New Marketing Tactic Gets Smelly

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New Marketing Tactic Gets Smelly

It's a widely known fact that scents can trigger corresponding memories. Marketing firms are taking this to the next level, offering an array of aromas for retailers' use when targeting consumers.

One company, California-based ScentAndrea Multisensory Communications LLC, plans to offer gas stations a way to bring customers inside the store using scents, reported the Globe and Mail.

The company developed small fans that emit the smell of freshly-brewed coffee. When installed at the pump, customers will be enticed with the fragrance, which will hopefully lead them inside the store to by a cup of coffee. ScentAndrea is finalizing plans to install the fans at gas stations across Canada, the report stated.

"If you're a coffee drinker, there's no passing up going in and getting a coffee," said Carmine Santandrea, chief executive of the scent marketing company.

Scent marketing is still an emerging industry. In 2006 it was used to sell milk, mobile phones and Play-Doh, the report stated. However, Santandrea predicts that 2007 will be the "year of the scent," and Advertising Age named scent marketing a trend to watch for in 2007, the Globe and Mail reported.

The trend is expected to grow dramatically in the future. While the scent marketing industry is worth $40 to $60 million currently, Scarsdale, N.Y.-based Scent Marketing Institute estimates that the industry will be worth $500 million to $1 billion in 2016, according to the report. "It's the only avenue left for marketers to explore," institute founder Harald Vogt told the newspaper.

Scent marketing reaches consumers where other typical marketing strategies can not. Visual marketing can be overlooked and audio advertising can be blocked out by MP3 players. However, scents are used in the air, and can not be avoided as easily.

"There's visuals up the wazoo. . . . People are walking around with their iPods trying to block out sound. Fragrance is the only thing left. You cannot turn off your nose. You have to breathe," Vogt added.

While it may seem like a new avenue of marketing, some believe it is as old as baking cookies or a pie in the oven when trying to sell a house. "Scent is linked to your memory, emotions and mood in a way that people are really starting to be able to understand and harness," David Van Epps, CEO of Charlotte, N.C.-based ScentAir Inc., told the Globe and Mail.

ScentAir uses scent marketing in Las Vegas' casinos and Sony Style stores. In Bloomingdales, baby products are sold with the fragrance of baby powder, lingere is scented with lilac and bikinis with coconut. Toy stores use the smell of Play-Doh, an attempt to bring back nostalgic memories from parents' childhoods, the report stated.

Scent marketing works most effectively for food, drinks and consumer products, according to Santandrea, whose company is rolling out multimedia TV screens in 40,000 grocery and c-stores, according to the report. Those screens will run advertisements that combine visual, audio and scent marketing.

"Both visual and copy require the left side of the brain, which means it has to be interpreted," he told the paper. "Scent is . . . purely emotional and all advertising tries to appeal to emotion."

When done correctly, scent marketing creates an immediate desire for a product, said Tony Chapman, CEO of Capital C, a Toronto-based promotional marketing firm. However, there may be backlash from consumers that feel they are being inundated with advertising.

"You've got to be careful where you do it. Consumers are rebelling so much against advertising. . . . Scent's just another way where we've got to be careful not to cross the line," he said.

One occasion where consumers opposed such marketing was a California Milk Processor Board program where bus stations' ads were scented to smell like cookies, in an effort to make people want to drink milk. The transit agency required the ads to be removed when people voiced concerns over the safety of the scent.

"What it means for the future of scent marketing is stay away from public places, because it's unpredictable what is going to happen," said Vogt. Private places such as retail stores can use the scents to their advantage, he added.

Santandrea expressed similar cautions: "Our attorneys have told us that as long as the consumer has the choice of moving away from fragrance, we are within the law. But if you do it in a confined space like an airplane or an elevator, you will make people mad."