Multi-sensory marketing: Is scent the key to brand success?

It seems that multi-sensory marketing is taking retail by storm, with marketers particularly keen to leverage a customer’s sense of smell to tap into memories and ambitions.

More brands are using signature scents to create emotional connections and evoke particular connotations within the minds of consumers. They want to create scents that scream luxury, indulgence or relaxation, and pair them with other sensory experiences – for example, the feel of crisp bed linen in a hotel or the sound of dreamy music in a restaurant.

One big-name brand that has done just that is Marriott’s St Regis hotels, creating a signature scent inspired by American socialite Caroline Astor and her legendary New York parties. Niche? Yes. Luxurious, extravagant and opulent? You bet…

Speaking about the brand’s multi-sensory strategy, Jennie Toh, vice president of brand in APAC for Marriott International explained: “With the sense of smell being so intimately linked to memory and emotion, by developing and deploying a signature scent unique to each brand, we are helping create not only a better first impression, but a positive reinforcement of their experience.”

She went on to describe how certain aromas can be used to create a stronger brand presence and an air of familiarity for guests who travel around the world.

In Toh’s opinion, adding signature smells to the customer experience is “one of the most untapped, powerful ways” to welcome customers. After all, if you’ve got the chance to create a positive first impression, any business is going to want to take it.

Scent marketing: Why is smell so powerful?

Smell is by far the most emotional of all our senses. It is also the most powerful. Scent allows brands to connect with consumers on a deeper, emotional level to create a more memorable experience.

Research suggests that being surrounded by a positive scent can elevate our mood by 40%. With 75% of our emotions being guided by scent, it’s not surprising that it can be used to amplify a brand’s identity and values.

Thanks to a direct link between our olfactory and limbic systems, humans strongly associate smells with emotion and memory. Such is the strength of this link, it means we can reach 65% accuracy when it comes to information recall.

Looking at the stats, you’d think the use of scent in multi-sensory marketing was a given. However, awareness about the power of scent marketing is still relatively low.

Developing a signature scent

So, how would a brand go about creating its own signature scent? The first step is identifying what makes up a brand in terms of aesthetics, audience and brand purpose. Once that has been established, it’s possible to tailor a scent based on these components and add extra key notes such as relaxation, luxury or sophistication.

Brands also need to consider culture and universality when developing a scent. Certain smells are considered universally pleasing – freshly-cut grass, fresh coffee, or freshly-baked bread. Others are more localised – for example, kimchi which can evoke all sorts of positive emotions, but perhaps not for those unfamiliar with its pungent aroma.

By considering cultural preferences, brands are able to ‘localise’ their scents and keep the customer experience wholly positive.

Wafts of holistic marketing

Scent marketing isn’t something that operates in isolation of other marketing strategies. It works best when it is at the heart of a holistic marketing strategy.

As Olivia Jezler, founder of scent branding company Future of Smell explained: “When all the sensory elements of texture, weight, colour, sound and scent work together, each balanced in unison with one another, our experience is heightened as is our consumer experience of a product, environment or service.”

She continued: “In a retail setting, the added element or products being sold and the target market also comes into play as additional factors to design for.”

Abercrombie & Fitch is just one of many brands using scent marketing effectively – anyone who’s visited a store will instantly recognise the company’s unique aroma. Employees used to walk around the store with spray bottles containing the woody scent, now nebulisers are deployed throughout.

John Lewis took it one step further by designing specific scents for certain areas within the home. A fragrance with base notes of coconut and vanilla was used for fitted kitchens and cooking appliances to evoke the warmth of the communal space, which is often the heart of the home. 

Jezler explained that scent marketing needs to tell a single story. She said that if a product “sounds like the ocean and smells like pine trees, our brain cannot compute this as a unified experience.”

This creates confusion and a disjointed experience, meaning we are unable to assess whether a product is good or not. When everything comes together to tell one story, we are inclined to assess a product as high quality – and are willing to pay more for it.

Golden rules of scent marketing

Scent marketing is just one way you can adopt a more experiential approach to your marketing efforts. Interested? We’ll leave you with the two rules of scent marketing:

1.      A little bit of scent can go a long way (i.e. less is more)

2.      A complete absence of smell can be unsettling (amplified by the loss of taste and smell people experienced after testing positive for Covid)

Ready to take your marketing efforts to new experiential highs? The Delta Group is here to help. Get in touch with our friendly team today: