Scent Marketing vs. Social Media


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.

  1. John Mills says


    I’m fascinated with scent marketing. There’s a great book written by Martin Lindstrom titled, Brand Sense. It’s an easy read with fun, interesting case studies.

    Check it out:

    1. Roger Dooley says

      Great book, I’ve cited it a few times, including here in Sensory Branding. Thanks for stopping by, John!


  2. Harald H. Vogt says

    thanks for the favorable review. It “only” took 2 and a half years to get AdAge’s ear.
    We do not lobby for Scent Marketing and do not push it “no matter what”. We are aware and compassionate of sensitivities – there are plenty, medical and psychological amongst them.
    Lindstrom has done our industry a great service. I just can’t comprehend why agencies (both advertising and branding) do not pick up on it. My first draft of the AdAge article was quite slamming to that effect but then it’s better to sleep it over. Which I did.
    I enjoy reading your blog. Keep up the good work.

    1. Roger Dooley says

      Thanks for stopping by, Harald. I can’t explain why scent marketing hasn’t developed a much greater following, but I guess that makes it easier for those firms who do adopt it to gain ground on their competition.


  3. Liz says

    Love this post. Businesses: beware of backlash, though. Personally, Abercrombie and Fitch is a presumptuous assault on my ears AND nose.

    1. Roger Dooley says

      Good point, Liz. Generally the use of scents should be subtle, in my opinion, to avoid overwhelming those individuals who are extra-sensitive to such things.


  4. Harald H. Vogt says

    Absolutely correct, Roger. A&F overdoes (overdoses?) on all levels. Light (very little), sound (very much), sexy visuals (very much), scent (very much). If they’d serve food they’d probably overdo that as well. And it’s not that all devices (even the scent delivery systems) don’t have a dial that can tone it down.
    As they say at Dell when you call them with a question, “it’s usually not our computer, it’s the user”.

  5. Inna says

    It looks like A&F know what they are doing, and what their target niche is – as nauseating the smell is for me, it is absolutely irresistible to my pre-teen daughter.

  6. Juan Felipe Velásquez J says

    Roger, tu cuestionamiento es totalmente acertado; creo que solamente los visionarios como tu son conscientes del poder que encierra el marketing olfativo. Si los profesionales del marketing de las grandes empresas conocieran un poco la anatomía del sistema olfativo, y como los estímulos que a él llegan tienen efecto solamente en un plano subconsciente y emocional, las cosas serían muy distintas y el marketing olfativo sería prioridad absoluta en cualquier campaña de marketing. Ahí está entonces nuestro reto y una gran oportunidad para ponernos a la vanguardia en marketing. Hasta pronto.

  7. Bernetta Anderson says

    A component of the scent industry is Digital Scent -the delivery of scent via the internet. This is absolutely the next BIG thing in marketing, as digital advertising is the growing phenom. The emission of scent can be controlled by the user to scent a personal space or a room. This digital scent technology will revolutionize online advertising and marketing and the first one there will benefit the most!

  8. Andrea Caldecourt says

    I regularly address conferences in the floriculture industry on marketing and branding topics. So I’m always on the lookout for new ideas, or support for old ones.

    We have an advantage already in floriculture – our products, fresh flowers, naturally smell wonderful; so much so, that other industries try to reproduce them artificially.

    However, I’m always surprised how very few flower retailers maximise this benefit, at least in the UK. There’s little point-of- sale highlighting scented flowers; or signs encouraging us to “have a sniff”.

    Which might be a good thing, or I’d be out of a job reminding them to flag up this powerful point of difference…

  9. Tracy Pepe says

    I love the fact that this post was brought to my attention from my twitter account – regarding those interested in scent marketing- I just completed a detailed article that supports Haralds points on “What does your brand smell like?” for the AMA. The discussion has began and I am thrilled with the interest. We have been scenting in Canada for over 20 years and finally the Brands are paying attention.

    We are also hosting a scented webinar on scent marketing Jan 22, for those who are interested. We will discuss some great campaigns and how to incorporate scent.

  10. Dimitri says

    Scent Marketing vs Social Media, both are great but lets face it how fast do we forget what we read, if we get to read it??? How much of the info do we retain? Next to the sense of sight, sense of smell is the most powerful out of all five senses.

    The other day I was talking to a Buyer for a large hospitality corporation and he told me a story how a certain scent made a VERY memorable impression on him. An incident happened 40 years ago when he entered the bus he noticed that third of the bus was jam packed while the rest of the bus was empty!!!! As he is pushing through towards the empty side of the bus he realizes that he is walking into a storm of a very nasty smell. Turns out a homeless person couldn’t wait to go to the washroom and let some go inside of his pants:). Sounds funny doesn’t it? Well not really because even forty years from now he remembers this experience any time a certain smell hits his senses.

    Now imagine on the opposite side if you experience a pleasant scent that is connected to a certain brand or a product? Just think about it, how scents can create the most powerful memories in your brain!!! Did you ever smell something that brings back warm feelings and memories when you come across the same scent??? I do! Does it make you linger longer or do you want to run away like that young man on the bus??? There is a reason why fragrances are so powerful in Casino’s. Look up Alan Hirsches Casino Study.

    Even tho I never met Harald but I hear he is an amazing person and a true ambassador of Scent Branding. His articles are to the point and very accurate. He is really preaching what EVERYONE should be practicing, and we will.

    Imagine if there are no logos or billboards and just a familiar scent of your favourite brand???

    I am a true believer in full multi sensory experience utilizing all of the 5 senses to achieve a full effect of a memorable brand. As Harald stated in the article be careful to use scents in the wrong combination. It’s not just about scenting your store, but instead complimenting your audio and visual cues with a pleasant fragrances that matches your entire brand. For example a green and white decor could use a similar scent like Green Tea, or Guava Cucumber. In-store scenting should be delicate and sensitive to the clienteles senses. This is accomplished by utilizing proper diffusion technology where you can control the intensity level of the fragrance to blend it in with the atmosphere of the store.

    If you are unsure of what your signature scent should be or simply don’t have enough information to decide if you need scent marketing in your brand, feel free to contact the Scent Marketing Institute where they will provide you with a wealth of Information.

    Alternatively you may contact us at AromaTech

    We are an in-store diffusion technology provider that specializes in helping companies create a unique and memorable atmosphere by introducing a subtle fragrance through our diffusion systems. Our scent machines are manufactured by the #1 Scent Branding company in the world AIr Aroma. They are a true leader in scent diffusion technology and have been able to lead the world with their patented cold air diffusion technology since 1998.

    For more info please visit our website

    Aroma Technologies Scent Marketing Canada

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