Smelly Politics: Obama #5? Hillarity?

With Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton locked in a tight race for the Democratic presidential nomination, will one or the other turn to sensory branding, Korean-style? Last December, Reuters reported that Lee Myung-bak, a candidate for the South Korean presidency, was spraying a scent called “Great Korea” at campaign events, and planned to also spray the scent in or near polling places:

“It will remind people of the identity of Lee Myung-bak. The concept of the perfume is hope, victory and passion,” said Oh Chi-woo of the conservative Grand National Party’s culture and arts team.

“They’ll just smell it today. But when they cast their votes, they’ll remember,” he said in the central town of Jecheon, standing by an open vegetable market where any smell from mounds of garlic and onions was drowned out by the slightly cloying scent of “Great Korea.” [From Candidate secretly sniffs out voters]

Sensory branding has clearly been of interest to South Korean marketers. I previously posted Korean Air Tries Sensory Branding – on TV, describing a commercial that seemed to be trying for a multisensory appeal, even in the limited environment of video and audio.

Olfactory branding in a political campaign, though, is quite novel. I have to give credit to Lee Myung-bak for doing it right. Merely creating an olfactory brand image by spraying the scent at campaign appearances and rallies would be good, but repeating the stimulus as the voters are preparing to choose is the crowning touch.

Apparently, no law in South Korea prohibits this activity. In the U.S., “electioneering” is prohibited within a specified distance of the polling location. Signs, campaign volunteers, etc. must be located outside this radius. Exactly how this might work with a scent isn’t clear. Presumably, introducing an excessive scent that permeated the polling area would be illegal, just as positioning a campaign worker with a bullhorn just outside the sacred perimeter might be problematic. Still, sensory penetration of the polling area happens already. One can see the signs, hear the voices of the campaigners, and so on… so defining what level of scent is or isn’t acceptable might be difficult.

I’m not sure how the Koreans developed a scent to convey “hope, victory, and passion,” but what do you think Obama, Clinton, and McCain would want to smell like?

(Thanks to The Neurocritic and The Scented Salamander for sniffing out this story.)

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Roger Dooley writes and speaks about marketing, and in particular the use of neuroscience and behavioral research to make advertising, marketing, and products better. He is the primary author at Neuromarketing, and founder of Dooley Direct LLC, a marketing consultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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