Types of Scent Marketing - Whole Home Scenting

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A Comparison of the Types of Scent Marketing

Scent marketing engages customers’ senses and can play a big part in building brand loyalty. It is important to take the right approach to scent marketing and decide on one or more scents that capture the identity and values of a business. Find out more about four types of scent marketing that can increase customer dwell time and sales at any commercial location.

Aroma Billboard Marketing

Aroma billboards are the boldest and most direct type of scent marketing. This method gets its name from the fact that a distinctive smell is as noticeable for the olfactory system as a billboard is to the optical system. People are much more likely to recall scents than visual, auditory or tactile cues in marketing.

How an Aroma Billboard Works

How aroma billboard marketing works.

A scent that is prominently featured in a commercial environment forges a powerful and lasting association with a brand. Businesses that have multiple locations should use the same scent in each location to create the perception of a more coherent brand. Some service and retail environments are known for prominent aroma billboards.

Many bakeries attract customers with the scent of baked goods prepared on site. A chain coffee shop that also sells food ensures that the aroma of its main product prevails through the use of odor modification. The scent of a business has a direct effect on consumer attitudes and behaviors.

How To Get an Aroma Billboard

Aroma billboards are one of the types of scent marketing that calls for careful planning. A powerful scent may run a risk of causing allergic reactions or becoming a nuisance. Retail stores that use intense aroma billboards can prove divisive among consumers. A business owner or marketing professional who wants to make an aroma billboard typically partners with a fragrance company or scent branding firm.

The emotional triggers of a scent should match the values of a brand, or the fragrance notes should be relevant to products or services. For this reason, scent marketing experts usually recommend aroma billboards to brands with marketing budgets that are large enough for fragrance development and market testing.

Signature Scent Marketing

A signature scent is unique to a particular brand. This fragrance may be featured as an aroma billboard or ambient scent in commercial locations. Signature scent marketing is one of the more specialized, expensive and time-consuming types of scent marketing. Brands that take this approach typically already sell fragrances or scented products.

How Signature Scents Work in Marketing

How signature scent marketing works.

Signature scents are unique fragrances that are only associated with a particular brand. While similar fragrances may exist, they are not exactly the same as the one used by the brand. For instance, Singapore Airlines has used a patented fragrance called Stefan Floridian Waters as an ambient scent in its aircraft for over 30 years. Flight attendants wear the scent and the fragrance is also in the detergent used to launder in-flight towels.

There are two main methods for using signature scents. The first method involves making the scent of a product, such as perfume, the signature scent of a brand. This fragrance may be showcased as an aroma billboard or used more subtly as an ambient scent. The second method involves focusing on the emotional triggers of fragrance notes and combinations to evoke a particular feeling associated with a brand.

How To Develop a Signature Scent

Businesses seeking signature scents often work with branding strategists, fragrance companies or perfumers. Although the idea of a signature scent suggests a unique fragrance, it is possible to create a signature scent out of a combination of fragrance notes.

The most important feature of a signature scent is that it represents the values of a brand. It is also important to make sure that the scent you use is relevant to the environment or serves a purpose. The signature scent of Singapore Airlines improves the smell of stale air in airplane cabins and reduces anxiety to improve customer experience.

Thematic Scent Marketing

Thematic scents are the underlying basis for most types of scent marketing, but can also be a primary approach. The basic principle of thematic scent marketing is that the scent in a commercial environment should match the purpose or nature of that environment.

Using Thematic Scents for Marketing

How to use thematic scents for marketing.

It can be relatively easy to choose a thematic scent to suit a business or different areas of a commercial environment. Some thematic scents directly correspond to products and services for sale. For instance, some movie theater chains supplement the aroma of fresh-popped popcorn with artificial fragrance to ensure the scent of this concession remains the dominant fragrance note in a lobby.

Another approach to thematic marketing involves scents with a more general association with products and services. Some department stores use thematic scents for each area, such as baby powder in infant clothing and coconut in swimwear. High-profile campaigns have shown that context is critical for scent marketing.

A “Got Milk” campaign of bus stop advertisements scented like cookies did not connect with audiences. Consumers did not associate cookies with public transit, so the smell seemed out of place. This campaign was discontinued after just one day. Even familiar smells that are generally pleasing can repel rather than attract consumers when used in the wrong environment.

How To Do Thematic Scent Marketing

Consider the focus of your business when selecting a thematic scent. Thematic types of scent marketing differ from signature scents in that a thematic approach may use an existing fragrance blend or notes used in other locations. The overlap that occurs in sense memory works can work to the marketer’s advantage.

Every mode of sensory appeal can affect thematic scent marketing. Research suggests that verbal or written labels, visual communication or auditory cues affect the reception of scent marketing. Psychologists have observed drastic differences in the reactions of research subjects who smelled the same scent and were given positive or negative associations.
Associations with scents range from extremely positive to extremely negative based on surrounding cues. It is essential to ensure that all of the marketing methods you use work together to create a pleasurable environment for consumers. The right choices in terms of scents and other sensory marketing cues can create an immersive experience for customers.

Ambient Types of Scent Marketing

An ambient approach is among the more subtle scent marketing methods. Ambient scents are typically used to mask bad odors. A brand association may also be present, but these functional scents play a practical role. The signature scent of Singapore Airlines is used as an ambient scent in plane cabins.

How Ambient Scent Marketing Works

The major scent marketing firm ScentAir has research that indicates that ambient scents that are well-received and perceived as matching products or services can positively influence purchase behavior.

Ambient scents are unlikely to draw complaints, but they may still be worthy of comment. It is important to choose pleasing scents that fit the context of a commercial location.
A study conducted by the “International Journal of Marketing Studies” found that 400 customers surveyed after shopping in a Nike store reported that a pleasant ambient scent improved their experience of the store and Nike products and increased the likelihood that they would shop there again.

How To Use Ambient Scents

Ambient scents for retail shopping.

Practically any retailer or service provider can use ambient scent marketing. This method is not as noticeable as an aroma billboard and does not have to be distinctive. For instance, a study of medical facilities found that the ambient scent of vanilla reduced anxiety.

It is important to choose the right ambient scent for a commercial environment and ensure that the scent does not become too overpowering. Some retailers use a single ambient fragrance or multiple ambient scents associated with specific departments.

Ambient scents may be controlled with scent equipment that makes it easy to dial in and adjust levels. This equipment makes it possible to set scents to higher or lower settings at particular times and ensure that a scent remains present without becoming too strong.

Decide on Types of Scent Marketing

Businesses pursuing scent marketing should prioritize the customer and employee experience in a retail or service establishment. Studies have shown that the scent you choose can affect the emotions, dwell time and purchasing behavior of customers and the work ethic of employees.

Signature and thematic scents can be used at any strength. Aroma billboards are more prominent, while ambient scents are more subdued. It is also possible to combine these types of scent marketing. Signature and thematic scents can be ambient or more pronounced. The size and use of a commercial structure may allow for the use of more scents to modify odors.

Some retailers that sell perfume and cologne sometimes use a signature scent as an aroma billboard. These fragrances benefit from extensive research and development. Feedback obtained through one-on-one interviews, focus groups or market research can be helpful for identifying the best scent for any location.

It is also important to factor in how a fragrance will perform in a particular environment and the best method for diffusing your chosen scent. For an aroma billboard, it can be helpful to diffuse odor throughout a structure, starting at the entrance of a storefront. It may take some time to notice an ambient scent, and the ideal reaction is a general sense of comfort that includes a pleasant smell.

Finding the right scent may involve a process of piloting a scent. Some hotels have had success with a gradual scent marketing rollout starting in employee spaces and spreading to the lobby and other common areas.

How To Pursue Scent Marketing

The best way to get started with scent marketing is to think about the values of your brand. The concepts or emotional triggers that you identify can be translated into fragrance notes. Certain fragrance notes are also associated with different types of emotions and environments, and these notes can be used strategically to make the sensory experience of an environment a form of cohesive marketing.

Based on the types of scent marketing you pursue, the selection and setup process may involve more or less investment and research. The most customized and costly approach to scent marketing taken by large companies tends to involve collaboration with a scent branding strategist or perfumer to develop a scent profile. The fragrances that result are tested in market research before being introduced in commercial locations.

A more affordable approach to scent marketing calls for reflecting on the identity of a brand and the characteristics of a commercial space. The right smell for a commercial environment goes beyond personal preference to the creation of an environment that appeals to customers. In some cases, this involves appealing to a particular customer demographic.

Approaches to Scent Marketing

Some retail chains in shopping centers and malls are notorious for strong aroma billboards that are divisive among customers. It is still important to consider that some individuals may be allergic to or simply not like a powerful fragrance. The most likely motivation for these companies’ use of scent marketing is that the fragrance tested well among primary sales demographics.

If you want an ambient scent to improve customer experience, it can be helpful to take a thematic approach. Studies show that pleasant scents with fragrance notes that are related to products or services for sale are more likely to have positive effects on purchasing behavior. Scents that are unrelated or too strong may have the opposite effect. As long as a scent is well-received among the main demographic, a scent marketing campaign can be considered a success.

Any of these four types of scent marketing could be right for a company. Aroma billboards and signature scents usually require more resources for creative development and market research. Businesses with smaller marketing budgets may want to stick to thematic scents that are closely associated with products or services or more subtle ambient scent marketing. No matter which scents you prefer, diffuser systems are the best way to disperse scents in commercial locations.

Photo credit: Lisa (bakery), Anastasiya Lobanovskaya (perfume), Patricia Paixao (popcorn), Artem Beliaikin (retail shop with open sign)
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