A Brief History of Scent Marketing| Coral Aroma


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Among all the senses that human beings possess, smell has a unique value. Unique scents have the ability to entertain us and improve our moods by providing a calm and refreshed mind. They trigger our senses and influence our mind and body in various ways. Applying this characteristic of scents to promote and market brands is known as scent marketing.

Scent marketing has been a term of recent interest to the whole marketing circle. Most brands think of scent marketing as a modern marketing technique that has been developed by recent studies or experiments. Is that true?

The fact is, scent marketing is just a term that we discovered for the process that scents have been doing for a long time. Right from the origin of man and the knowledge about his senses, scents have directly or indirectly influenced us. Sweet-smelling food, the smell of flowers, the smell of the rain, pleasant perfumes, etc, have always provided a special feel inside us, that we understood without the fact that scent marketing existed.

Even though scents have been in the market for centuries, the evolution of scent marketing can be traced from the last quarter of the twentieth century. To know more about this, let us dig deep into the history of scent marketing.

The Discovery of Scent Marketing

In 1976, Mark Pelitier, a technician for the Air Force identified the fresh aroma of redwood soaked with rain, the smell of grass, ferns, and other plants. All these sents made him feel calm and relaxed. It was then he thought how great it would be if the buildings and houses had these scents inside them. Life, family time, being alone, everything would be better with a calm atmosphere and reduced stress. Thus, he decided to manufacture a device that can spread these scents. Pelitier succeeded in coming up with the first commercial scent diffuser in the late 1970s and launched his company ‘Aromasys’ in the further know as scent marketing industry.

Who Benefitted The First

The first customers of scent marketing were the casinos in Las Vegas. In the 1970s smoking in public places was allowed, and was a big problem for casinos. Having a crowded atmosphere inside, the smell of cigarette smoke was an issue for all casinos. In order to eliminate it, they started using scent diffusers inside. This resulted in more and more people getting attracted to casinos, thereby increasing the business. As most hotels were near to the casinos, hotels too started using scent diffuser machines in their lobbies and rooms, to provide a warm welcome for their guests. By the 1980s, scent marketing slowly became popular among retail shops and other stores.

Research On Scent Marketing

Dr. Alan Hirsch, the founder of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research  Foundation in Chicago, was the first to conduct scientific studies on the benefits of scent marketing. His organization dealt with the treatment of patients with smell disorders and conducted research on olfaction and scent.

Hirsch did his first experiment in 1990, with two identical retail shops. Both the retail shops had a pair of Nike shoes on the display. He filled one store with purified air and the other one with a soothing floral scent. He had some questions for the participants who came into the twos stores looking for the shoes. As a result, he found out that the people who came into the scented room were 84 percent more likely to buy the shoes when compared to those who went into the unscented room. Customers in the scented room were also willing to pay 10 percent more than the people in the unscented room. This research, when published, initiated a new trend in business. More and more stores and businesses started using ambient scents in them.

As said before, the scenting of casinos resulted in an increase in their revenue. But, Hirsch wanted to make sure that this was purely the effect of scents. He took three comparable slot zones for analysis and scented two of them. Then he compared the revenues of these zones before, during, and after scenting. While there was no change in the unscented zones, there was a 45 percent increase in gambling revenue in the scented zones. This became valid proof of the effect of scent marketing and more businesses started using it completely as a marketing strategy.

The New Technology

Scent marketing has evolved itself in the past five decades with the assistance of advanced technology. The traditional scent diffusers had issues in adjusting the intensity of scents which denied perfection. The modern scent diffusers diffuse essential oils into a micro-mist of tiny droplets of 5 to 20 microns, which can be delivered through HVAC systems. Due to their smaller size, the droplets ensure an even distribution of fragrances throughout the room. These diffusers also feature timers and other energy-saving mechanisms.

Thus, scent marketing as a proven strategy tells a brief history of about 5 decades. It is now one of the powerful marketing strategies that help businesses in almost all industries to improve their brand awareness and value.