Commercial Scent Marketing Guide - Whole Home Scenting


A How-To Guide for Commercial Scent Marketing

Marketing is the primary way businesses attract and retain customers. It is also the tool businesses use to affect consumers’ purchasing decisions. The most effective marketing campaigns appeal to all of the senses. Commercial scent marketing focuses on the sense of smell.

What Is Commercial Scent Marketing?

What is commercial scenting?

Scent marketing is a marketing strategy that targets the link between a shopper’s sense of smell and purchasing behavior. It involves deploying carefully selected fragrances to enhance the shopping experience and encourage specific behaviors.

What Are the Benefits of Commercial Scent Marketing?

Commercial scent marketing can increase sales in retail stores by 11% and boost customer satisfaction scores by 20%. Because of the link between smell and memories, scent marketing can make your store more memorable, which helps build brand loyalty. Additionally, customers tend to spend more time in stores with pleasant smells.

Scent marketing also brings cohesion to your marketing strategy. The majority of marketing materials are visual items, such as logos, colors, symbols and fonts. Many businesses also add in auditory elements, such as jingles. Mixing in marketing that engages the sense of smell helps tie everything together.

Why Does Commercial Scent Marketing Work?

Emotions often drive purchasing decisions. Research has shown that emotionally connected customers are 52% more valuable than merely satisfied customers. About 75% of the emotions people experience are driven by smell.

The sense of smell is also powerfully linked to memory. Research has shown that after three months, people tend to accurately remember only 50% of the images they have seen. By contrast, people remember smells with 65% accuracy after a year.

How Can I Employ Commercial Scent Marketing Effectively?

There are a variety of tips and strategies you can employ to make your commercial scent marketing campaigns more effective.

Be Aware of Context

Context is an important factor for successfully utilizing scents in your marketing campaigns. Research has shown that portraying a smell as desirable or undesirable is at the same level of importance as the actual odor. For example, subjects participating in an experiment were instructed to inhale a cheese scent. The subjects who were informed that the scent was cheese found the smell to be pleasant. However, subjects who were told that the same scent was vomit reacted negatively.

Utilize Scent Research

Most businesses don’t have the resources of huge corporations, such as Nike or Starbucks, to use for extensive commercial scent marketing research. However, you can take advantage of the research those companies have done. Take the time to review the various studies on the topic. The knowledge you gain will help you create your scent marketing strategy. There are several examples of useful information from these studies:

  • Ambient scents that match the products sold in a store can positively influence purchasing behavior.
  • Ambient scents that are a mismatch for the products sold may discourage purchases.
  • Gendered perceptions of scents may affect purchasing behavior when matched with gendered products.
  • Matching scents with seasons can help encourage purchasing behavior.

Use Scents To Create Ambiance

Smells are processed subconsciously by the brain. Because of this, backgrounds scents can have a large impact on consumer behavior. While some brands have successfully employed more bold fragrances, the subjective nature of scent preference makes this a risky strategy. Overpowering customers with smells can drive them out of your store. Light, background scents are a less risky way to get the benefits of commercial scent marketing.

Let the Store Experience You Want Guide Your Scent Choices

When deciding which scents to use, first identify which emotions you want to evoke in your customers. Choose smells that are associated with those emotions. Also, keep in mind what the key attributes of your products and the people who shop for them are and choose scents that match. For example, if you are selling extreme sports gear, you may want to skip relaxing lavender and instead choose an invigorating fragrance.

Choose Where To Deploy Scents Carefully

The best places to deploy scents depend on what you hope to accomplish. If you are trying to get customers passing by on the street to come into your store, opt for stronger aromas that will waft out into the street.

If your store has different themes in different sections, choose thematic scenting that matches the different areas of your store. If you simply want your whole store to smell pleasant, then an uncomplicated fragrance oil diffused throughout the entire store may make sense.

Develop Your Strategy Around Your Brand

All aspects of your commercial scent marketing strategy should match your brand. Consider the appearance of your store and the overall message and brand values you want to convey to customers and choose scents that align with them.

Employ an Effective Strategy

There are a variety of scent marketing strategies to choose from, each with its advantages.

Aroma Billboards

This strategy involves associating bold, distinctive smells with a store. These scents are used to attract foot traffic from outside the store. Some stores create proprietary fragrances that consumers come to associate specifically with that brand. Others use familiar scents, such as a bakery using the smell of baked goods, to attract customers and get them to stay in the store longer.

Thematic Scenting

Thematic scents are used to enhance the decor or mood of a product display or section of a store. The fragrances used in this commercial scent marketing strategy are chosen to match the environment. The goal is to get customers to spend more time in the store. Studies have found that customers exposed to themed fragrances visited three times more products and underestimated their time in the store by 26%.

To effectively employ this strategy, choose complementary scents for different areas of your store. For example, the smell of freshly mown grass might be a good choice for the area where you sell lawn equipment. Context is particularly important for thematic scents. Use written labels and visual and audio cues to match the smell to the environment and the product.

Ambient Scenting

An ambient scent is a fragrance that is used throughout a service or retail environment. Choose your scents according to what you want to achieve. For example, lavender is associated with relaxation and floral aromas encourage customers to stay in the store longer.

Ambient scents are among the simplest to use for small businesses. They do not need to be brand specific and are not as in-your-face as aroma billboards. Businesses often choose one or more common fragrances:

  • Floral scents to increase the time customers stay in the store
  • Fresh linen to provide a clean, crisp ambiance
  • Vanilla to improve mood
  • Leather to create a sense of luxury
  • Lavender for a relaxing atmosphere

Ambient scents can be controlled with diffusers. Aim to keep the scent level present but not strong enough that it may drive some customers out of the store.

Studies have found that using ambient scents helps customers recognize and remember brands.

Research also suggests that using ambient scents can enhance customers’ perception of your store as being luxurious and selling high-end products. In one study, customers shopping in a scented environment were 84% more likely to make a purchase and willing to spend 10% to 20% more on products than customers in non-scented environments.

Signature Smells

A signature smell is a unique fragrance created just for your brand’s commercial scent marketing. These mixtures may be used as ambient scents or as aroma billboards. Creating a signature scent can be an expensive and time-consuming process. It is most often employed by large retailers or service businesses with many locations that the company wants to all smell the same.

The goal of a signature smell is to link fragrance notes with specific emotions the marketer wants the customer to associate with the brand. Signature scents can be created by mixing fragrances or by using the services of a fragrance company. These scents should match your store, brand and products and help them stand out to consumers.

Incorporate Scent Marketing Online

Using commercial scent marketing online may seem like a bizarre idea, but research has found that imagining a smell can have many of the same effects as actually smelling it. You can prompt visitors to your website to imagine smells by using descriptive text.

How Do I Know Which Scents To Use?

Choosing the right scents is the most important part of your marketing strategy. If you aren’t sure which fragrances appeal the most to your customers, try asking them. Purchase some scent strips and ask customers to tell you which ones they do and do not like. Start small so that if you need to adjust your strategy you aren’t risking wasting a large investment on the wrong scents.

What Are Some of the Most Popular Scents for Marketing?

Scent Marketing for companies.

While some brands utilize signature scents, it is more common for businesses to use one or more common fragrances to evoke the responses they want from customers.


Lavender is known for creating a feeling of warmth and serenity. Research has indicated that lavender may be effective at creating a feeling of relaxation and easing symptoms of anxiety and depression. It may be a good commercial scent marketing option for venues with relaxing atmospheres, such as spas, yoga studios or salons.


Many people associate vanilla with pleasant memories from childhood. The smell of vanilla can give an environment a playful, inviting and friendly atmosphere. According to research, warm scents, such as vanilla, encourage customers to spend more.

Fresh Cotton

The scent of fresh cotton promotes a sense of peace and comfort. It is a good match for clothing retailers because it can be used to reinforce the scent of clothing fabrics.

Christmas Tree

The holiday shopping season is important for most retailers. Few scents are more strongly associated with this season than the smell of a fresh Christmas tree. Because real Christmas trees can be a fire hazard, filling your store with actual trees is not practical, but you can evoke the holiday spirit by using Christmas tree aromas as part of your commercial scent marketing strategy around holiday time.


Citrus scents, such as lime, lemon, orange and grapefruit, can be rejuvenating and stimulating and evoke a sense of cleanliness and freshness. This is why citrus oils are often used in cleaning products. These scents can work well in stores that want to be perceived as high-energy.


Outdoorsy smells, such as trees, grass, herbs and moss, are ideal choices for stores that sell outdoor gear such as camping equipment and stores that promote sustainable products and policies.


Floral scents, such as jasmine, rose, orange blossom and violet, promote a range of effects from sweet and simple to exotic and complex. These fragrances are popular choices in jewelry stores and fashion boutiques.


Fruity smells can be uplifting, soothing and bright. These fragrances are popular with specialty fashion retailers and are an obvious commercial scent marketing match for food and beverage vendors selling fruit-based products.


Ozonic smells resemble the smell in the air after a thunderstorm. These scents are often used in smaller spaces and provide an impression of a breezy, fresh, open atmosphere. Such aromas can be good choices for stores that sell scented products.


Scents that evoke food memories, such as nutmeg, chocolate, vanilla, honey, coffee and caramel, are popular choices in stores that sell food or kitchenware.


Lemongrass has a zesty scent that promotes energy. It can be a good choice for high-energy locations, such as casinos, concert venues or sports arenas.

Fresh Linen

This scent is clean and crisp. It can be a good choice for businesses with matching products, such as stores that sell bedding and hotels or any business that wants to project an image of being clean and fresh.

How Can Whole Home Scenting Help Me With My Commercial Scent Marketing?

Whole Home Scenting offers diffusers that allow you to control the level of scent dispersed throughout your entire store. We also carry a range of popular fragrances you can use to achieve your commercial scent marketing goals. Contact us online to get started.

Photo credit: Mikhail Nilov (working team), ProxyClick (corporate building)
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