Essays, Featured, Marketing, Scent Marketing

Is Scent Marketing Manipulative?

Written by Jennifer Dublino, on April 24th, 2012

Don't overload your customer; make it more pleasant for them!

I speak to journalists all the time about scent marketing, and the same question keeps coming up: is scent marketing manipulative? This question usually arises after I have explained how scent is the only one of our five senses that goes directly to the emotional and memory centers of our brains. Yes, scent marketing is very effective, but is it mind control?

Of course, the aim of all marketing is to make something happen: get people to notice the brand, to like the brand and ultimately to buy the brand. So in that sense, all marketing is manipulative to some extent. Successful brands, however, are in it for the long term. If a brand’s products do not fulfill the promise made by its marketing, then it abuses the trust of its target market and will never be successful. This is even more true now than it was ten years ago, since word about abusive brands travels like wildfire on social networking sites and can quickly bring a brand to its knees, begging for forgiveness (if it is smart).

Clearly, people’s minds are very complex and operate on many different levels. The presence of a fragrance does not stop the individual from thinking about the features of the product, the value and whether he actually needs the product. What is does, however, is it makes the shopping experience more pleasant for the consumer. People naturally seek pleasure and avoid pain. When someone comes into a lovely environment, she will want to stay there longer. More time in a store or hotel translates into more revenue and repeat sales for that business. When customers are happy the business prospers, which is as it should be.

Because of the overload of marketing everywhere you go, the attention span of the average person has shrunk to that of a goldfish (9 seconds, to be exact). Today, the vast majority of marketing is unpleasant to break through and capture the customer’s attention. The backlash? Entire technologies have arisen to allow people to skip ads (think Tivo and satellite radio). The absence of advertising is frequently used as an incentive for people to pay money for something they can get for free.

Now, take a deep breath and contrast the yelling car salesman on the radio with walking into an environment that smells wonderful, and think about what sort of marketing you would prefer to be exposed to. Chances are, your customers agree.

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