Smell of consuming

Ladies and gentlemen,

Here we are with the last blog.

I hate saying goodbye so I prefer write this blog as it is like all the others and, since the main topic of my blog is linked with the elements affecting people choices in their purchase decision making, I decide to investigate the power of smell in such kind of situation.

It’s quite impossible to don’t recognize the strong power as it has in our everyday experiences.

I don’t know if it is the same for you as well, but every time I smell a particular kind of fragrance I always remember something from the past. For example, just a few days ago, I was walking down the street and suddenly, I smell a strange flavour, which I can’t describe in detail. I didn’t know where this aroma came from but, as soon as I start to smell it, I began to recall my summer days at the seaside. I still don’t know how to define that whiff; the only thing I can associate with it is my past experience.


Don’t worry, I’m not insane because, in some way, past memories and the sense of smell are neurologically connected. Reading this article: “Remembrance of Odors Past: Human Olfactory Cortex in Cross-Modal Recognition Memory”, I discover that the positive recognition of old objects is linked with an activity in the piriform cortex, the area associated with olfactory stimuli. The same activity will not be registered if the participants are seeing a new object.

smell memory pg26

These findings have for sure an important connection with the consumers’ world.

As I already underlined in my Christmas blog, scent and the general atmosphere can affect the consumers’ products decisions (Grohmann & Sprott, 2005). Even if the Christmas period could have a positive influence on the consumers’ purchases’ arises, atmosphere scent has a role that companies should not underestimate. Chebat & Michon, 2003, for instance, find out that an environmental scent affects consumers mood as well as their attitude towards the shops and the products. This discovery is also supported by another study (Bone & Jantrania, 1992), which tries to demonstrate whether smell could be and effective element in the product’s estimation or not and, secondly, if the appropriateness of the odor is more critical than its pleasantness. They tested this hypothesis administering to the subjects a household detergent and a sunscreen that were unscented, lemon scented and coconut scented. Following their suggestion, the smelling product will be preferred with respect to the un-scented ones. Moreover, while the coconut sunscreen will be chosen instead of the lemon-scented one, the lemon cleanser will be likely favored than the coconut one. The results confirm their hypothesis, so the scent drives consumers’ decision and, in particular, products with an appropriate smell are more likely to be chosen than the inappropriate ones.

RD_4.0_Acc_4_1_L Airwick-3-thumb-300x259-122566

I have never thought about that. Now, if I try to figure out some cleanser, it’s quite difficult find products with vanilla or coconut smell, all the products have a fresh, clean scent. in fact, I have to admit that probably, I would be the only one in the whole planet willing to buy a vanilla cleanser, especially if it has a good packaging and a great advertising campaign…

Surprisingly, even the brand recognition could be affected by the smell. In this paper: “The Impact of Ambient Scent on Evaluation, Attention, and Memory for Familiar and Unfamiliar Brands”, the author try to investigate not only how the smell could influence the evaluation of the brand, especially the un-familiar one, but also how it could alter the consumers attentive and recall activity towards it. Using a floral scent or an unscented atmosphere, the researchers tried to evaluate a list of brands, timing their performance, further, after 5 minutes, the participants were asked to complete a recognition task.

The results show that, with a pleasant smell, participants are more likely to use cognitive efforts, especially to unfamiliar brands. So, their attention and, as a consequence, their recall skill is higher with unfamiliar brand in the pleasant-smell conditions. It’s important to underline that these differences are not mediated by mood or arousal changes, which don’t change between the scented and non-scented situations.

In conclusion, the scent atmosphere seems to be an important elements to crab consumers’ attention and, but also useful to mitigate their attitude with the product and the brands.

As always, I use this knowledge to try to explain my personal experience and, once again, I remain stunned about the weakness of us as consumers. Not only this blog but also all my entries highlight how simple is for the companies to foresee and change our behaviour, manipulating simple features of the advertising or of the product’s packaging.

I don’t know if I am much worried or excited about that…

What do you think?


One thought on “Smell of consuming

  1. t1mcox says:

    I agree; smell has a powerful effect on consumers without conscious awareness. Upon investigating into this I came across an interesting paper in how some value brands use similar scents of premium brands.

    Maiwald et al. (2013) coin the term “The Hijacking Effect” which refers phenomena of value brands using similar scents to hijack the premium brand’s positive mental associations. In their study they investigated the participants’ perceptions of two health care brands; Nivea (premium brand) and Belea (value brand). They found that the participants would value the Belea products and brand with higher quality when the Nivea product scent was present in the room (compared to when the scent was not present).

    The study suggests that value brands could benefit from smelling more like their lead competitor. It also shows the power scent has when consumers make mental representations of a brand. This effect was so powerful that the Belea brand perception of trust, good image, and likability was still similar to premium brands, even when the Nivea products were also present in the room.


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