When it comes to branding, consistency is critical. The same is true for olfactory branding. A brand’s scent should align with its identity and be consistent across all touchpoints. By doing this, the brand’s association with the smell is reinforced, and consumer recognition is increased.

Enhancing Customer Experience: Using scent effectively can significantly influence a brand’s perception and recognition among consumers. The right scent can make a brand stand out in a crowded market by creating a positive and memorable impression. Consumers make decisions based on their emotions. Using olfactory branding, businesses can influence consumer behavior and increase the likelihood of purchase decisions in their favor. The creation of an unforgettable brand experience is crucial to building brand loyalty. Through olfactory branding, consumers can connect on a more emotional level than through just visuals. Repeat purchases can be encouraged when a brand’s scent becomes familiar and associated with positive experiences.

Emerging Tech can make olfactory branding even more disruptive

The rise of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) offers brands the opportunity to enhance immersive experiences with scent. Imagine putting on a VR headset and being transported to a tropical beach while smelling coconut sunscreen’s refreshing aroma. Brands can create a more engaging and realistic multi-sensory experience by seamlessly integrating scent into AR and VR environments. Technology and olfactory branding can revolutionize how we experience and remember brands.

(The author of this article is a compelling content writer who revels in writing at the intersection of technology and policy ecosystems, has the flair to project emerging technologies in an intelligible light for the benefit of the lay reader. He is creative and persistent with the ability to quickly and effectively figure out the role of niche technologies to solve the problems of the changing landscape for businesses and governance.

He is currently engaged as a Senior Manager (Corporate Communications) with Bhubaneswar-headquartered IT consulting company CSM Technologies. He has worked as a Business journalist with India’s premier daily The Business Standard for over 13 years.)

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