Scent marketing is a technique that adds the sensory experience of customized smells to the traditional sight and sound marketing paradigm. It is based on research that indicates that increasing a consumer's interaction with a product by engaging more of the five senses helps him better retain information. Companies have been experimenting with scent marketing since the 1990s, but despite the common sense consensus that an olfactory component should add to the buying experience, it has been difficult for companies to quantify the value of this type of marketing or to implement it in an appropriate fashion.
Marketing has traditionally involved sight and sound, two of the five senses. Advertisements, for example, capitalize on what a consumer can see and hear to impart information. Though this construct has worked well enough historically, consumerism has changed significantly as a result of the technological revolution of the 21st century. Advances in technology, such as with digital video recorders on televisions, mean that buyers have more control over their marketing consumption than ever and are no longer a captive audience. There are increasing demands on the attention of consumers with a proliferation of messages across new media.
The bottom line is that marketers are pressed to find new ways to attract consumer attention and to ensure their message is retained until the point of purchase. Scent marketing is considered by some to be the best opportunity to expand the interaction between companies and consumers. Smell is the strongest of the five senses, and out of the three senses that are not ordinarily utilized, it is the one marketers can most easily fold into traditional formats.
Consumer research has found that scent can add to a buyer's perception of a product's value. Adding pleasing scents seems to subconsciously convince buyers that a product is of higher quality. The scent does not have to be attached to the product itself to be effective, and it can be disbursed throughout the room and contribute to the overall experience. Marketers put this knowledge into use in various ways, such as in specialty shops, on airplanes, and in hotels to convince consumers that they are getting more for their money.
There are many ideas proposed to use scent marketing in innovative ways. Actual implementation has been conservative because companies have found it difficult to determine the value added to the sales equation by going in this direction. Plus, using the sense of smell as part of marketing does not enjoy the same level of acceptance as sight and sound. What one person thinks is a pleasing scent might stink to another. Some people are extraordinarily sensitive to smells, destroying any positive experience this type of marketing is designed to engender.