Smell to Sell
One of my fondest memories as a small child was when mom or dad would say, “Kids, get your coats on, we’re headed over to Sears.”
Now keep in mind, I was only about six or seven at the time and I certainly didn’t have any money to spend…but, going to Sears was music to my ears…or perhaps, I should say, music to my nose.
Back then, and we are talking about the early sixties, in the very middle of store, was a snack bar surrounded with round padded red leather and chrome ringed pedestal seats. And even though I’m sure the ambiance of the “modern” look back then would be a retro lover’s dream, that’s not the part that captured me. It was the smell of hot dogs. You could smell the hotdogs as soon as you walked through front door. On a very good behavior shopping trip, I always hoped a hot dog would be a reward…at least a half of one to share with my sister.
The result for Sears was that they sold a lot of hot dogs which was exactly what they were trying to do. What they didn’t quite realize then, was that those hot dogs actually sold much, much more… Over the years, marketers both large and small have placed great value on, and have extensively researched this simple technique. Even the smallest of businesses can use it to help drive traffic.
How it Works
Not a lot of explanation is really needed here…it’s as simple to understand as a babies soiled diaper. Place the soiled diaper on a countertop next to a display of merchandise and goodbye sales! On the other hand, get rid of the diaper and replace it with a fresh baked steaming apple pie and, like magic, you turned the smell of the pie into a merchandising magnet. What worked for Sears back in the sixties still works today.
Companies That Smell Well
As a small business owner, you can take a lead from large corporations who have invested millions on successful marketing aroma marketing approaches, and scaling them down to a low investment opportunity, just makes (scents).
But, before we go jumping in and explore the possibilities of using smell to increase sales transactions for small business, let’s take a look at how some of the bigger companies utilize it.
Cinnabon, Panera, Starbucks
If you frequent shopping malls and happen to stroll past a Cinnabon store it is hard not to be drawn into their web. I imagine if the sweet cinnamon aroma they pump into the walkway could be seen, would look like long wispy fingers that seek you out and wrap themselves around your head, turning it to look in the direction of the source; then grabbing hold of your nose and begin pulling. Cinnabon relies on smell so much that they capitalize on it by placing their ovens close to the entrance, and even when they are not baking fresh buns, they will place sheets of cinnamon and brown sugar on trays and let the magic of the oven continuously do its job.
Panera Breads, like Cinnabon, also has used aroma to target market your nose. One of the biggest changes they made operationally was to switch their “baking” from night to day. They also downgraded their exhaust systems to the lowest possible efficiency as allowed by local laws. In short, the object is to keep the good smell in.
Starbucks, through a trial and error process, found that while trying to boost breakfast sandwich sales through smell that sometimes, just the opposite could occur. The smell of burnt cheese on a grill doesn’t exactly whet the appetite. Their remedy? Bacon and ham…and of course, the signature smell of their coffee.
Realtors, Banks, Apparel, Car Dealers…and even, Home Depot
The next time you explore an Open House, go the bank, or shop for new clothing or a new car, pay attention to how your mood can swing. A marketing savvy business knows the effectiveness of using olfactory responses to not only generate sales, but also trigger or create memories based on smells.
Realtors when showing a house will take advantage of fresh baked pies or cookies, banks and car showrooms will use variants of leather to induce feelings of luxury and trust. Even Home Depot has discovered the benefits of something as simple as the aroma produced by fresh hot buttered popcorn, and like Sears, hotdogs.
What Should Your Business Smell Like?
Before you run out and buy a popcorn maker for your business, perhaps the best and first thing to do is nothing. Stop and “smell the roses”, so to speak. What does your business smell like now? The second thing to consider is, what do you want your business to smell like and why?
Start by doing a simple survey of friends and family. Ask them to walk into your business and tell you the first thing they smell. You might be surprised at the result. Sometimes, you are so accustomed to your business environment that you may not even recognize what it smells like. Getting a different perspective with an unfamiliar nose may give you a better idea of where your starting point is.
Choose your smell wisely. Below are some suggestions to help get you started. Keep in mind, that distinct smells will unwittingly become part of your brand and, as smell locks in memories, so will it lock in your customer’s experience. You can create a memory experience by influencing their mood depending on the smell you choose to be part of your business signature.
Good smells by type of store:
- Shoes, shirts, clothing: ivy, crisp linen, floral
- Swimsuits, outdoor patio: coconut, grapefruit, tropical fruit
- Christmas seasonal: Spruce, nutmeg
- Bakery items: apple, cinnamon, vanilla, chocolate
- Bank, financial, car show rooms: leather, vanilla, musk, dark chocolate
- House Wares: cinnamon, vanilla, citrus
- Toy store: playdough, crayons, cut grass
- General merchandise orange, honeysuckle
- Maternity: baby powder
- Coffee shop: fresh bread, cappuccino, chocolate
- Bookstore: green apple, peppermint
- Sporting/Outdoor goods: oak moss, spruce, musk
- business center/office: peppermint, rosemary
- Amusement center: popcorn, cotton candy, fresh bread
Keep in mind, there are literally tens of thousands of aromas to consider both natural and generated. Review and test market directly to your patrons…not necessarily to the smell you prefer. The key is to never overpower with the scent you choose.
Methods of Smell
So, perhaps you have some idea on what and why you may want to adjust the ambience of your business, now, the question becomes: How do you implement it without spending a lot of money or wasting a lot of time?
Perhaps, depending on your choice, it may be as simple as choosing the right candle. A good quality candle will cost about $17 and last several weeks if used discriminately. If you are going for more of an event type of approach, consider renting or buying a popcorn machine or hot dog roller.
For just a little more money, you could invest in an automatic system that is controllable and can be adjusted to create the “right” level of ambience. I have found several small companies who specialize in aroma marketing delivery systems…most are extremely knowledgeable and market savvy when it comes to coupling the right scent for your business. Feel free to contact me if you would like to hear my recommendations based on reviews.
And yes, there is one other option when it comes to implementing the “smell factor”…but it does require a little more work and works in every environment…try baking a fresh batch of cookies or even a pie…not only will the smell create a marketing memory…but it will also impact your patrons with a personal touch that will lead to repeat business.
Sometimes, a warm plate of chocolate chip cookies does more to connect with your customers than does a warm handshake.
A Great Overview of Aroma Marketing
To Smell or Not to Smell
On the other hand...perhaps, as some businesses have found, the best smell...is none!
If your target base customer, for example, is a pregnant woman who is very sensitive to smells, or you cater to people who are allergic to certain aromas...then, perhaps, it is better to not only not introduce a scent...but moreover...eliminate them.
Again, going back to what we mentioned before, use family and friends to help you evaluate what your business smells like...sometimes, just changing the chemicals you use to clean with can make the difference. In some situations...an air purifier may be the best option.
A Few of Your Favorite Smells
Tiago Damião from Torres Novas on December 03, 2014:
Interesting hub! Voted :D
Joel Diffendarfer (author) from Jonesville on November 21, 2014:
thanks, askformore....I appreciate your help and thanks again for responding to questions...
askformore lm on November 21, 2014:
Thank you for a very interesting hub about "aroma marketing". I voted your hub up!