Business Marketing

New study on scents could help convert more sales


Could just imagining a smell cause you to buy more of a product? New research indicates yes, and marketers better listen up.


Powerful study could give marketers an edge

A new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research reveals that subjects salivated over the smell of chocolate cake as much as those that only saw a picture of chocolate cake and encouraged to imagine the smell. This is powerful news for marketers as this new study could have wider implications regarding the power of smell.

We already know that Realtors bake cookies at open houses to offer a homey feel, and spas burn lavender-scented candles to induce calm, but this new research proves that imagining a smell may be as enticing as actually experiencing the smell. In other words, imagining a chocolate cake makes you drool just as much as sitting next to one.

The researchers call it “smellization”, finding that this effect cannot exist in a vacuum, rather it requires visual triggers (perhaps a photo of a dense chocolate cake, prompting people to imagine the cake).

They state, “In one study, participants viewed the advertising tagline, “Feel like a chocolate cake?” Some participants were shown just the tagline and others were shown the tagline accompanied by a photo of a chocolate cake. The participants were then asked to either smell a sachet with the fragrance of chocolate cake, imagine the scent of chocolate cake, or neither.”

Further, “As the researchers expected, smelling the cake increased salivation for all participants. They did, however, note an increase in salivation in participants who viewed the advertisement containing both the photo and the tagline when the cake smell was completely removed (compared to people who just viewed the tagline).”

So any brand that benefits from a product being sold can win by making people literally drool by prompting them to imagine the smell of their product – from BBQ to perfume, that prompt carries a lot of weight and this new research indicates it could have the power to convert sales. Or at least make us fat from all of the cake we’re now obsessing over.

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