Is scent the future of engagement?

category - campaign
sector - retail
type - opinion
Companies are tapping into the benefits of fragrance and its potential to create emotional connections, drive productivity and boost retail sales

Sensory marketing in its current form is primarily associated with music and visual tools that retailers use to create an immersive in-store experience, however one powerful sense that is often underestimated is scent. The science behind the power of scent has become increasingly more evident, with various pieces of research highlighting the importance of fragrance in relation to memory and certain physiological responses. The Sense of Smell Institute, for example, uncovered that people are able to recall scents with 65% accuracy after a full year, whereas they can only remember visual cues with 50% accuracy after three months.

Now, companies are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits associated with a fragrance’s powerful emotional connection. When used effectively, retailers can use scent to trigger emotions, enrich brand identity, and motivate purchases. Through our own research, we recently found that areas dedicated to football within an INTERSPORT store that featured the scent of fresh-cut grass generated 26% more sales than unscented zones in other test stores. Scent creates a positive association in the consumer’s mind by bringing up the happy memories of playing sports: the outdoors, friendly competition, summertime.

If used in the right way scent marketing can build into and enrich a brand’s universe, as the in-store environment becomes a highly curated and immersive space. Coca-Cola presents a great example of this as, for the second year in a row, it used its scent marketing to build into an immersive seasonal experience at Christmas. In London, Coca-Cola launched a marketing campaign centred on a Christmas themed activation at Oxford Circus Underground station which used the festive fragrance of cinnamon to let people know the ‘Holidays are coming’. Coca-Cola demonstrated that using scents that hold specific significance is a good way to truly excite people and re-establish the positive associations that already exist in people’s minds.

Published by:

23 January 2020

Author: Linda Ralph

Image: Mood perfume by Tamburins


Avestan, London

For all retail categories, the adoption of scent marketing can be a valuable opportunity to make lasting connections with consumers, especially if they are utilised as an integral part of any sensory marketing strategy. Like Coca-Cola, the most successful brands will use scent marketing in an increasingly sophisticated manner devising scents that align with a consistent brand image, targeted to specific seasonal periods or certain sub-sections of the population. Abercrombie & Fitch has been mastering this for years as it uses extensive market research to deliberately target its powerful scents to a younger demographic.

Altogether, scent can be used to truly engage with people on a multi-sense level, as it allows brands to curate a unique and appealing environment. This insight has relevance beyond the world of retail, as scent can be used in many different environments to trigger certain physical responses. The West Coast Institute of Aromatherapy has conducted research into the specific scents that promote productivity within the workplace. Peppermint, for instance, is identified as a stimulant for creative thinking, helping you concentrate and maintain energy. In the next five years, as more people will come to understand the power of scent in this regard, employers will adopt scent alongside the right sounds and lighting to help boost productivity levels, creating an environment where workers can concentrate and perform at their peak.

Linda Ralph is vice president of international business development at Mood Media, a provider of in-store media solutions to help brands connect with their customers, enhance their brand image and grow business.

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'Coca-Cola has used the festive fragrance of cinnamon to let people know the ‘Holidays are coming'

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