The olfactory marketing


Marketing is a bizarre science that consists of the study of the process and the motivations that make human beings do something that no other living creature does: buy things, the end aim of all economic activity. In the seventies, Christian Derbaix was the first to counter the long-accepted theory of how products were bought: first, the client became aware of the product, then convinced about it, and finally decided to buy it. Derbaix argued that the overriding factor in the acquisition of a product was emotion.

This school of thought was developed further in the eighties by Holbrook and Hirshman, who reached the conclusion that the determining factors in the making of choices by individuals are based on our emotional and sentimental states.

Indeed, in recent years, the face of advertising has changed dramatically. Emotional stimuli, both visual and audio now dominate the highest levels of advertising. Television advertisements are more and more like films, to the extent that film directors are hired to make them

Films are the means of visual communication most charged with emotion because they look closest to reality even if they are pure illusion. A film is perceived by two of our senses: sight and hearing. Statistics show that a film of holiday destination shown in a travel agent’s will increase sales of tickets for that particular holiday. A photograph of the same destination wouldn’t have the same effect.

Music, on the other hand, is the most emotive form of oral communication, and in recent years we have seen the development of the use of hit songs of well-known artists for the advertising of consumer products with obviously high costs for the advertiser. These songs have already been listened to and appreciated by the public before companies interested in using them for advertising purposes buy the rights to them. The songs, therefore, represent in everybody’s subconscious a moment in their life full of feelings and memories which will come to the surface when they hear it again.

Perfume: For a long time, people who work in both the marketing and the production of perfumes have researched how to use the unique power that fragrances have of bringing out emotions in people by acting on the center that governs them, the limbic system. This research is then to be used in order to influence the purchasing habits of consumers.

Indeed, the sense of smell is the first and most primordial sense of all living organisms, their last hope of telling bad from good. A red apple may look beautiful on the outside, but if, when it reaches the nose before being bitten, it proves to be off, it will be thrown away. Also, a blind rat is able to find food using its sense of smell. However, if it loses it, it will surely die of starvation being unable to identify food solely by eyesight.

In the human mind, a pleasant smell is associated with all things good, be they physical, mental, or moral. In Arabic, the word ‘Tayyib’ is used to mean both good and pleasant smelling. “How are you?” “Tayyib Al hamdu liLlah” Fine, thanks be to God, praise be to God to whom all things good belong (tayyibat perfumed). These are common phrases in the Arab world.

Despite the great difficulties encountered in carrying out experiments on people using smells (due to the very nature of the sense of smell and the problems of making experiments repeatable and reliable), many people remain interested in the possible applications of the psychology of smells in the field of marketing.

The capital trademark and the fragrance logo

The trademark of a company, symbolized by its logo, is a concentration of information that allows the product to be identified among other similar products often of similar quality. A trademark is a capital for a company because it eases communication between the company and the consumer. It gives the consumer faith in his choice, social status, and personal satisfaction when using the product. The existence of a trademark allows the company to optimize its marketing budget, increase profit margins, put pressure on the distribution network, and gives it an advantage over its competitors. The creation of a ‘capital trademark’ takes time and calls for serious investment but is more than justified by the advantages that it generates. A logo is the physical aspect of a brand name and expresses the values of the company and its image.

The Fragrance Logo

Smell has an important role to play in the evaluation of a brand. First of all, it is something new and therefore helps the brand to stand out from the crowd, giving it something that the others haven’t got. In the past, some companies created their own smell logo without even realizing it. The study of these cases brings to light important data with regard to the effectiveness of fragrance marketing. In fact, subjects studied during the research associated the smell of vanilla with the trademark “Borotalco”, not simply baby’s talcum powder. French subjects associated the smell of cedarwood with the brand name “Crayola”, manufacturers of pencils. These examples help to show how a smell common to a number of similar products automatically becomes the fragrance logo of the largest-selling brand in the public’s mind.

Our memory for smells works in such a way that our first memories of smells that go back to our childhood are the most powerful in their ability to recreate pleasant feelings as well as being the easiest to trigger off. Our memory for smells never disappears and the ease with which we associate smells to certain situations depends on the importance of the situation in which the smell was perceived during the learning process.

These observations are the basis for some of the rules of fragrance marketing.

The use of a fragrance logo

A smell logo can be employed using materials (paper/card, cloth, leather) or diffused in the desired environment.

In this instance, the logo has the advantage of being able to occupy the entire area in which it is diffused. Something traditional forms of advertising cannot do. Diffusing the scent during events in which the company is involved, trade fairs for example, or events sponsored by the company such as sports meetings or concerts (events charged with emotion), it is possible to create a favorable impression of the product on the spectators and at the same time to associate the smell in their memory with the emotion of the event. This emotional memory will then be triggered when they come into contact with the product or go into shops selling it.

Because people generally go to see the kinds of films that they like, the same idea can be applied indiscriminately in cinemas. In this case, the fragrance logo needs to be diffused in such a way as to be barely perceptible to avoid being a nuisance, without damaging its magnificent effect. Indeed, diffusing a fragrance logo needs to follow the same rules as fragrance scenery.

The creation of a fragrance logo

A fragrance logo needs to be created bearing in mind the target group at which it is aimed. For example, the smell of Borotalco needs to be appealing to mothers of young babies. The sweet smell of vanillin reminds us of home-baked cakes made on Sunday, puddings made for children and it symbolizes the gentleness a mother shows towards her child.

The narrower the range of people that make up a target group for a given product, the easier it is to create a fragrance logo for them.

The big concerns that are in possession of a trademark have very diversified interests and their customers come from all walks of life and socio-economic backgrounds. This makes the choice of a fragrance logo somewhat delicate.

Not only must the smell chosen symbolize the values of the company, but it must also be practically universally appealing. In order to obtain such a result, it is necessary to establish a protocol that limits the possibility of making mistakes and allows the chosen smell to be tested repeatedly before making it the company’s fragrance logo.

The creation of a fragrance logo is not that difficult for a perfume maker. It is rather like the job of a composer who has to write the music for a film. Mere knowledge of smell psychology or aromatherapy is not sufficient; this is a job for an artist and two non-scientific factors come into play: intuition and inspiration.

To be continued…


Bibliography: Le marketing olfactif. Ed. LPM Les presses du management, Paris

See also “The olfactory communication starter kit

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