The Effects of Aroma on Emotion

Source: Saatchi & Saatchi Prague

On average, every person breathes 20,000 times a day. What marketers are realizing is that with each of these breaths comes the opportunity to reach out to consumers. Unlike the four other senses, the sense of smell cannot be switched off and thereby provides brands with the opportunity to engage consumers at an intimate, sub-conscious level. The journal article ‘The Use of Scents to Influence Consumers: The Sense of Using Scents to Make Cents’ by Kevin D. Bradford and Debra M. Desrochers (Journal of Business Ethics, 2009) takes a look at this proposition closely.

The physiological link between scent and emotion lies in the olfactory bulb (sense of smell) in the brain and its direct connection to the limbic system (where human emotions are created). While each of the human senses conjure up accurate memories, the sense of smell creates the most emotive ones. In Martin Lindstrom’s Brand Sense (2005) study, 75 percent of emotions were found to be triggered by smell. Another study (2007), found that people are 100 times more likely to remember something they smell than something they see, hear, taste or touch.


Scent marketing is becoming increasingly common with brands and retailers reaping the rewards of this targeted marketing tool. One example of its effectiveness occurred in Florida, with the ice cream chain Emack & Bolio’s erecting a billboard that released the scent of waffle cones to attract customers to its difficult to locate Orlando store. The outdoor signs emitted scents by blowing a fan over specially scented oil canisters held in the base of the billboard. As a result, Emack & Bolio’s store experienced a 50 percent increase in sales.

Another example of an aroma billboard is in North Carolina where outdoor signage released the smell of steak and pepper to promote a new line of beef at Bloom, a grocery store chain.

Using the power of scent in a different way, Saatchi & Saatchi Prague used the smell of burnt rubber, brake fluid and excrement to raise awareness of the dangers of driving whilst speaking on your cell phone. The campaign ‘Don’t Call & Drive’ for T-Mobile and Autoklub CR resembled the highly stylized ads for perfume and were placed in magazines, billboards and on postcards. Instead of being greeted with the pleasant smell usually associated with fragrance advertising, when smelled people were confronted with the odor of an accident site.