How appealing to customers’ sense of smell can help brands to sniff out a sale

Our sense of smell is our most powerful and emotive sense. It is intrinsically linked with memory, and just a short sniff of a familiar smell can transport us to another time and place – a childhood holiday by the sea, or a first date with a partner – triggering a range of feelings and emotions.Given its link to emotions, smell can be incredibly effective in influencing the buying behaviour of consumers, and more and more companies are looking at ways in which it can exploit this potential.

The power of packaging

Getting your products onto the shop shelves is just one step on the road to success. Once you are there, you need to ensure that your product stands out from the crowd – easier said than done when you are surrounded by competitors.

More than 70% of purchasing decisions are made on the shop floor and so effective packaging and well-designed product labels is key to the success of any brand. Until fairly recently, brands have mainly focused their attention on connecting visually with consumers – for example, by using eye-catching colours, or unusual formats such as ‘peel and reveal’ labels – but using olfactory packaging can give you the edge over the competition.

well-designed product labels

This can be achieved in a number of different ways. Brands can use scented ink to print on the packaging or alternatively they can embed aromatic oils into capsules and integrate them into the label. You can also choose whether the scent is activated via touch (as with the more traditional ‘scratch and sniff’ labels), or whether it is released automatically over a longer period of time, using more modern encapsulation technologies.

What’s more, scented labels needn’t be confined to the shop floor. They can also be used in magazine adverts and direct mail outs, as with Proctor and Gamble’s recent marketing campaign for a new toothpaste product.

As well as subconsciously influencing consumer behaviour, scented labels and packaging can also help brands to build product awareness, cement brand identity and demonstrate product quality. For example, Unilever Germany used scented ink on the packaging for its deodorant and personal care products, enabling customers to literally ‘try before they buy’.

The smell of success

Using smell to sell is not necessarily a new strategy. Retailers have long recognised the impact smell can have on customers, and have used it accordingly – for example, one travel agent brand pipes the smell of coconut oil into its high street stores in order to put customers in the holiday mood, while most supermarkets now have their own in-store bakery as they know the smell of freshly baked bread makes people hungry, thus encouraging them to buy more food.

Using smell to sell

It is relatively straightforward for retailers to use smell in this way, but how can brands and manufacturers get in on the act? The answer lies in clever product packaging.

And it works! Research has shown that, given a choice between two similar products, over 80% of consumers would choose the one that they could both smell and see. With this in mind, it seems extremely likely that the trend for scented packaging and labels will grow, as brands continue to sniff out the secret of success.

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