Most people underestimate the sense of smell and the overall effect it has on our emotional, mental and physical state.
Picking the right scent can make a customer want to stay in your establishment; the wrong scent can drive a customer away, or put your customer in a bad mood. Scents can enhance relaxation, create romance, or revive you with energy. Since getting and retaining customers means life or death for a company, paying attention to your company’s “smell” can make a big difference.
I started thinking about my experience with scent marketing and decided to call an expert, David Vahue, owner of the Aire-Master franchise of Albany, New York.
David, how long have you been in the “scent” business?
My wife and I started looking at franchise opportunities in all kinds of businesses from health care to window coverings in 2009. We looked at Aire Master and were very impressed with the product, how it worked and that it used recycled materials. The product is both unique and proprietary. Through a chemical reaction, Meelium (the base ingredient) doesn’t mask odors it eliminates them.
Aire-Master was founded by Jerry P. McCauley in 1958 in central Missouri who realized a niche for deodorizing restrooms. The foundation was actually established by Jerry’s grandfather who owned a chemical company in the 20’s. His research and development eventually led to what is now the core Aire-Master system: room deodorizer machines, chemical deodorants, and supplies for use in odor control and commercial hygiene service.
Fiber bars consisting of recycled cloth and recycled paper are treated with a liquid containing a proprietary mix of Meelium and essential oils. As the fan blows over the bar the Meelium is released and chemically attaches to the odor molecules eliminating the smells leaving the essential oils to impart a light fragrance.
How much does scent influence people?
Our sense of smell is very individualized but tests suggest that certain scents can cause changes in our brain waves. Sloan Kettering Cancer Clinic uses scents to help people relax. Mitsubishi added scent to an advertisement, (this is an interesting video on the power of “smell”) and saw sales increase in a declining market. Most of us are familiar with the “new car smell” and actually link a new car with that “special smell.”
One’s sense of smell is tied to the emotional center of the brain and can trigger a “good or bad” experience for the customer. The olfactory receptors in the bridge of our noses are different shapes and sizes and so some people are more sensitive to scents.
It’s been said that a human being can detect 4000-10,000 different smells. Wine tasters and chefs often have a higher evolved sense of smell and taste that is learned through their professions.
Scents (good and bad) can affect the customer’s decision making process. So you can see why a business would want to have the right scent for their customers.
Just like music, scents connect to good and bad times in our life. Hospitals are noted for having that “hospital” odor which usually isn’t positive; on the other hand the new car smell goes a long way.
What should businesses think about when it comes to scents?
Businesses should first strive to be odor free . If it smells bad it’s just not good. The problem is that business owners might sense an odor when they first enter their business but soon after they can’t smell it anymore so they think it is gone. This is called anosmia. What’s really happening is their olfactory receptors are saturated and they just don’t smell it anymore.
Is there a time when scents are in or out?
There are seasonal holiday fragrances. From November – January cinnamon spice is a good scent as is evergreen. After January, lemon twist has light fragrance and makes us think of Spring and the outdoors. We also have a popular scent called Clean Cotton and it smells like clean laundry.
In the British Journal The Lancet, studies were reported on the benefits of aromatherapy using oil from lavender. It was found to be very relaxing and actually lowering blood pressure.
Do different age groups have different scents they like?
The biggest difference between ages is that as you age your sense of smell diminishes. So in nursing homes and hospitals, people who live there have reduced ability to smell and those who work there develop temporary anosmia. However, the people who are visiting can smell everything.
The biggest challenge is helping people to understand the importance of dealing with bad odors. If they’ve been smelling it too long, they’re used to it. Have you ever gone into a person’s home that has a smelly cat litter box and you wonder how they can live with it? They just don’t smell it anymore; they’ve gotten used to it.
What about gender, do women like different scents than men?
Scent preferences are very personal. One business used cinnamon spice in one location and no one liked it yet in other places the customers loved it. It’s like buying perfume; a matter of preference
Think about candle shops in the mall and how they draw you in with their great scents. If you’ve ever been to Lush Handmade Soaps you know the power of wonderful aromas.
Remember it all works together.
How does all of this influence the customers buying pattern?
Understand that there are lots of things that influence a customer to buy; the type of lighting, music and scent all work together. A scent can be so subtle that it may or not be noticed. Chocolate chip cookies, the smell of bread baking are great scents and usually link to great memories. Let’s say that your business smells great in the morning but at 2pm in the afternoon the smell from the nearby dry cleaning establishment just happens to permeate your store. You can bet it will have an influence on your customers.
Not only are people bothered by the scent of the smell but many are concerned about the safety of the smell. When you pump the gas for your car there’s a sign that says the fumes maybe hazardous to your health.
Studies indicate that vanilla is considered a buying scent. According to Alan Hirsch, neurological director of the Smell and Taste Treatment research foundation, if a product smells good it’s perceived to be a good product. Various other studies, such as those on learning speed, weight loss and product appeal, have made connections between a person’s like or dislike of a scent and its effect on their perception or behavior.
It’s important to know that people like great smells, subtle smells that aren’t over powering and influence how they feel about the buying experience.
What’s the worst thing a business can do when it comes to scent?
If a business has an odor problem and they don’t do anything about it. It’s like having layers and layers of dirt. As it piles up it gets worse. The key is to first get rid of the odor and then replace it with a pleasant one. People expect there to be smells everywhere. The challenge is finding the right balance of smells. It’s important that restaurants have lots of good cooking smells because 60% of taste is dictated by our sense of smell. In a restaurant our appetite is increased or diminished by the smell. Often times movie theaters will pipe in a butter popcorn smell to drive customers to the refreshment stand.
Are there some trends David?
Yes there are Lisbeth and here are the latest:
The Scent Marketing Institute http://www.scentmarketing.org/trends/has come up with the top 10 Scent trends:
1. Feel safe, secure and nostalgic: Talcum powder
2. Be more alert: Peppermint, citrus
3. Relax: Lavender, vanilla, chamomile
4. Perceive a room as smaller: Barbecue smoke
5. Perceive a room as bigger: Apple, cucumber
6. Buy expensive furniture: Leather, cedar
7. Buy a home: Fresh baked goods
8. Browse longer and spend more: Tailored floral/citrus scents
9. Develop road rage: Unpleasant smells (rotting rubbish, air pollution)
10. Become sexually aroused: For men: pumpkin pie/lavender For women: the sweat of nursing mothers
Wow, what great information. It just continues to remind me that buying is all about emotion and the right scents are another piece of the buying puzzle.
Lisbeth Calandrino is an award winning author, trainer and blogger. She is author of the book, Red Hot Customer Service, 35 ways to heat up your business and ignite your sales. Lisbeth can provide customer service and sales training using the principles of her book at your place of business or through video conferences.