Smell: The final frontier in sensory marketing

Retailers in New Zealand haven't been marketing a 'signature scent' the way overseas retailers do.

Retailers in New Zealand haven't been marketing a 'signature scent' the way overseas retailers do.

Air Aroma sales and marketing manager Roberta Gansen said New Zealand is behind the eight-ball globally when it comes to marketing brands through smell. 

"The New Zealand market has been neglected for a long time, but it's definitely growing now," Gansen said.

Air Aroma has a growing client base of hotels in New Zealand, but no retail clients.

"Scent is just part of the whole experience like a picture on the wall, the colours that you choose for the store, or the music that's playing in the background," Gansen said. 

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Air Aroma has been a global leader in the field of scent marketing for 18 years - primarily working with brands in the US and China.

If you've ever sniffed a brand new Nissan, walked through the lobby of a Sofitel Hotel, or shopped at a Hugo Boss retail store, you would have smelled the company's handiwork. 

"If they want their customer experience to be more happy, we will usually use a scent like Citroen, and if they want their customers to be relaxed we will use more of a lavender scent," said Gansen.​

A study conducted over three Saturday evenings at a small restaurant in France found diners exposed to a lavender scent (via an electric fragrance diffuser) stayed around 15 per cent longer, and spent approximately 20 per cent more.

Retail NZ's Greg Harford said he was not aware of anyone in New Zealand using scent marketing in a structured way. "That's not to say that there's not anyone doing it, I'm just not aware of it", Harford said.

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Scents have been added to marketing campaigns with surprising results, and sometimes annoying consumers. 

The 'Got milk?' ad campaign from the California Milk Processor Board incorporated the aroma of cookies on outdoor scent strips at bus stops in San Francisco. After complaints the ad would cause people to overeat, the Metropolitan Transit Commission ordered the scent strips to be removed, just 36 hours after their installation. 

A Dunkin' Donuts campaign in South Korea also targeted the noses of municipal bus riders. Whenever the company's jingle played, an atomiser released the smell of coffee into the air. During the campaign, visits to Dunkin' Donuts near bus stops increased by 16 per cent and sales went up at those stores by 29 per cent

Marketing food and drinks with scent makes sense but is does it sell property too? Real estate agent Jude Clarke was not so convinced scent was the key to sales. 

Clarke said she could not stand the smell of bread and would never advise someone to bake before an open home. 

"If you prepare an open home and the owners had dogs in that household, there's no way in hell you get rid of it in one open home, no matter how much you spray stuff around, it's still gonna be there." 

Clarke said in her experience people would buy homes on location, presentation, and price.

"There's lots of stories about people putting in smelly stuff, but I never bother - I don't think it makes a bloody difference."


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