It´s all about scent, Baby!

08. October 2021, MAXFIVE

Citrus for zesty summer vibes, rose for a touch of romance or chocolate to create a laid-back atmosphere. This is all part of the invisible – and sensational – secret behind scents: it’s all about scents, baby! Create new memories and increase sales in the process.


Corporate Scent
increase sales
laid-back stmosphere

Just follow your nose?

The best way to a person’s heart is through their stomach. But you need to go for the nose to appeal to their emotions, along with experiences, feelings and associations. Joint Nobel Prize winners for Medicine or Physiology L. Buck and R. Axel proved that the olfactory system elicits the strongest emotional response, and that specific scents evoke reactions 100 times stronger than those triggered by other sensory inputs. Simply taking in a certain smell can catapult us back in time to another moment – in an instant. Whether it’s the fragrance worn by our first love. Or the endless lavender fields of that last vacation in France. Or the aroma of grandma’s apple pie which still gets our tummies rumbling to this day. It’s a phenomenon referred to in science as the Proust effect. Whatever you want to call it, scents unleash something.  They trigger emotions and associations. And used carefully, their power can be harnessed by retail et al for commercial gain.

From  church to scent marketing

Scent marketing. Sounds a bit OTT and ultra modern. Sounds a bit like the kind of luxury that a fragrant thinker might have dreamt up one night. As a bit of a marketing gag. But that’s where you’d be wrong. It’s not just in the 21st century that the scent of chocolate, cinnamon and so on has been spread amongst the masses. Specific smells have been used to trigger emotions and associations since time immemorial.

A stand-out example: for more than two millennia the church has been using incense to cultivate reverence among its flock. And if you catch a whiff of incense today? You immediately set off on an emotional journey. Carol services as a child, a nephew’s christening, your best friend’s wedding. God willing.

…but how?

Scientists all over the world agree on one thing: scents move us. A quick look at the science quickly reveals what’s actually going on. Whenever we smell something, the hippocampus bursts into life – and it is this part of the brain that is used to store our memories. On top of this, the limbic system also lights up: the area of the brain that deals with emotional intelligence. In short, the most important part of human understanding and something that is not entirely impassive when we make purchasing decisions.

This combination elevates scents to an unparalleled triggerer of memories. 

And it is at precisely this point where scent marketing enters the picture, seducing the brain, stimulating the emotions and determining where and when we feel most comfortable. And the last aspect is the one that can deliver clear competitive benefits for retail. Whether something is stirred deep within customers by the aroma of freshly-baked cookies and cinnamon when out Christmas shopping, or the sweet scent of roses that inspires people in love to splash out on Valentine’s day. A meta study by the University of Klagenfurt shows that getting the scent right out on the shop floor can increase spending by as much as 23%! These findings were based on analysis of some 64 studies involving 15,000 participants.

And there is more: the optimal composition of aromas is responsible for a slew of incredible effects.


  • Customers are more satisfied with the service and products, have a heightened sense of general wellbeing and tend to spend longer on the shop floor as a result, as the Journal of Environmental Psychology established.


  • Employees are demonstrably more satisfied. And satisfied sales staff spells satisfied customers.


  • Of course the memory attributes of this invisible auxiliary sales support comes into play, too: shoppers will remember their stay for longer, and more vividly.


  • On top of that, awareness of the brand is heightened and the brand profile is honed, creating a clear edge over the competition.


And all of that with something as simple as a gentle aroma that hangs in the air above the aisles, somewhere between the cucumbers and pasta, putting an end to nauseating niffs.

How to do it

Important: you have to get it exactly right. Right for the season, for the store, the target group and the products. And in step with the music and design. This is the only way to avoid sensory overload and ensure that the outcome is a boost in sales rather than spooked customers. This is where specialists step in to offer extensive consultation on site. The right dispenser, the right location and the right intensity.

And the right fragrance: after all, different fragrances can have vastly different effects. Cookies, cacao and chocolate are the key to happy customers and creating a homely feeling, while citrus aromas convey a sense of cleanliness while delivering a motivational kick. If you want relaxed and slow-paced customers, then rose, vanilla and lavender are definitely the way to go. And everyone who is not prepared to settle for a single smell, a corporate scent is a great option! The new trend that will turn your company into a scent dispenser.


It´s all about scent, Baby!

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