News

Sensum 3 minute read
January 9, 2017

Incorporating smell into the emotional mix...


Whether it be sight, smell or sound, our senses can evoke emotionally charged memories. Recently, we took a look at the sound of music and how it relates to our emotions... and interestingly we found that the tempo and popularity of a musical piece are key factors for how we emotionally respond. With the likes of incorporating smell into smartphones being explored by the tech industry, we are interested in the power of smell and the emotional effects it can have on us. After all, we are emotional beings!

How we perceive a smell is not only to do with the sensation of the odour, but the emotional associations we have with them. For instance, the smell of turkey may bring a smile to our faces as it reminds us of Christmas and the joys of ‘pigging’ out and relaxing!

The relationship between scent and our emotions is well explained by cthe Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) “Our olfactory receptors are directly connected to the limbic system, the most ancient and primitive part of the brain, which is thought to be the seat of emotion. Smell sensations are relayed to the cortex, where ‘cognitive’ recognition occurs, only after the deepest parts of our brains have been stimulated. Thus, by the time we correctly name a particular scent as, for example, ‘vanilla’ , the scent has already activated the limbic system, triggering more deep-seated emotional responses.”

The emotional effects that smells can create may be the key reason why experts find it important for companies and brands to consider fragrances as a way of influencing customers. For example, an experiment in a Las Vegas casino showed that the amount of money gambled increased by 45% when the location was odorised with pleasant aroma! Last year in Manhattan, Glade developed a ‘Museum of Feelings’, in which feelings were displayed digitally across the location space as visitors reacted to scent. The brand understood that smell has huge power on consumers’ emotions, and aimed to take the invisible emotional power of scent and make it visible. Did it work? See for yourself here.

So what should marketers know?

1 - Scent preferences are often personal - while some people may love the smell of lavender, others may hate it. Brands should consider using smells that we can easily identify correctly, such as vanilla which is perceived to be pleasant worldwide.

2 - The sight of colours can affect our perception of smell - using colours that are most appropriate to the smell of a product will help consumers identify the odour easier and inevitably increase its level of appeal. For instance, it would be odd to see a car freshener that is yellow but smells of cherry?

3 - Smell can change the perception of other senses - a consumer shampoo study showed a shampoo that was ranked bottom in the first test received first place once the fragrance of it was changed. Consumers stated the shampoo was easier to rinse out, foamed better and left the hair shinier….yet nothing was changed apart from the smell.


Ultimately, understanding the power of smell on consumers’ decisions and emotions is key for marketers. Scents can trigger forgotten feelings and memories, and even have the ability to evade sensible thoughts. Thus, we can undoubtedly see why merging smell into technology devices is a future aim for the tech world and brands...let’s just hope this dream will one day become a reality!