When Marketing Stinks

Olfactory marketing has been used for years, and usually the objective is to use appealing scents and create a positive branding message. Not always, though – one politician is conducting a campaign that, well, stinks. Carl Paladino, the Republican nominee for governor of New York State, has sent out a mailing that smells like garbage.

The mailer shows pictures of seven Democratic office holders from the Empire State, six of whom have been investigated. Two of the Democrats have already resigned. The theme of the mailer is, “Something STINKS in Albany!”

This mailing is not without risk, though. First, there’s the obvious danger of putting something that smells bad in voters’ mailboxes. Perhaps the greater risk is that recipients may find the bad smell to be the most memorable part of the flier and link it with Paladino himself. Not exactly a positive brand association. Still, one can’t dispute the novelty of this approach, and the scent effectively underscores the “corrupt politician” message of the flyer. (AP story.) Stay tuned in November to see if stinky marketing works.
Image via Shutterstock


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— who has written 985 posts on Neuromarketing.

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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3 responses to "When Marketing Stinks" — Your Turn


Twitter: verilliance
17. September 2010 at 12:31 pm

I’ll be interested to see how that works out. My gut response is to agree with you that it could backfire. Scent is so strongly linked to emotional response, and it seems that the immediate “imprint” will be associated with Paladino.


Frank 17. September 2010 at 3:38 pm

He should have included a rose-scented picture of himself. Then the chance of their memory of him being a positive one would be greatly increased.


Roger Dooley
Twitter: rogerdooley
18. September 2010 at 8:28 am

Frank and Verilliance, I agree that there’s a lot of risk in triggering a negative emotional response (and long-term association) by making your own mailing stink. At the same time, it will likely get looked at more than a typical mailed flyer. Unfortunately, I’m sure this scented mailing is just one tiny element of the overall campaign (not to mention the political facts, news coverage, etc.), so win or lose we won’t really know if this worked.



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1 response to "When Marketing Stinks" — Your Turn