Creating Smellscapes: The Rise of Olfactory Marketing

According to a study done by the Global Journal of Commerce and Management Perspective, “Ambient scent has the strongest impact when it comes to enhancing consumer behavior in terms of emotion, evaluation, willingness to return to a store and purchase intention.” (Smiley, 2014)

Smell can be considered as a psychological phenomenon that is closely associated with emotional responses. It is very difficult to explore smell objectively hence, it calls for a more qualitative approach with roots in neuroscience, psychology, ethnography and anthropology. Why do people feel calm when they smell lavender? Why are citrus based fragrances energising and refreshing?  Why do frankincense and myrrh evoke a feeling of mysticism? Fragrances affect consumer psychology and can be used to create moods that can drive sales. Olfactory marketing has been under-utilised in retail spaces and brands have recently started working towards emotional engagement through smells.

According to an article published in the International Journal of Retail and Distribution Management Knasko(1989) and Lipman(1990) found that ambient aromas in spaces had the ability to increase the customer dwell time. In a research conducted by Spangenberg in 1996 it was found that just by the use of feminine scents, the sale of women’s clothes doubled (Soars, 2009, p. 294). Customers tend to spend more time in the store if the store atmosphere induces the right smellscape. The scent marketing industry is growing at the rate of 15% annually and generates a revenue of  $300 million worldwide (Smiley, 2014).

Companies are using scents to create clear brand differentiation. Abercrombie & Fitch used its signature fragrance – Fierce to distinguish itself from the other clothing brands. The fragrance induces freshness and high energy which encourages shoppers to dwell in the retail space for longer without realising it. Foyles unveiled a new store concept in Birmingham in 2015 where they installed Aroma Machines. The children’s are was made to smell like bubblegum, raspberry, waffles  and the store front was made more welcoming by using fresh scents (Banks, 2015).

Creating Smellscapes can not only bring positive changes to the retail spaces but also create memories for the consumer which makes it easier for them to link certain smells to the brand itself. In other words, fragrances can be considered as a discreet branding tool that has the power to alter consumer buying behaviour subconsciously.


Smiley, M. (2014) Dollars & Scents: From Clothes to Cars to Banks, Brands Seek Distinction Through Fragrance. Available at: http://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/smell-money-marketers-sell-scent/296084/ (Accessed: 18 November 2016).
Smiley, M. (2014) Dollars & Scents: From Clothes to Cars to Banks, Brands Seek Distinction Through Fragrance. Available at: http://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/smell-money-marketers-sell-scent/296084/ (Accessed: 18 November 2016).
Soars, B., (2009), ‘Driving sales through shoppers’ sense of sound, sight, smell and touch’, International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 37(3) pp. 286 – 298
Banks, T. (2015) Foyles introduces “sound showers” and “fresh smells” to new stores’, Design Week (Online Edition), p2-2. 1p
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