Scent Nearly Doubles Sales


Finnish scent marketing firm Ideair used ten restaurants and bars to conduct an interesting test of the effect of scent on product sales. As reported by Reuters, five locations used only visual ads for a specific liquor brands while the other five used the same ads but added scent diffusers. The aroma being broadcast were that of the advertised liquor.

Ideair describes the test results:

To know how well the campaign works, we had a student from Laurea University of Applied Sciences, to do his final thesis about this case. In order to know what the impact of scent is, we made the same visual ad, without scent, and put them in five restaurants. The results were convincing, bars with scent-visual ad resulted in 79% growth in sales, while places with only the visual ad, sold 11% more than during normal periods.

While I’m sure this wasn’t the most scientifically controlled experiment, the results appear to show that a product scent at the point of sale can boost sales far more than signage alone. (Note that the video sound track describes a 7.9% boost instead of 79%, an apparent error.) Although the effects on branding aren’t noted, having a brand-specific aroma wafting through an environment would seem to be a good way to make a stronger, more memorable brand impression.

  1. pedro camargo says

    How did the control of environmental conditions to prove it was
    exactly the smell that it increased sales? Two different locations
    different light, different exposure of the product, different consumers.
    How can they know who exactly was the smell that it increased sales?
    Pedro Camargo. Consumer Biology Behavior Researcher.

    1. Roger Dooley says

      I agree that we would need to know more about the details of this experiment to draw any major conclusions. I’d like to see a bigger sample size, e.g., if a national chain of hundreds of restaurants did a split test like this it would be more convincing. I also worry about the human factor, e.g., a bartender discussing the scent with a patron and influencing a sale one way or the other.


  2. Jennifer says

    This would intuitively make sense. Think of our origins and how we had to use our senses to obtain food (not just our eyes and wallets). It is only in recent human history that the buying of food became such a sterilized process with food packaged away.

    I would doubt if non-food products would experience such dramatic increases by using scent marketing, though there may be something clever I haven’t thought of yet.

  3. Tracy Pepe says

    Tracking scent is REALLY difficult – so even though I question the results of the study and how they were obtained the results DO confirm with legitimate scent pilots from independent groups.

    Since they had 5 scented & 5 unscented suggest this is on track.

    BUT in the end this is VERY accurate!

  4. Tracy Pepe says

    To Jennifer – non-food has stronger results because the scent causes the impulse without the association to taste. In fact shampoo, laundry, household products are purchased based on smell alone -93% of consumers who purchase and re-purchase that is.

    Scenting spaces – non-food is the appropriate response because it is true emotional & ambient scenting – nice post Roger, as always!

    This is a neat article -

  5. Rod Gillies says

    Interesting little study. But yes, it would be even more interesting if it had a higher sample size and maybe a third group which used a generic “clean” scent like lemon instead of product-linked scents.

    Brand uplifts are all very well, but the retailer (who will act as gatekeeper on any initiatives like this) will be interested in overall sales uplift rather brand uplifts likely driven by switching. Switching is good for the brand owner, but of little sales/margin benefit to the retailer without overall growth.

    Roger, as to your point on a national chain completing such a study; if the results were positive, they would never be published. This would be a very easily-copied initiative, and as an ex-marketeer with a big pubs group I know I wouldn’t have published any results for my competitors to read!

  6. Dimitri Gailit says

    Very cool!!!! I definitely love the smell of Baileys and even tho there are other similar brands out there I probably wouldn’t buy them unless I can smell or taste the liquere.

    Good points on the shampoos and detergents Tracy! So True, just ask my wife:)

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