The other day, Ad Age’s CMO Strategy Section ran a column by Harald Vogt on scent marketing. Vogt may not be entirely impartial on the topic – he is the founder and chief marketer of the Scent Marketing Institute – but he makes some good points when he questions why so few marketers employ olfactory marketing strategies:

The Catholic Church, counting one-sixth of the world’s population as their “customers,” has appealed to all five senses for more than 2,000 years. But where is the fragrant experience of Apple, the Port Authority of New York, Delta Airlines, IKEA? They would not only have the need but also the outlets to leave their own scented mark. Any reputable perfumer would have a field day in developing their signature scent. Too far-fetched? Why don’t you ask the brand builders at Samsung, Singapore Airlines or the airport in Atlanta what their own signature scents are doing for their brands? [From Ad Age CMO StrategyDon’t Turn Up Your Nose at Scent Marketing by Harald Vogt. Emphasis added.]

I agree with Vogt that truly obvious candidates for scent marketing (hotels, transportation providers, retail stores, etc.) all too often ignore the possibilities of olfactory marketing. Indeed, these businesses often let ambient odors and random byproducts of their product or service define their scent, often not a very good thing.

Vogt makes another interesting point when he points out the resources companies are throwing at social media, the flavor of the day for CMOs:

Many traditional marketing tools have become rusty and are sitting in the bottom of the box. Twitter, the poster child of Marketing 2.0 — or Facebook, MySpace or any social network — cannot deliver in 140 characters what scent can provide in a simple whiff of air. In targeting the sense of smell for your marketing and branding purposes, you create emotions, recall memories (hopefully only good) associated with your brand and distinguish yourself from your competition. [Emphasis added.]

While comparing such disparate media – scent vs. social – may not be entirely fair, the point is still valid. I’m a big fan of the effective use of social media by business, but I also agree that in our typical chase after the latest shiny tool, we do often neglect techniques that are proven and powerful. There’s plenty of evidence to show that scents have a direct pathway to our memories and emotions, and businesses that have the opportunity to use scent for branding should consider it part of their essential toolkit.