Scent Marketing

Scent Marketing Starting to Make More Sense

More and more storefronts are adding aromatic components to their marketing tactics as industries get increasingly competitive. Some of the most prevalent brands using scent marking, and shaping the way we as consumers perceive them, are Abercrombie and Cinnabon. The smells associated with these brands are as important a part of their brand awareness as their logo. It’s not just Abercrombie and Cinnabon. Many companies have developed brand-specific scents in order to attract customers and create an association between the pleasant smells of their products, good memories, and their customers. It’s all about creating a memorable experience that forms an emotional connection with shoppers in order to increase customer loyalty. Aromas, when used properly, can not only increase sales, but grow a positive public perception of your brand and improve customer satisfaction.

The Science Behind The Smell

Smell is more closely linked to memories than almost any other sense that humans experience. This is how a smell can suddenly trigger areas in the limbic system to recall certain memories from the past. Otherwise known as nostalgia, many relate to the aromatic experience of smelling a particular food and getting taken back to a time in their childhood. These memories are often associated with pleasant emotions and ultimately elevate your mood. Most of the time you wouldn’t have been able to recall the memory altogether until that smell brings it vividly back into your mind. According to the Smell Institute, humans are able to remember a smell with 65% accuracy after an entire year, while only 50% for visuals after three months. Martin Lundstrom, in his book Brand Sense, said that around 75% of the emotions we generate on a daily basis are affected by smell. This shows the power that smell plays in forming lasting memories of a pleasant brand experience. By leveraging scent as a tool, companies are able to more effectively increase brand awareness and leave a lasting impact on visitors and customers alike.

Popular Uses of Scent Marketing


Cinnabon is a great example of smell marketing being used in an incredibly effective way. Most people can recognize the familiar smell of a Cinnabon due to the way that they’ve incorporated it into their customer experience. Cinnabon places its ovens near the front of the store so the smell of their cinnamon rolls spreads throughout the surrounding area. These bakeries are typically located in shopping malls, airports, or other enclosed areas so that the smell lingers. To test these effects, one location tried putting their ovens in the back of the store and experienced a significant decrease in sales. In addition to the oven placement, Cinnabon also bakes cinnamon rolls at minimum, every 30 minutes, and will even heat sheets of brown sugar and cinnamon to keep the aroma around for longer. Another great example of smell marketing is Abercrombie, the retail store that is known for its potent masculine fragrances that are noticeable from a mile away.


Abercrombie is well-known for potent cologne smells radiating through its stores. However, with the magnitude of impact smell can have, it isn’t necessarily always positive. Concordia University recently published research suggesting that while some scents in stores can calm shoppers and encourage them to stay, others can cause anxiety and have the opposite effect. Bianca Grohmann, one of the authors of this study, said that the scents used in Abercrombie retail are associated with enclosed space. This combined with the loud music, low lights, and packed retail floors may contribute to customers feeling trapped or claustrophobic, having an opposite effect to what was intended. This may be related to the 24% decrease in Abercrombie’s value over the last 20 years. As a result, the company is trying to reduce the night-club feel of their establishments in order to re-attract customers. However, toning down a scent that is already associated with these enclosed spaces may not have a great enough impact to re-attract scared off customers.


Choosing a smell to associate with your company’s brand can be tough, but the power of scent is a frequently underutilized marketing strategy that can create customer loyalty establish a connection with people at an emotional level. There is significant research around the association of scents and the resulting feelings that they evoke. When trying to decide what scent is best for you to use in your storefront, it is important to think about what you sell, the way you want the customer to feel when they come into your store, and how that relates to your brand as a whole.

Floral: Retail Stores

Floral smells are great for the retail industry where it can encourage a shopper to linger more. After all, studies have shown that the longer a customer stays in a store, the more they are likely to spend.

Leather: High-end Stores

Leather fragrances are great for luxury brand stores as it denotes feelings of opulence and, you guessed it, high-end leather. This would do well in a store that sells high-end clothing, jewelry, etc.

Fresh Linens: Hospitality Business

The smell of fresh linens is great for businesses in the fitness or hospitality industries where you want a crisp and fresh smell.

Lavender: Salons and Spas

Lavender is great for businesses that want to associate with feelings of relaxation. This fragrance would do well in a salon or spa environment.

Lemongrass: Casinos

Lemongrass is a bit zestier and invigorating and can promote energy in the environments in which it’s diffused. A great for casinos, fitness centers, or any other high-energy activities.

Vanilla: Entertainment Industry

Vanilla has been shown to help elevate moods and is a great choice for those in the entertainment industry. Keep these scents in mind when you’re choosing a signature scent for your establishment!

Methods of Scent Marketing

Once you have the right scent chosen, there are many delivery systems that can be used for your scent strategy.


One cost-effective way to utilize smells in your storefronts could be to set up a diffuser. First, you would need to understand what smells you want to be using and how certain ones may align better with your brand than others. For example, in a salon, spa, or beauty product storefront, essential oils like lavender or eucalyptus can be used to create a relaxing and pleasant atmosphere. There are also many essential oils and essences from a variety of plants like sandalwood, lemongrass, or black pepper. These can be used in ambient scenting around your shopping area by mixing the aromatic concentrations with water and vaporizing them using a diffuser.


Certain colognes can accomplish a similar result to diffusing scents in your storefront. Brands like Abercrombie and Fitch are known for their pungent cologne smells that come from their air conditioning and clothes. Spraying the same cologne across your storefronts can help associate your brand with that particular smell and help keep visitors’ memories of their experience more fresh in their mind. Simply spray cologne occasionally around the air conditioning vents and your pleasant aroma will linger around the store.


Finally, scented candles are another cost-efficient way to accomplish scent marketing. These candles are made to give off a variety of aromas that can be purchased in most home goods stores, grocery stores, etc. Candles are an easy way to provide a pleasant aroma and ambiance for a relaxing spa or retail environment.

Getting Creative

Other types of storefronts can use smells in other ways, like in the case of Cinnabon. Bakeries could benefit from consistently having baked goods in the oven in order to keep the smells fresh in their shops. After all, there’s nothing better than walking into a bakery and smelling some delicious chocolate chip cookies.

Wrapping it up.

It is important to keep your brand image, products, and its associations in mind when you are planning to incorporate aroma marketing into your overall marketing strategy. Knowing what type of experience you want to create for your customers can help when selecting a signature scent and diffusion method. For example, a spa may benefit from the low and relaxing light of a scented candle, while a gym may use a diffuser to constantly emit the smell in a more discreet way. Scent marketing can be an incredibly powerful tool, especially when it comes to food, however, it can also go both ways. Knowing what your smell denotes and how it interacts with the ambiance of your store-front is important. Abercrombie is a prime example of how it could actually become a disadvantage. Keep these things in mind when you are planning to incorporate scent into your brand awareness as well as some of the most cost and time-efficient methods to do so.

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