The Primal Power Of Smell
Harnessing the primal power of smell represents a new frontier of subliminal association. Scent marketing is defined as using scents “to set a mood, promote products or position a brand.” Scents most often are primary product attributes (e.g., perfumes and deodorizers) or secondary product attributes (e.g., the smell of Ivory soap or PlayDoh).
Airlines, hotels, retail stores and casinos all are increasingly using sensory signatures to enhance consumer mood and sales. Appealing to our olfactory sense triggers an immediate emotional response in a consumer. “With all other senses, you think before you respond, but with scent, your brain responds before you think,” says Pam Scholder Ellen, a Georgia State University marketing professor.
A marketing research study on the sensuality of products identified the “emotional and associative learning substrates of the brain grew out of tissue that was first dedicated to processing the sense of smell.” Sights and sounds are processed by more analytical parts of our brains, whereas olfaction is “our phylogenetically oldest and most primitive sense.”
Video games and the Internet already provide abundant visual and aural stimuli, but the screen environment is thus far devoid of smell (if you exclude half-eaten bags of chips, discarded taco or burger wrappers, and stale beer or spilled Mountain Dew). However, the same technologies that facilitate ambient scent marketing are now being applied to add an olfactory “virtual reality” to the gaming and Internet experience. Video companies are looking to create “portable scent delivery device.” It describes a scent generator that selectively releases smells, preferably through a headset or a mobile telephone. Another will permit the user “to smell what the actor smells at that point in the movie.”