How many times have you smelt something and immediately thought of something which has happened previously in your life? Aromas stimulate the amygdala, which is also the emotional center of the brain. Once an odor is connected with an emotional experience, it can elicit that emotion later, which can in turn affect behavior, said Rachel Herz, a Brown University professor and expert on the psychology of smell. Beyond just creating a pleasant atmosphere for shoppers, using scents strengthens brand identity and induce shoppers to stay a little longer.
Welcome to the world of scent marketing. The first culprits were surprisingly casinos, who worked hard to neutralise the scent of cigars and cigarettes which can put people off staying in a location for too long. A recent amazing example is Katy Perrys recent "california dreams" tour, where the main theme was candy. She pumped the sweet scent of cotton candy into the air to make the tour all the more believable for her fans. The technology was provided by Scentevents, founded by Neal Harris. His company uses fragrance-infused ceramic beads and diffusers, and for larger spaces the scent goes into the air conditioner/ventilating system.
It can however be seen as a risky business, who is to say that people will like the smell retailers are pumping into their ventilation systems? People associate smells with different things, people presume that everyone loves the smell of roses, however if someone first smelled them at their mothers funeral they are likely to hate the smell. Once an assocation with a scent is formed it can stay with you for life. "One mans pleasure is another's pollution," said Ladd Smith, president of the Research Institute for Frangrance Materials.
Incense has been used by the Catholic Church for 2,000 years, with the smell being associated to mass by many. In effect, the Catholic Church has used scent marketing on its consumers since its creation. It is only now that retailers and advertisers have jumped on the band wagon, in the hope to create a more emotional connection with their consumers. Will it take on further than this though? I'll certainly be using my sniffer more in shops now, and see if it has any effect on my senses...